Don’t Give Up on Pride of Barbados Plants

Pride of Barbados orange flowers and compound leaves

The showy blooms of Pride of Barbados attract all types of pollinators.

Texas Superstar® – Pride of Barbados

Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima – means “very pretty”) is a tropical plant that is native to South America and the Caribbean and is a reliable perennial in Travis County. The alternate common names, such as flame tree, peacock flower, and flowering fence hint at its magnificent display. It is a fast-growing shrub or small tree that can reach heights of up to 10 feet and can be pruned to maintain its shape and size. Pride of Barbados is known for its showy, brightly colored flowers that bloom all summer. The typical flower color in our area is orange and red, but yellow is also available. This perennial is Austin-area tough – drought-tolerant, requires full sun, and needs well-drained soil. In fact, it thrives in our alkaline soils and is an Earth-Kind selection.

Plant Specifications at a Glance

  • Exposure: Full sun (will grow in light shade, with fewer blooms)
  • Size: Height – 8 to 12 feet
  • Plant Type: Summer annual, perennial, or woody shrub depending upon the severity of winter temperatures.
  • Planting time: Spring to early summer
  • Soil type: Extremely easy to grow in alkaline to acidic, well-drained soils.
  • Suggested uses: Use Pride of Barbados as a specimen or in a mixed shrub border.
  • Special notes: Plants tolerate very high temperatures and drought, but do not tolerate poorly drained soils; Pride–of–Barbados is best grown in raised beds in humid climates.

Don’t Give Up – Your Pride of Barbados is Alive

Pride of Barbados is one of the last plants to come out of winter dormancy, and yet one of the last to succumb to cooler temperatures. Because it prefers and thrives in our heat, locations with southern exposure tend to recover and grow quicker than those with northern exposure.

Pride of Barbados plant with orange blooms in full foliage

Figure 2: Pride of Barbados taken 5-19-23 in southern exposure area

Pride of Barbados plant barely starting to emerge from dormancy

Figure 3: Pride of Barbados taken 5-19-23 in northern exposure area

Micro-climates make all the difference. (See figure 2 and 3) This is why nurseries don’t start selling the plants until late May or June, as even the growers must wait for the plants to emerge from dormancy. Within 60 days of emerging from dormancy, the Pride of Barbados is peaking with color and tremendous growth. (Figure 4.)

Fully flowering Pride of Barbados shrub

Figure 4. Same northern exposure Pride of Barbados 60 days post dormancy break (2022)

Pride of Barbados is a beautiful and versatile plant. It’s great as a specimen plant, a hedge, or in a container. The flowers are spectacular in arrangements. Pride of Barbados is also an excellent choice for attracting birds and butterflies to your garden, but the deer will leave them alone as the leaves, flowers, and seeds of Pride of Barbados are poisonous.

Just be sure to give these beauties room to grow for the magnificent display every summer.

Propagation Takes Patience

Pride of Barbados can be propagated by seed or by cuttings, but I find that volunteers sprouting from last year’s seeds are the easiest and most successful. Sow seeds in the spring using a well-drained potting mix. Take cuttings from new growth in the spring or summer and root them in a well-drained potting mix.

Small plant emerging from potting soil

New seedling in potting mix.

If working with the volunteers that have sprouted, carefully lift and replant when small, as a deep tap root develops quickly. I prefer to group 2-3 starters in a pot to obtain optimum growth and to prevent from over-watering when so young. But any way you decide to propagate, just do it! Small starters will develop and bloom within 1-2 years of planting. You can always find another spot worthy of the spectacular blooms or give the starters as a gift. This is one plant that is a showstopper as exemplified by the number of strangers that ask me about the plant growing in my front yard.

Orange and red flowers of Pride of Barbados plantWhat is a Texas Superstar plant?

The Texas Superstar® program was created by horticulturists to identify and select plants that can be grown across the state of Texas with high confidence in the quality and reliability of the plant. Selections for the program are based upon observations made at replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state and final selection is made by the Texas Superstar® Executive Board.

Additional Resources

Texas Superstar Plants

Earth-Kind® Landscaping

Native and Adapted Landscape Plants for Central Texas

 About Yvonne Schneider
Yvonne Schneider, guest blogger

Yvonne was a 35+year veteran in the computer and information technology industry when she retired and moved from Houston to the Austin area. In 2018, Yvonne certified as a Travis County Texas Master Gardener to follow her passion for gardening and volunteering within the community. She has spent 20+ years enjoying gardening and working with bulbs and perennials. She now tackles the challenges presented by the Austin area wildlife, drought, and limestone soil.

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