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Instructions for Growing Bird of Paradise

Written by Stephanie on February 12th, 2014

Bird of paradise shrub, also called Caesalpinia gilliesii, is native to tropical South America, mainly Argentina and Uruguay.  It is also naturalized in Texas.  It is a small perennial shrub in the legume family that grows three to twelve feet tall.  The flower is spectacular, being yellow with up to ten red stamens protruding from it.  However, the seeds and green seed pods are toxic, so do not plant it near children or pets that might eat them.

Sometimes this plant is confused with C. Mexicana and call it the yellow bird of paradise.  That is a different plant, although the flowers are similar.

The plant is deciduous in most of its range, but may be evergreen in climates with lots of rain and little winter cold.  It grows in zones eight to eleven.  The blooms appear mainly in spring and early summer, but may appear sporadically after that.

Bird of paradise requires full sun and prefers well drained, sandy, rocky and dry soil.  It often grows along roadsides and in washes.  The plant can grow in a wide range of locations and tolerates pH ranges from 5.6 to 7.8.

Bird of paradise is attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.  Deer do not like to eat it.  The plant is also drought tolerant and can be used in xeriscaping.

Since it is a shrub, and can be trained into a small tree, it is usually purchased in one gallon or five gallon containers.  To plant this shrub, till the earth to a depth of twelve inches.  Till in three inches of compost to improve the drainage of the area, as the shrub will not live long with wet feet.  Dig a hole as deep as the root ball of the plant and twice as wide in diameter.  Carefully remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole.  Fill in the hole with dirt and firm gently around the shrub.  Water it in.

Bird of paradise will need to be watered the first year once per week.  After that, it is only necessary to water the plant during drought.  Too much water will kill the plant as the roots will rot.

Fertilizing this shrub regularly will increase the size of the canopy, which otherwise is rather sparse.  Use a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 and fertilize in the spring and in the fall.  Be sure to water the fertilizer in after applying it in a circle under the plant canopy.

The bird of paradise shrub will need light pruning to maintain its health.  The branches are very brittle and can be broken off by hand during pruning.  You can prune the shrub into a compact bushy plant or train it into a small tree, depending on your preference.  Prune after it blooms.  Do not prune severely as the shrub is very slow to recover from severe pruning.

The bird of paradise shrub is vulnerable to white flies.  These may be eliminated by spraying the shrub with an appropriate insecticide.  Be sure to follow the label directions when using insecticides.

 



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