How To Grow Mexican Bird of Paradise: A Care Guide

Garden

Last Updated - May 2, 2022

You will be hard-pressed to find a plant as visually impressive as the Mexican Bird of Paradise! With fern-like green leaves, bright yellow flowers (that grow on spikes!), and seed pods that actually explode with seeds, it's no wonder this stunning plant is so popular! It has the benefit of choosing whether to keep it as a shrub or let it reach its full height as a 15-foot-tall tree.

This stunning tropical flavor plant is easy to grow. Below, we'll discuss everything you need to know to grow the Mexican Bird of Paradise successfully.

What Is A Mexican Bird Of Paradise?

Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia Mexicana) is native to Northern Mexico. It enjoys the dry heat while splashing its color all across the landscape. It's perhaps not as colorful as other Caesalpinia species, with flowers of yellow only, but the feathery leaves are deeply bright green.

Plants from the Caesalpinia genus are all hardy shrubs that, if left alone, can grow into small trees. The Mexican Bird of Paradise can grow into a tree that is 15 feet tall and nearly just as wide. Or, if you'd rather, you can prune it into a large shrub that is 8 feet all around.

Mexican Bird of Paradise Care Requirements

Light

The Mexican Bird of Paradise plant is native to northern Mexico. It needs sunlight and lots of it! You will get the most hours of sunlight if you plant it facing the south or the west. If your options are limited, rest assured that you can grow these hardy plants in partial shade. However, it won't get as large, and you'll see much fewer blooms.

Water

When you're getting the Mexican Bird of Paradise plant established, the soil will need to be kept moist. After a few months, however, you don't just need to reduce how much you water - you can basically stop watering it altogether! These plants are exceptionally drought tolerant. During the peak growing season of spring and summer, give it a little water once every other week. If it happens to rain, don't worry about it at all.

Temperature + Humidity

Mexican Bird of Paradise shrubs grow best in USDA hardiness zone 9. It likes high temperatures but can tolerate cold weather. When nighttime temperatures dip below 32°F, these plants go into dormancy. They will spend the winter months looking dead - but they're not. With the return of spring, its bright green foliage will sprout again.

Soil

The Mexican Bird of Paradise is famous for its ability to grow in just about any type of soil. As long as it's well-draining, you can plant it in any type of soil, from clay to loam to sandy.

Fertilization

You don't need to fertilize Mexican Bird of Paradise plants with either compost or chemicals. They are native to the deserts of Mexico, and they will not only survive on very little water and nutrients but will thrive on it. However, if you want to give the plant a boost to bloom, you can apply a small amount of 20-20-20 fertilizer in late spring. We say "small amount" out of necessity - the Mexican Bird of Paradise can easily become chemical burned if it's given more nutrients than it naturally knows how to absorb!

Pruning

The Mexican Bird of Paradise is a slow-growing plant. Still, if you want to grow it as a shrub instead of a small tree, you'll need to prune it regularly. Towards the end of the fall, cut back the branch tips. This will not only keep your plant in the shape you want but will be an added protection against frost damage.

Propagation

Many shrubs are propagated by burying a low branch until it starts to produce roots and then cutting it away from the rest of the plant. However, since Mexican Birds of Paradise produce such an abundance of seeds, many gardeners prefer to propagate new plants from seeds! These little seeds are hard and require a few extra steps before planting them.

  1. Six weeks before the last frost, take last year's seeds, make a small cut into their shell, and set them in a bowl of warm water. Let them soak for 24 hours, and throw away any seeds that don't sink immediately.
  2. Fill a pot with a soil mix that consists of equal parts potting soil and sand (or perlite). Be sure to choose a pot with drainage holes!
  3. Plant the soaked seeds 2 inches apart, about half an inch deep. Then give them a light watering.
  4. Wrap plastic over the pot. This protects it from the chill. Place the pot in a room that stays around 77°F.
  5. It will take between 1 and 4 weeks for the seeds to sprout. Be sure to keep the soil damp during this germination process!
  6. After the seeds have sprouted, you can remove the plastic sheeting and place the pot under a lamp or in a window with full sun.
  7. Once your seedlings have four leaves, you can separate them from each other and transplant each into individual pots.

Common Problems

Pests and diseases can crop up in gardens that wouldn't have survived in the desert. When you plant the desert-loving Mexican Bird of Paradise in your beautiful backyard oasis, there are two problems to watch.

Aphids

Aphids are a regular garden pest. Remove as many as possible, either by hand or with the hose. Then, coat the leaves with neem oil or a soap and water mixture.

Powdery Mildew

This fungal disease is a concern for younger plants that haven't fully matured. Interestingly, this works in our favor. One of the ways to prevent powdery mildew is to spray the leaves with water daily. In older Mexican Birds of Paradise plants, this would be entirely too much water. However, it's the younger plants that tend to get powdery mildew, and it's the younger plants that need daily watering to keep the soil moist! Simply following the care guide above will keep powdery mildew at bay.

Is the Mexican Bird of Paradise Pet Friendly?

No. Perhaps the trade-off for having such a hardy and low-maintenance plant is that you have to stay on top of the seeds. The seeds of the Mexican Bird of Paradise are incredibly toxic. Children, animals, and birds should be kept well away from them. If they are eaten, you will see symptoms such as mouth irritation, stomachache, and vomiting. For larger animals and children, drinking large amounts of water will help the symptoms to pass. For small animals and birds, however, eating even a few seeds can prove fatal.

What Is The Difference Between The Red Bird Of Paradise And The Mexican Bird Of Paradise?

The two types of birds of paradise are often confused. While both species are considered shrubs or small evergreens, they are completely two different plants. Unlike the red bird of paradise, the Mexican variety has clusters of bright yellow flowers with red stamens. On the other hand, the red bird of paradise has showy clusters of red-orange blooms and fern-like foliage.

What Is The Difference Between Mexican Bird Of Paradise And Desert Bird Of Paradise?

Desert bird of paradise leaves usually looks smaller compared to large soft yellow blossoms and red stamen that shoot out like fireworks. It has feathery-like foliage that attracts hummingbirds. The Mexican bird of paradise has clusters of bright yellow flowers with red stamens.


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