As a “garden-advice giver,” I often receive photos in my email with the question, “Randy, what is this?” From May through September, the photos often look like this.
I’ve also had a recent discussion on the air about a similar plant that only grows in tropical climates. So, I guess it’s about time to spotlight this awesome summer bloomer.
First, the phone call to GardenLine was actually about this plant, but it started out as a question about its tropical cousin, the Royal Poinciana. It turned out, though, that the caller was actually referring to the awesome Pride of Barbados. It will work in this region, but a true Royal Poinciana will not!
As you can see from the pictures, the Pride of Barbados can't help but catch your eye. With vibrant flowers of yellow, orange and red blooming atop unusual foliage that is strikingly similar to mimosa leaves, the Caesalpinia pulcherrima L definitely attracts interest from many folks. The plant is also called a Dwarf Poinciana, a Flamboyant Tree and other names, but it’s definitely not a Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia). That's important to note, because many people will come back from vacations in South Florida or the Caribbean where they encounter Royal Poincianas and hope they can plant one in this area. But the Royal Poinciana won't work here at all, because it can't even handle low temperatures as balmy as 40 degrees.
Meanwhile, here are some tips to keep the Pride of Barbados looking its best throughout the summer.
Most important to remember is that, while it can work in Houston landscapes, it will sort of die back in the winter. They are evergreen in Central America and the West Indies, but in these parts they fall somewhere between a perennial and an annual. They almost always come back from winter damage, although they can be killed to the root if temperatures remain below 30 degrees for too long. So, on freezing nights, the root system should at least be protected with mulch.
The Pride of Barbados also needs full sun to bloom correctly, and it prefers well-drained soil. If your area stays too wet for too long after heavy rains, the root system will probably die.
Any slow-release blooming-plant food, such as Nelson's Color Star, will work fine with them. They are really good at attracting butterflies, and the seed pods are easy to propagate.
So, good luck with the Pride of Barbados – a real looker that will be the envy of your neighborhood during the hot summer months.