Print This Page

Pride of Barbados

Common names:  Pride of Barbados, dwarf poinciana and flower fence. Barbados Flowerfence, Peacock Flower, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Dwarf Flamboyant, Caesalpinia, and Dwarf Poinciana. 

Botanical names:  Poinciana pulcherrima  Syn. Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Legume or pea family (Fabaceae). Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), considered to be the most beautiful tree in the world, but for gardeners in zones 8 -11, the much smaller selection of Pride of Barbados (a.k.a. Dwarf Poinciana) could be considered a close second.

Habit:  A lacy, subtropical perennial with delicate foliage and colorfully bright flowers that bloom most of the year. The flowers are usually fiery red and yellow although other color variations exist. They have petals with a yellow margin in a pyramidal inflorescence. Each flower is about 1½ inches across with five sepals. The ten stamens are long and the pistils project from the center of the flower. The fifth petal is far smaller than the other four. The stamens have colored filaments with anthers at the tips. The branches are prickly and the leaves are large and doubly compound about one foot long and six inches wide with many small leaflets. Leaves are somewhat similar to mimosa leaves. The color and soft texture is quite pleasant.

Culture:  This subtropical plant is easy to grow but will freeze in cold climates. It needs normal bed preparation and moderate water and fertilizer. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Prefers zone 8 or warmer. It is a deciduous shrub in zone 9 or warmer, and a returning perennial in zone 8. It is used as an annual in colder climates. It is often pruned into a hedge but untrimmed grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet with a soft natural shape. The parent plant, Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant tree (Delonix regia), is not nearly as hardy being a true tropical. Easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings. The seeds are hard so scarifying is helpful. Use a small file and nick them. Treat with Garrett Juice as with all seed planting.

Uses:  Excellent landscape plant for borders, perennial gardens, annual beds and even containers. If interested in the plant perennializing in areas colder than zone 9, use it in full sun in an area that it will be protected from severe freezing weather. Excellent plant for attracting butterflies and many other pollinators that can help with food crops. 

Problems:  Other than freeze damage I have seen almost no problems with this plant.

Notes:  It has been reported that the leaves of Pride of Barbados have been used as a fish poison in Central America and the seeds have been used to poison criminals. No harm to children or pets has been reported that we know of. The species name pulcherrima literally means “very pretty” and this plant definitely lives up to the name. The National Flower of Barbados is the red variety with the yellow margin on the petals. It appears on the coat of arms.  References to this flower were recorded as early as 1657.  

  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns