The orchid tree (Bauhinia spp.), growing to 35 feet in height and width, is a fast growing landscape ornamental or shade tree. Blooming from September through November, it produces fragrant, orchidlike flowers in purple, yellow, pink, white and lavendar, depending on the species. Orchid trees have weak wood with a tendency toward breakage. The orchid tree is also a bit messy because the leaves and seed pods that fall to the ground tend to be large and slow to decompose.
Grow the orchid tree in full to partial sun. If you live in the south, give the tree afternoon shade. Northern gardeners can grow their orchid trees in full sun.
Water the orchid tree when the soil is dry, generally every week to two weeks. Water it until the water puddles, and then allow the soil to dry prior to watering it again. The orchid tree flowers best when the soil is kept dry.
Fertilize the orchid tree in March, June and October. Use a 12-6-8 formulation, at the rate suggested on the package. Place the fertilizer 1 foot from the trunk and spread it out to the edges of the canopy. Always water after fertilizing.
Prune the orchid tree after it has finished flowering. Prune off any lower limbs that have a tendency to droop by cutting them even with the trunk. Cut off any dead or damaged wood and any suckers (small sprouts at the base of the tree).
Inspect the orchid tree for signs of pest infestations. Borers, caterpillars and mites are common pests on this tree. Caterpillars can be removed by hand. For other insects, use a commercial insecticide at the rate suggested on the package.