Red Bird of Paradise Care Guide

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Red bird of paradise plants are beautiful additions to any garden. They attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. These plants bloom bright orange-red flowers in clusters from the spring to the summer.

While most people love red bird of paradise plants, they aren’t always as careful with them as they should be. This care guide will help you learn how to properly care for your red bird of paradise plant.

Red Bird of Paradise Overview

Botanically known as the Caesalpinia pulcherrima, this stunning plant with vivid red blooms belongs to the Fabaceae, which is the Legume family.

It is known by several popular names, including the Peacock Flower, the Pride of Barbados, of the more common red Bird of Paradise. 

It is an evergreen, broad-leaved shrub that can be found in arid zones and will bloom repeatedly with the much-admired, bright red-orange flowers. Some will also have yellow flowers. 

Not to be confused with the Strelitzia reginae Bird of Paradise plant, the Red Bird of Paradise will produce smaller flowers and bunches. Because it produces prickly thorns on its stem, it makes a beautiful plant as a hedge or barrier and also produces a lovely fragrance.

This Caesalpinia cultivar loves a desert-like arid environment and finds its natural habitat in the more arid regions of the tropical regions of Central and South America, as well as in the West Indies.

It can be grown without difficulty in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11 as it loves a hot climate and thrives even in poor soil. It can also be cultivated as a container plant.

This plant can grow up to twenty feet tall and produce striking colorful blooms until the first autumn frost. The green leaves are lush and fern-like, completing this plant’s showy appearance.

Leaves can grow from 8 to 16 inches in length and will bear three to ten pairs of pinnae, each in turn with six to ten pairs of leaflets. It is a rapid-growing shrub.

Red Bird of Paradise Care Guide

When cultivated in home gardens and landscaping, heights will usually range from four to ten feet with its leaves spreading from four to six feet. A rapid grower, its mature size will depend a great deal on the amount of water it receives and how severe the region’s winters are.

Soil for the Red Bird of Paradise

The Caesalpinia pulcherrima will tolerate any soil type as long as its well-draining soil. So it won’t do well with heavy clay soils. 

Ideally, a sandy porous potting medium should be used. If cultivating in a container, add peat or sand to your potting soil.

Light for the Red Bird of Paradise

The Red Bird of Paradise enjoys full sunlight exposure, although it can manage with partial shade. Northern exposures should be avoided to ensure successful growth.

If grown indoors as a houseplant, place it near a window with very bright, but indirect light.

Water and Humidity for the Red Bird of Paradise   

Once the shrub is established, this plant will require at least monthly watering. To enjoy abundant flowering, water the plant weekly during the spring and summer months.

If cultivated in a container, be careful of overwatering. That will lead to root rot and kill your plant. Because this plant is more drought-tolerant, it’s better to be underwatered than overwatered.

In the winter months, during its dormant period, reduce watering considerably.

Temperature for the Red Bird of Paradise

The Red Bird of Paradise enjoys higher temperatures similar to a desert. It likes outdoor temperatures that remain above 55°F and in the 70s during the day. It will suffer damage if the temperatures dip to 32°F or lower.

In extremely cold weather, the plant will die back when temperatures fall to below freezing, and then will regenerate when spring arrives.

To encourage this, cut the plant down to a few inches from the ground in late winter. If you mulch the plant’s base, it should be adequately protected until the spring comes.

Fertilizer for the Red Bird of Paradise

While fertilizer is not indispensable, it will provide a nutritional boost to your plant. Use a standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season in spring and summer.

Pruning the Red Bird of Paradise

When this plant is cultivated as a garden or yard shrub, you will need to prune to remove limbs that have been damaged by frost. You should also prune dead or damaged leaves, and crossing branches.

When flowering is finished for the season, bloom stalks should be trimmed off to impede the seed pods from developing as well as seedlings.

If pods remain on the plant, they will eventually dry and split, and the seedlings will be scattered. Should this happen, you will need to clean up the pods, seeds, and any seedlings for your landscaping to remain tidy.

Propagating the Red Bird of Paradise

The Red Bird of Paradise can be successfully propagated with seeds. To do so, save seeds from a mature plant by removing bloom stalks immediately when the seed pods turn brown.

Then place them in paper bags so that they can dry out completely. Because these seeds have a hard outer shell, they will need to be penetrated through scarification so that germination can be successful.

Simply scrape or nick the surface of the seed with a wood file or sandpaper until you see the color change. Avoid nicking the edge of the seed to prevent damage to the seed’s embryo.

Learn more about Bird of Paradise Propagation.

Propagating by Seed

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to propagate and grow the Red Bird of Paradise from seed: 

  • Cut the flower stalk as soon as the pod turns brown.
  • Place gathered seeds in a paper bag or in the sun to dry. Once they have dried, store them in a glass container, seal them, and place them in a refrigerator.
  • Approximately six weeks before the predicted final frost, remove the stored seeds from the refrigerator and proceed with the scarification process.
  • Soak the nicked seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Remove and destroy seeds that do not sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Prepare a pot with drainage holes and fill it with one part seed starter and one part perlite
  • Place seeds one-half-inch deep in the seed starter pot and each spaced two inches apart. Lightly water.
  • Cover the pot with plastic. Place it where the temperature is approximately 75° F for germination.
  • Keep the potting soil slightly damp.
  • Within a month, germination should be complete. Remove the plastic and place the pot in a place with full sun, or you can use a grow lamp.
  • When the new seedlings have developed four leaves, you can transplant each into an individual peat container. A peat container is optimal because it can be planted directly into your garden bed to avoid disturbing the root system.
  • When the final frost is over, begin hardening your seedlings outdoors for several hours daily, gradually increasing the amount of time. When the seedlings can remain outside for six hours, they can be transplanted into the outdoor garden bed.

Learn more in this Guide to Saving Seeds.

Red Bird of Paradise Toxicity and Pets

The ASPCA, American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals, lists the Red Bird of Paradise plant as toxic to cats and dogs. Ingestion can cause diarrhea and vomiting symptoms.

Mature seeds are quite toxic. In case of ingestion, contact your veterinarian or local poison authority immediately.

Red Bird of Paradise Pests, Diseases, and Problems

Be on the lookout for spider mites, scale, and aphids. If leaves turn yellow and begin to drop or foliage is spotted, check for a pest infestation. Use organic Neem oil or insecticidal soap to combat pests. Aphids can be removed by spraying jets of cold water.

Root rot is a problem if drainage is insufficient, or the plant is overwatered.

Learn about Why Bird of Paradise Leaves are Curling.

Red Bird of Paradise Final Thoughts

The Red Bird of Paradise is a spectacular garden plant that is worth growing for its fantastic bright red blooms, as well as for its lovely fragrance. Delicate leaves and thin stems only add to their allure.

In the correct climate, it is appreciated as landscaping  plants. And if you don’t have space outdoors, it will make a lovely indoor container plant livening up any décor with its vivid red flowers.

Here are other care guides on bird of paradise plants that might interest you: 

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Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

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