Pruning your Desert Bird of Paradise – Orange, Red and Yellow Flowering Bushes in AZ, TX, CA, Mexico

Red, Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise plants, shrubs thrive in dry conditions and, once established, they are drought tolerant plants, with ferny-looking leaves with orange, red or yellow flowers.

When do you prune desert bird of paradise?  Pruning your Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) , which is what I have, should be in late winter or early spring. I prune mine in late winter with a good pair of garden shears. Many people cut them almost to the ground. I don’t, I prune my Red Bird of Paradise about 18 inches from ground level.

The Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise need very little pruningCaesalpinia gilliesii, Bird of Paradise Bush, or sometimes called Yellow Bird of Paradise or Desert Bird of Paradise is a shrub that has been naturalised (planted so as to give an effect of wild growth)  in Texas, and fairly common and may some year, in the future,  be considered native in the rest of the southwestern US.  In the photo below see the yellow bird of paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii.

This yellow flowering desert shrub has clusters of beautiful yellow flowers with long red stamens.  The Yellow Bird of Paradise is a fast growing, upright shrub that is originally from Argentina.  Pruning your Yellow Bird of Paradise bush will encourage dense growth.  This long-lived, drought tolerant shrub is very durable and cold, heat tolerant.  Exposure to full sun is best for Bird of Paradise Plants.   All parts of the yellow bird of paradise shrub are toxic.  The Yellow Bird of Paradise can grow to the height of 10 ft.

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Plant Yellow Bird of Paradise in full sun locations. This desert shrub does fine in any well-drained soil including rocky, native soils.  In the Spring, prune to remove dead or damaged stems.  In the summer water your Yellow Bird of Paradise every week.  Water it deeply to stimulate an effective root system.  Once established the Yellow Bird of Paradise will need less water.

Caesalpinia gilliesii, yellow bird of paradise

This is one of several desert plants that I recommend for people who want flowering plants that are perennial (you need to plant them only once), hardy, low care, relatively drought resistant (I water couple times a week, depending on the temp). When you do water your Bird of Paradise, soak them because the bird of paradise will establish an efficient root system including a strong taproot.   They are easy to find, inexpensive, and provide bright color over and over through the year.  The Red Bird of Paradise is a winner for your Arizona or desert Garden!

Red Bird of Paradise, red, orange and yellow flowers

The Red Bird of Paradise is a fast grower, and will get large!  In this photo ours is a young plant. The bird of paradise is hardy and does well in any soil, but the better drainage you have the healthier the plant will be. They look bare during the winter but they always come back strong and healthy! The seeds and pods may be poisonous so be careful your children don’t eat them.

We have 2 Red Bird of Paradise next to our front gate that are small but will grow like a tree or large shrub as they get older. Red Bird of Paradise is very hardy and drought tolerant once established. (they can have very long taproots).  With a little mulch at the base, they come back year after year.

I took this picture of a large Red Bird of Paradise at the AZ – Sonora Desert Museum. Amazing, Red, Orange with a hint of Yellow color!


To germinate the Red Bird of Paradise seeds, I simply soak the seeds from the bean pods in water for 24 hours.  I put them in peat pots, barely cover the seeds.

Peat Pots

They germinate. If you decide to use the paper towel method to germinate your Bird of Paradise seeds, when the white shoot appears, plant them with the white root DOWN. Cover the seeds lightly with damp vermiculite. Red Bird of Paradise seeds need at least 8 hours of sun, but not direct sun it will be too hot! You can start to give them a little more direct sun after the first leaves appear.

I’ve heard people in Tucson and Phoenix, AZ refer to this red and orange desert bush as the Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). The actual Mexican Bird of Paradise has yellow flowers and is larger. Being native to Mexico, Caesalpinia Mexicana  is the real Mexican Bird of Paradise. It is larger with larger leaves but can be pruned into a smaller tree.

Mexican Bird of Paradise, can be pruned into a small tree

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9 thoughts on “Pruning your Desert Bird of Paradise – Orange, Red and Yellow Flowering Bushes in AZ, TX, CA, Mexico

  1. I Had a Bird of paradise bush and it was removed when i redid my garden. I kept the seeds and put then somewhere very safe, and now cant find them. If anyone has some seeds I could have it would be appreciatted. I live in Perth W Australia

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  2. I’ve seen the yellow bird of paradise growing along roads, far from civilization in the Big Bend area, and along the roadside from El Paso to Socorro, old US 85, now I-25, in the desolate Chihuahuan Desert in the early 1950s. What am I missing. It certainly feels like a native of the southwest and Mexico.

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  3. Can you tell me how long the tap root would be for a 2′ tall yellow BoP and what to do with a small (8″) yellow BoP whose tap root has been disturbed? The smaller one isn’t looking good. I have been giving it water regularly in hopes that it will re-establish itself but it doesn’t seem to be helping…at least from the surface. Thank you!

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  4. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more
    than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all.
    But think about if you added some great photos or video clips to give your posts more,
    “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this blog could definitely be one
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    Like this

  5. I have a question about the yellow and the red BoP. What is the lowest temperature they can resist? Does it resist ground freezing and snow?

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  6. I Heart my Birds! I have a question, though. Is the Red Desert Bird the same as the Pride of Barbados? I’ve been cutting mine back to the ground, but this seems severe. If it’s not the same, would it be o.k. to trim it back to 18″ like you do your Red?

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    • Hi Rufus, yes they are one in the same :) When spring comes be sure to trim off any damage from cold weather. Also, I’m adding quite a bit of mulch at the bottom for the winter.

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