I get that question in many emails all year long. I've received at least five recently with that question and pictures that look like these flowers as of late. When I get multiple emails asking for identification of the same plant, it tells me a couple of very important things. First, the plant in question must be in bloom and be somewhat unusual. Secondly, it tells me it's time to do a tip sheet, so we can have a quick reference resource in our archives of email tips.
As you can see by the pictures used in this tip sheet, the unusual flowering plant in question can't help but catch the average person's eye. With vibrant colors in the flowers of yellow, orange and red -- blooming atop unusual foliage that is strikingly similar to Mimosa leaves, the Pride of Barbados (CAESALPINIA PULCHERRIMA L) has definitely caught the interest of many folks lately. This plant is also called a Dwarf Poinciana, but it should be noted that while the Pride or Barbados works fairly well in the Houston area, the parent plant, The Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) does not. That's important to note, because many people will come back from vacations in South Florida or the Caribbean and ask about the Royal Poinciana, hoping that they can plant it along the Texas Gulf Coast. But the Royal Poinciana won't work here at all, because it can't even handle 40 degree temperatures.
Nevertheless, here are some tips to keep the Pride of Barbados looking its best throughout the rest of the summer. The most important thing to remember, is that while it can work in our landscapes in Houston, they will sort of "die-back" in the winter. While they are evergreen in Central America and the West Indies, we have to see them as falling somewhere between a perennial and an annual. While they almost always come back from winter damage, they can be killed to the root if freezing temperatures stay below 30 degrees for too long of a period. Ultimately, that means that on freezing nights, it is important to protect the root system with mulch at the very least.
The Pride of Barbados needs full sun to bloom correctly, and prefers and well-drained soil. That means, if your area stays too wet, too long after heavy rains, the root system will probably die. Any of the slow-release blooming plant foods, such as Nelson's Color Star will work fine. They are really good at attracting butterflies, and the seed pods are easy to propagate. So, good luck with the Pride of Barbados, and give yourself something that will be the envy of the neighborhood, at least during the hot summer months.
And in case you have not had the opportunity yet, here's the link for ordering the listener discounted version of my new book "Gulf Coast Gardening with Randy Lemmon."
Only as an email tip subscriber can you have access to ordering this book at a discount. Okay, let's be honest here - if you would like to share the above link with anyone else, who is not subscribed to the email tips, they too can enjoy the only discount available for this book until the end of August.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.