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How to Care for a Bird of Paradise Plant in Tucson, Arizona

sunset image by Sandra Henderson from

The Mexican bird of paradise, Caesalpinia mexicana, is an evergreen ornamental shrub that is native to areas in Mexico. The shrub grows well in Tucson, Arizona, as it is hardy to plant in USDA growing zones 9 and 10. This bird of paradise does not resemble the tropical variety; instead it grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet and produces spikes with clusters of yellow flowers. Caesalpinia mexicana forms seed pods filled with poisonous seeds shaped like lima beans.

Plant the bird of paradise in a well-draining soil. The shrub grows best in full light conditions but will tolerate partial shade. The bird of paradise shrub is tolerant of the soil types found in Tucson.

Set the shrub in a hole that is two to three times the width of the root ball and the same depth as it was growing in the container it came in. Work organic compost into the removed soil to increase the nutrient value and water-draining property of the soil. Water the hole while filling it with soil to prevent air pockets from forming.

Water the bird of paradise shrub with 1 inch of water each week during the growing season. The plant has low water requirements and does not need supplemental water during the winter months.

Plant a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant and over the root ball area. Leave a 3-inch gap between the start of the mulch and base of the plant stem. Mulch will increase moisture retention in the soil.

Fertilize the bird of paradise shrub with a 10-10-10 fertilizer every two weeks during the summer growing season. Apply water after fertilizing to promote absorption into the soil.

Remove dead or damaged branches by cutting them with a pruning clipper. Prune to create a desired shape for the shrub during the dormant season. Remove plant pods that fall to the ground as the seeds are poisonous to humans and animals.

Propagate the bird of paradise shrub by collecting and planting seeds. Scarify the seeds before to planting by using sand paper to break through the seed coat. Plant the seeds in individual pots filled with sterile seed starting soil.

Cover the bird of paradise when there is a risk of frost to prevent to the shrub. Tucson is on the edge of USDA growing 8 and 9 and can get periods of cold weather, which the shrub will recover from as long as the ground does not freeze.

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