The Red Bird of Paradise is one of several desert plants that I recommend for people who want desert plants that are perennial (you need to plant them only once), hardy, low care, relatively drought resistant, easy to find, pretty cheap to buy, and provide lovely color many times during the year. They thrive in the USDA Zone 9, where Phoenix is located. They may do well in a few other zones, as well.
The botanical name for Red Bird of Paradise is Caesalpinia pulcherrima. In the Phoenix area, many people refer to this red and orange version as the Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) which actually has all yellow flowers. The Red Bird of Paradise is an evergreen shrub that enjoys full sun and has bright yellow flowers, with orange and red centers that grow out of long, thin stalks. The leaves are fern-looking. The Red Bird of Paradise is a fairly fast grower, and can get large—six or eight feet tall—so periodic trimming is suggested. The Red Bird of Paradise will do well in any soil, but the better drainage you have the healthier the plant will be. I cut mine back in the winter, since they don't take the frosty nights well, but they always come back strong and healthy. They have a tendency to self-sow, so watch for any unwanted seedlings that start to grow.
The seeds and pods may be poisonous so don't let children put them in their mouths.
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