Desert Plants

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Red Bird of Paradise, Dwarf Poinciana

Caesalpinia pulcherrima


Fabaceae, Pea Family


Shrub or Small Tree


Northern Mexico to Central America, Caribbean


Slopes, washes, and roadsides

Living Desert Location:

Palm Garden

Believed to be native to the West Indies and Tropical America, this plant is widely cultivated in warm regions worldwide and has naturalized in warm areas of Mexico.  This plant loves warm weather. Flowering begins in early spring and continues through summer until temperatures cool. In tropical climates it may flower year round. It generally can’t be reliably grown in climates that experience heavy frosts, but it has been documented to survive temperatures as low as 18°F.

Red bird of paradise grows as a ground-hugging perennial, a shrub or small tree. Its 8- to 12-inch-long, soft, twice-compound leaves comprised of small, oblong leaflets have a pleasant green color and a fern-like appearance. Its new stems are protected by small prickles. The flowers are highly showy. They appear in spikes held above the plant and have five red and orange, open-faced petals. The red stamens extend well beyond the petals.

It is drought tolerant, but looks better with moderate to heavy water. Frequently seen in road medians in desert areas, it can withstand reflected light and very exposed, hot locations. Red bird of paradise can benefit from pruning. It can be trained into a small tree or pruned more severely to increase the number of flowering branches.

Some like it hot!!! Glorious flowers in the heat of summer.