On the hottest days of the year, the drought-hardy Pride of Barbados shrugs off dry weather and offers up fantastic cone-like flowers in orange, red and yellow.
It’s mid-July, and the aquifer is dropping fast as our water supply is quickly used up on sprinklers. Too bad every San Antonian didn’t just plant Pride of Barbados — the water might have been saved for tubing, and our city would look like we were having a blast instead of stuck dragging hoses around!
Pride of Barbados is so tough, the state highway department planted it unwatered out on the medians, paired with esperanzas and cenizos. If the name sounds a little awkward, you can just call it Poinciana (Dwarf Poinciana, Mexican Bird of Paradise and Peacock Flower are all names for the same plant). Even the Latin species name is lyrical: pulcherrima, meaning “very pretty.” Many a local gardener has noticed the bean pods and tried to grow Caesalpinia pulcherrima from seed. But don’t worry, this species is widely available in nurseries if you just know what name to call it.
On the hottest days of the year, the drought-hardy Pride of Barbados shrugs off dry weather and offers up fantastic cone-like racemes in orange, red and yellow. Resembling salsa spilled in zero gravity, its flowers float upward, blooming from bottom to top.
Pride of Barbados is a tropical shrub, so it may freeze to the ground in a typical Texas winter (the weak-wooded branches can be cut back freely), but the roots will survive no problem and put out a big flush of fernlike leaflets in spring. The branches are armed with soft reddish prickles that eventually turn sharp, but with the plant dying back once a year, these rarely become much of a barrier in south central Texas.
In 2016, however, due to a long warm winter, many uncut local specimens are actually reaching tree size, casting a bit of fire-tinted shade for the garden. Don’t be afraid to prune or lift the canopy to make room for chairs — beneath a poinciana is the perfect place to sit and just watch the clouds of butterflies and hummingbirds roll by.
Pride of Barbados and other drought-hardy shrubs are regularly included in the SAWS WaterSaver Landscape Coupon.