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Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Caesalpinia pulcherrima
pride of Barbados
Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Regrowth in late June

Common name pride of Barbados
Family fabaceae
Life cycle tender shrub (Z8-11)
Flowers orange-red (summer-fall)
Size to 8'
Light sun
Cultural notes well drained soil

Heat-loving evergreen plant with attractive red/orange flowers and twice-compound leaves composed of tiny oval leaflets. The flowers, which appear year-round in tropical climates and start up in late summer following a winter die-back, attract hummingbirds. Most likely native to the West Indies, it is frost-tender, likely to die back to the ground when hit by a sustained freeze – but it will generally return from its roots in our Houston climate. This was put to the test in January 2018, when a bad freeze clobbered our tender plants. I thought our pride of Barbados was toast when it still hadn't shown signs of life by mid-spring; however, I suddenly spotted its regrowth emerging underneath some other plants that had moved into its space in late June: sure enough, its roots survived, although the specimen was severely set back. That same week I noticed some plants nicely in bloom at the University of Houston; I guess the few degrees higher temperature in the city allowed those to survive with some of their top growth intact.Our specimen also survived the even severer freeze of 2021; this time, I had protected its base with a good helping of mulch, which allowed it to return by mid-spring, and bloom again by mid-summer. Although snow-pea-like seed pods form after blooming, I've not found them to contain viable seeds. I don't know if that's because I grow just one plant, or whether our plant is a sterile variety.

pride of Barbados
Long seed pods develop after the flowers fade
Caesalpinia pulcherrima
After a winter with some moderate freezing nights, new growth pushing up from the base in late March
pride of Barbados
Growth spurt in mid-May showing the intricate developing structures of folded leaflets as well as the first beginnings of flower buds...
Caesalpinia pulcherrima
...and a closer-up view of such developing leaflets, with burgundy reverses matching the color of the young stems
pride of Barbados
Just a week after the previous photos, those flower buds, in all their spherical glory, look ready to pop

In our garden, this plant grows in the following area: back fence border

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