Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Barbados Flower Fence, Barbados Pride, Dwarf Poinciana, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Peacock Flower, Pride of Barbados, Red Bird of Paradise

Ever wanted the majesty of a tree and the glory of a floral display, all in the same plant? Want all that with a side of drought-tolerance and attractiveness to pollinators? Well, look no further than the peacock flower, aka the red bird of paradise.

This evergreen tree or shrub has dark green, bipinnate compound leaves on thorny stems that can provide a gorgeous screen if desired.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a species of flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas. It could be native to the West Indies, but its exact origin is unknown due to widespread cultivation. Common names for this species include poinciana, peacock flower, red bird of paradise, Mexican bird of paradise, dwarf poinciana, pride of Barbados, flos pavonis, and flamboyant-de-jardin. The Hawaiian name for this plant is ʻohai aliʻi.

Poinciana pulcherrima is a synonym of Caesalpinia pulcherrima.

It is a shrub growing to 3 m tall. In climates with few to no frosts, this plant will grow larger and is semievergreen. In Hawaii this plant is evergreen and grows over 5 m tall. Grown in climates with light to moderate freezing, plant will die back to the ground depending on cold, but will rebound in mid- to late spring. This species is more sensitive to cold than others. The leaves are bipinnate, 20–40 cm long, bearing three to 10 pairs of pinnae, each with six to 10 pairs of leaflets 15–25 mm long and 10–15 mm broad. The flowers are borne in racemes up to 20 cm long, each flower with five yellow, orange, or red petals. The fruit is a pod 6–12 cm long.

II. How to Grow and Care

Light And Temperature

As the plant is native to Central and South America, it doesn’t tolerate colder temperatures. It’s best suited for life in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

When grown outdoors, it enjoys full sun and well-drained soil. Some shade is okay but grows best in an area with plenty of sunlight throughout the day.

If grown inside, the plant needs lots of space to deal with the fast-growing stems. It can survive in average room temperature in a room with lots of sunlight, but not direct sunlight.

Watering And Feeding

Water the plant regularly throughout the summer. Check it regularly to ensure the soil never dries out. In the winter, water infrequently.

Fertilizer is okay but not always necessary. The plant thrives with the right temperature, soil, and water. When fertilizing, feed with a liquid food every two weeks in the spring and summer.

Established Caesalpinia Pulcherrima have a much great level of drought tolerance.

Soil And Transplanting

The Caesalpinia Pulcherrima grows best in porous, sandy, well drained soil. To ensure it provides optimal drainage, add a little bit of peat to the soil mixture.

Transplant before spring in late February or early March. When transplanting, use the same mixture of soil discussed. It should be sandy and porous.


The right time to prune these plants is late winter or early spring. The plant can be cut down to the ground to control its height. The Peacock flower plant recovers well as it is tolerant to pruning. Else you can prune lightly by removing dead and dried branches. Make sure to use good quality strong secateurs for pruning.


Propagating the plant is easiest with seeds. To obtain the seeds from the flowers, cut the seed pods off toward the end of the season and allow them to dry through winter.

After winter, remove the seeds from the dried flowers and sow them toward the end of spring. Use the following steps to ensure that the seedlings take root:

  • Spread the seeds in trays over sandy, porous soil
  • Keep the tray at 75° degrees Fahrenheit or warmer
  • After the seedlings emerge, place the tray near a window
  • About two months after sprouting, transplant the new plants into individual pots.
  • Move the plants into larger pots the following spring.

Maintenance And Grooming

The only grooming the plant needs starts when plants grow too large. This is common when growing the Caesalpinia Pulcherrima indoors.

Cut the plant back in February or March after transplanting. A week or two before cutting, place the plant in a warmer location compared to its current home.

After cutting, give the plant fertilizer through the rest of spring and summer.

Pests and Diseases

Luckily, C. pulcherrima is resistant to deer. Unfortunately, there are still some pests and diseases to watch out for.

Properly caring for your red bird of paradise will help to keep it healthy… and when it comes to pests and diseases, healthy organisms always fare better than unhealthy ones.

Common Pests

Many pests are vectors for pathogens, so keeping the pests off of your plants will help keep diseases at bay, too.

Many infestations can be prevented by keeping natural predators around, such as ladybugs, dragonflies, and spiders.

With a diverse collection of plantings that provide blooms and overwintering structures, you’ll encourage these beneficial creepy-crawlies to hang out in your garden.


Aphids are soft-bodied, translucent green insects that feed on sap, which stunts plant growth and vigor. As if feeding on plant tissue wasn’t bad enough, these pests secrete honeydew in their wake, which may result in sooty mold.

In addition, the honeydew is a food source for some ant species, who protect the aphids from predator insects as payment.

A strong spray of water can knock the aphids off of leaf surfaces. Spraying horticultural oil to smother the aphids is another great form of control.

For a worthy product, check out what Monterey has available from Arbico Organics.


Scale insects are brown, itty-bitty, hard-to-spot critters that feed on plant tissue, and they also excrete honeydew. Infested plants can become chlorotic, browned, and weakened over time.

Severe infestations can even result in plant death. For C. pulcherrima, control of scale can also be achieved by utilizing insecticidal soap.

Spider Mites

The first arachnids on our list of pests, spider mites are oval-bodied, bristly critters that are tough to see without a hand lens.

Their presence is often made known thanks to the webs that they spin on plants they infest. Feeding on leaves and stems, spider mites can turn plants brown and chlorotic, and can cause premature leaf dropping or even death.

Applications of an insecticidal soap like the one mentioned above can help keep spider mites under control.


Whiteflies look like… well, white flies. Despite the resemblance, they are not true flies, and are more closely related to aphids.

About a twelfth of an inch in length, these pests also feed on leaves and stems while secreting honeydew, which leads to a host of problems. Use an organic insecticidal soap to control whiteflies.

Common Disease

Sanitary gardening practices, such as using sterile gardening tools and clean growing media, can go a long way in preventing disease.


Caused by species of Armillaria fungi that cause root rot, this disease occurs if a peacock flower is overwatered or placed in poorly-draining soil, although an outbreak can occur even in a perfectly healthy specimen if fungi is present in the soil and conditions are favorable.

This disease results in weakened, necrotic, and/or dying root systems. Above the soil line, symptoms include stunted growth, branch dieback, weakened foliage, and overall decline. You may also see the fruiting bodies of the honey mushrooms around the base of your plant.

Unfortunately, there’s no known fix for this once it occurs. All you can do is remove the infected plant, destroy it, and start over. Adding insult to injury, you’ll have to start over somewhere else, because the fungi can live for years in the infected patch of soil.

Root Rot

Root rot shares symptoms with Armillaria, but has a different cause.

While Armillaria root rot is caused by an actual fungus, regular ol’ root rot results after roots are exposed to too much water for too long. In the case of C. pulcherrima: over-irrigation, poorly-draining soils, or a combination of the two are often the culprits.

With root rot, you can dig up the plant, snip off afflicted roots, and replant in hopes that it will bounce back. But while that advice is pretty sound for houseplants, it’s a pretty tall order for a large shrub or tree.

If removing rotted roots doesn’t work or is logistically unfeasible, you’ll have to pitch the root-rotted specimen and start over.

Since you – probably – don’t have a pathogen living in the soil, you’re free to use the same patch of soil for a new plant!

Plus, it’s an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that might have led to root rot in the first place, making you a better gardener in the long run.

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Ornamental uses

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Caesalpinia. It is a striking ornamental plant, widely grown in domestic and public gardens in warm climates with mild winters, and has a beautiful inflorescence in yellow, red, and orange. Its small size and the fact that it tolerates pruning well allows it to be planted in groups to form a hedgerow; it can be also used to attract hummingbirds.

In cultivation in the UK this plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

  • Other uses

Although the seeds of this flower are toxic if consumed, the fruits are edible. Some parts of this plant are used as medicine by Indonesians and West Indians.

Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) Details

Common name Barbados Flower Fence, Barbados Pride, Dwarf Poinciana, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Peacock Flower, Pride of Barbados, Red Bird of Paradise
Botanical name Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Plant type Shrub
Hardiness zone 9a, 9b, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Fast
Harvest time Fall
Height 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
Width 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Blue