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How to Prune a Mexican Bird of Paradise

sécateur image by Claudio Calcagno from

Mexican bird of paradise, known botanically as Caesalpinia mexicana, is a yellow flowering evergreen shrub or small tree in the pea family of plants. It thrives in the semi-tropical and tropical climates of USDA zones 10b and 11. Pruning is only required to remove damage and control spread, if desired. According to the University of Arizona, pruning can also be employed to create a more classical tree form out of the natural shrublike habit.

Prune away any broken, dead, cracked, diseased or abrading branches or any branches that are dragging or lying on the ground soil throughout the year as you spot them. Cut back to a point of healthy wood or remove the branch entirely, severing it at the crown just above the soil and pulling it from the canopy.

Prune your Mexican bird of paradise for size or shape in the fall or early winter after blooming has finished for the year. Shear back the branch tips to the desired length to control the height and spread. Follow the natural line of the shrub for a professional result.

Refrain from pruning the shrub until late fall or early winter after the seed pods have developed and matured, if you want to collect seed for propagation or allow self-sowing.

Create a tree form by pruning away all the branches that emerge from the trunk roughly one-third to halfway up from the ground. Prune away any new branching or water sprouts below this line as needed to preserve the bare-trunk tree form. Make cuts roughly flush with or close to the trunk to prevent gouging into and damaging the trunk cambium.

Cut A Mexican Bird Of Paradise

Not to be confused with the South African native bird of paradise, Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) becomes a small, loosely open-branched tree that bears fragrant yellow flowers in summer and fall. If frosts never occur, Mexican bird of paradise grows 15 to 25 feet tall and 12 to 18 feet wide. This member of the bean family grows vigorously in warmth and fertile, moist, well-drained soils but dies back if frost occurs, sprouting back in spring to become a shrub only 6 to 8 feet tall. Grow this evergreen tree outdoors only in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 9 and warmer. Wear thick fabric or leather gloves prior to handling branches in the Mexican bird of paradise tree. Prune away any dead or damaged/broken branches anytime of year encountered. Again, make pruning cuts 1/4 to 1/2 inch above a leaf or branch junction regardless of how much branch you aim to remove. Trim branches evenly across the entire plant. Deadhead old flower clusters from the branch tips in summer and fall to encourage additional flower production. Brown seed pods form after flowers wane, so if you don't wish to look at these pods, cut off old flowers across the summer.

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