Ferny-leafed plants grown for their branch-end clusters of colorful blossoms featuring (except C. platyloba) protruding stamens. Flowers attract hummingbirds. Plants grow quickly and easily in hot, sunny locations if given light, well-drained soil and infrequent, deep water- ing. Prune before first flush of spring growth to remove any dead or damaged wood and wayward branches; remove lower limbs for treelike shape in shrubby species.
C. cacalaco. CASCALOTE. Evergreen tree. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Mexican native grows slowly to 20 ft. tall and wide, with thorny branches and bright green foliage, coarser than that of C. pulcherrima. Very showy, large yellow flowers carried well above branches in winter.
C. gilliesii. YELLOW BIRD OF PARADISE. Evergreen to deciduous shrub or tree; drops leaves in cold winters. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From South America. Tough, fast growing to 10 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide, with finely cut foliage and open, angular branch structure. Blooms all summer, producing clusters of yellow flowers adorned with bright red stamens.
C. mexicana. MEXICAN BIRD OF PARADISE. Evergreen shrub or tree. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Native to Mexico and the southern tip of Texas. Moderately fast growth to 1012 ft. tall and wide; can be maintained at 68 ft. with pruning. Leaves are coarser than those of C.pulcherrima. Blooms throughout year except in coldest months, bearing 6-in. clusters of lemon-yellow flowers.
C. platyloba. CURLY PAELA. Evergreen tree. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. From Mexico. To 20 ft. tall and wide. Narrow, elongated clusters of tiny yellow flowers in spring lack the long, protruding stamens of other caesalpinias. Best feature is airy appearance due to open branching habit and relatively few leaflets. Leaves turn rust red in fall.
C. pulcherrima. RED BIRD OF PARADISE, DWARF POINCIANA. Deciduous shrub; may be evergreen in mild winters. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Native to tropical America. Fast, dense growth to 10 ft. tall and wide; useful for quick screening. Dark green leaves with many 34-in. leaflets. Blooms throughout warm weather, bearing clusters of orange or red flowers with red stamens.
Plants freeze to ground in colder part of range but rebound quickly in spring. In milder climates, you can cut them to the ground in early spring to make a more compact shrub. 'Cream Puff' has cream-colored flowers and chartreuse leaves; 'Phoenix Bird' bears bright yellow blooms.