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Monday, November 18, 2013

Red Bird of Paradise Will Regrow After Winter Freeze if Protected

Q. I'm desparate to have at list one of the beautiful Red Bird Of Paradise in our backyard. Four years ago we planted four Red Bird Of Paradise 5 gallon plants in the backyard and the front of our house. They looked healthy during the first summer and fall but they did not bloom. The next spring they all regrew from the ground. The old branches all dried out during the winter time.

 This process has been repeating for the last four years. I replaced two of the original plants that did not survive the winters at all. The problem is that what grows back in spring does not get any higher than around 16 inches during the summer and they do not bloom either. Though, they look nice and healthy.

A. If this is truly the Mexican Red Bird of Paradise it is probably freezing back during the winter since it is nearly an herbaceous perennial in our cold desert climate. You would treat it much like you would any other plant that regrows from the ground each year. The trick will be to make sure you protect the crown of the plant from dying from low temperatures during the winter. You can do this by pruning it to the ground in mid December or after a mild freeze and mounding soil or dense mulch until about the first week of March. At that point in our climate the threat from a late spring freeze is over and you can give it a kick in the pants with an all purpose fertilizer and water. Bougainvillea will be and perform the same.

Background on Red Bird of Paradise
Flowers of red bird of paradise. I am not sure where I got this picture any more. We almost never plant red bird in Las Vegas because of freeze damage.
The Yellow Bird of Paradise is more cold tolerant but it too will freeze back in cold winter locations if temperatures get much below 20F (-6C). This is about the same threshold for freezing as the salmon colored dwarf oleander.

Yellow bird of paradise trained into tree form in Las Vegas. I am not a big fan of it like this but it can be done. It would probably be better if it did not stand alone in a planting but had an understory of plants.
 Background on yellow bird of paradise

I would put this Red Bird in a hot, protected part of the yard where it can stay out of winter winds and has a south or west facing wall it can get heat from during the winter. Make sure you amend the soil at the time of planting with lots of good compost and a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

If you can get it to make it through a winter I think it will bloom for you. It sounds like it is just not getting enough size to initiate flowers. Amend the soil at planting, water it deeply when you water and make sure it is getting enough water (perhaps increase the size or number of emitters) and put down one application of a flower inducing fertilizer like rose food in the early spring and don't fertilize it again. But it IS winter tender here.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, as what I know as Red Bird of Paradise (C. pulcherrima) is almost always root-hardy in the southern NM valleys and El Paso (as in most came back from -8F to 0F lows in a recent winter). The Mexican Bird (C. mexicana?) I think has also made it here, but I need to check.

    We're both desert and sunny, have alkaline soils and irrigation water, and "wet winters" are rarely that wet (especially here), but I thought LV extreme lows are warmer than down here. But maybe you being much further north (you're even N of Albuquerque) has something to do with not enough consistent winter warmth? Or just a colder, higher part of LV? Inquiring minds want know!

    At my former home in Abq, the Yellow Bird did well, but it is invasive in some areas. Though in the uber-winter of 2011, many froze to the roots even down here and certainly in Abq, but to roar back in the summer.