One of the most beautiful, colorful, and most reliable plants in my garden comes from one of my most favorite (and most beautiful) places on earth — Barbados. This plant is the National Flower of Barbados and is called “Pride of Barbados” (Caesalpinia Pulcherrim) — and for good reason.
The name “Pulcherrim” actually means “very pretty”. Oh, yes it is. The colors of this beautiful plant are remarkable — the blossoms consists of a combination of reds, yellows, and oranges, and the leaves are some of the coolest I’ve ever seen. The Pride of Barbados is a hardy perennial in hotter climates but can can pretty much be grown in most places in the U.S, although they may need more winter care. It is a member of the pea family (who knew??). It has a hardiness of 18 degrees F, and is a constant bloomer in the summer. At least it is in my garden. The plant may die back in colder weather but will most likely come back from the ground. However, if you live in further north, you will probably want to keep the plant in a pot so that it can be overwintered by bringing it inside. It is always a good idea to keep the roots well mulched in the winter, regardless. The plant is also called the “Mexican Bird of Paradise” or the “Dwarf Poinciana” (NOT “Royal Poinciana”). Dwarf Poinciana will grow in Houston heat, the Royal Poinciana will not.
Growth and Propagation:
I grow my Pride of Barbados both in pots and in the ground. They do very well either way. They are somewhat drought resistant, so if I can’t make it out to water every day in the three-digit summer weather here in Houston, they still do me well. Their oval-shaped leaves may turn yellow and fall off, but they will rejuvenate once they get a good drink of agua. The plant can reach up to 15 feet or more in the ground in a hot climate, but it can also be cut back and maintained at a shorter height, if you would rather. Those in my pots are much smaller than those in the ground. The plant does need to have well-drained soil, so as not to rot the roots. They LOVE the sun, but I also have some partially in the shade and they do very well.
The plant is easily propagated from the ripe seed pods, and you may want to nick them with a knife or soak them before planting. They do not need a deep soil to get started. (see http://www.caribbeanseeds.com/germination.htm).
Pride of Barbados is an excellent flower for the butterfly garden. Hummingbirds also love them. However, I could be wrong, but I think I love them more.
Texas A&M Article: http://bit.ly/163eL6x
Randy Lemmon website: http://bit.ly/13WKpDQ
Barbados.org website: http://www.barbados.org/plants/pride.htm#.Uffhpo3RiSo