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Ultimate Mexican Bird of Paradise Care Guide

Mexican bird of paradise is an evergreen flowering shrub or tree that produces bold yellow flowers with red stamens. Once the plant blooms die off, they are replaced by bean-shaped green pods that turn red to brown as they mature.

Mexican bird of paradise blooms

Photo by MichaelRLong on GettyImages

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Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia Mexicana) should not be confused with Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) we more commonly know as indoor houseplants. Mexican bird of paradise is an evergreen flowering shrub or tree that produces bold yellow flowers with red stamens.
Once the plant blooms die off, they are replaced by bean-shaped green pods that turn red to brown as they mature. They thrive in warmer outdoor environments (USDA hardiness zones 8 or above) and are very drought-tolerant plants making them great if you like in desert and arid environments.
Mexican Bird of Paradise plants is a great way to add color to your garden. In this guide, we'll cover all the basic information you need to know to successfully grow your bird of paradise.

What is a Mexican Bird of Paradise Plant?

Mexican Bird of Paradise is most often confused with the red bird of paradise or (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) even though they are different plants. While both are considered evergreen shrubs and small trees, the two are different plants.
Mexican bird of paradise shrub has bright yellow flowers with long red stamens while the red bird of paradise has showy red blooms with fern-like foliage. The Mexican bird of paradise is native to Mexico and cultivated in Arizona.
It grows best in USDA zones 9-11and warm climate year-round and is considered a perennial in those areas. It can grow up to 10 to 15 feet tall with a similar spread if well taken care of.
It has low watering needs and prefers the soil to dry out between waterings. It’s known for its lush green foliage and bright, yellow blooms during the summertime.
They prefer warm temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit but are hard all the way down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mexican Bird of Paradise Care Guide

Botanial Name
Caesalpinia mexicana
Common Names
Mexican Bird of Paradise, Peacock Flower
Family
Fabaceae
Difficulty
Intermediate
Plant Type
Ornamental, deciduous shrub
Growth Rate
Fast Grower
Mature Size
Up to 10-15 Feet
Fertilizer
Use balanced fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as this plant has nitrogen fixing roots.
Sun Exposure
Full Sun (4-6hrs+)
Water
Low - once a week to every two weeks. Allow topsoil to dry. They are drought tolerant.
Soil Type
Moist, well-drained
Soil pH
5.6-7.8 - acidic to slightly alkaline
Propagate
From softwood cuttings, by seeds, by layering
Temperature (Ideal)
60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, lowest 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit
Window Locations (Ideal)
South-facing windows preferred when grown indoors.
USDA Hardiness Zones
9, 10, 11
Companion Plants
Broom, Desert Willow, Texas Sage, Bougainvillea vine, Ocotillo, Beaked Yucca, Chestnut Dioon, Cape Aloe
Toxicity
Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans
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How to Care For Mexican Bird of Paradise

Generally, Mexican Bird of Paradise are low maintenance and easy to care for plants when grown in proper conditions. You can grow them in a container or as a border shrub in your garden and landscape. They can reach up to 10-15 feet tall with a similar spread, so make sure to give it a lot of space when planting outdoors.
They love full, bright sunlight so plant them in areas that will get bright light. They produce lush tropical dense foliage and blooms with bright, lemon-yellow flowers from late spring and throughout the summer. They are drought-tolerant plants making them great to grow in typically arid areas.

How to Plant Mexican Bird of Paradise Outdoors

Mexican Bird of Paradise is a great addition to your landscape with its vibrant yellow summer blooms. They are also great to plant because they attract hummingbirds and are deer resistant! They make for great, vibrant border plants to protect your garden from pests.
If you’re growing outside of USDA zone 9, we recommend you plant in a container outdoors. Place in a warm sunny spot and overwinter indoors during the winter. 
In order to plant your mexican bird of paradise, find a spot that receives bright light. Properly dig a hole and amend the soil to make loamier if necessary. Place your plant and backfill the soil. Make sure you water after planting to let your Mexican bird of paradise settle in. If you’re planting multiple Mexican bird of paradise, make sure to plant at least 5 to 6 feet apart since they have a 10-15 foot spread.

💧Watering Needs

Mexican Bird of Paradise has low watering needs, but you can water more often during its growing season in spring and summer. As a general rule of thumb, water once every two weeks and reduce down to once a month during winter months.
You’ll want to allow the topsoil to dry between waterings to prevent root rot and waterlogged soil.
If planting in a container, you can use a terracotta or clay pot to encourage the wicking of excess water and moisture.

☀️ Bright sunlight

Mexican birds of paradise love bright sunlight for about 6-8 hours a day, but it can tolerate partial shade. If planting outside, make sure you plant it in a spot facing south or west to get the longest hours of sunlight exposure. If Mexican Bird of Paradise doesn’t get enough light, it won’t grow well or produce blooms.
If you’re growing your Mexican Bird of Paradise indoors, place them near south-facing windows that receive the most amount of sunlight throughout the day. You could also grow them near west-facing windows, but avoid east or north-facing windows as they receive the least sunlight in the home. 
You can also supplement your Mexican bird of paradise with a grow light indoors. 

🌡️ Warm Temperature and Humidity

When grown outdoors, they thrive in USDA zones 9 and above. If you’re growing outside of these zones, we recommend planting in a container outdoors and then bring indoors during the winter.
They prefer temperature ranges of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above, but are cold hardy down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re growing outside of USDA zone 9-12, you’ll want to overwinter your plant. They are drought-tolerant plants!

🌱 Well-draining, Loamy Soil

Mexican bird of paradise has low watering needs, but thrives in loamy, sandy or clay well-draining soil.
When growing in a container, mix regular potting mix with sand or perlite for good drainage. Make sure to plant in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
To further encourage drainage, plant in a terra cotta pot.
Mexican Bird of Paradise yellow bloom with red stamens.
Image Source:Photo by Gregory E. Clifford from ShutterstockMexican Bird of Paradise produces stunning yellow like blooms!

🌻 Fertilize Frequently

Mexican bird of paradise is a heavy feeder especially during its growing season. Feed the plant every couple of weeks using a slow-release, balanced fertilizer (NPK 20-20-20 will work) to encourage blooms. Stop fertilizing during the winter while the plant is in its dormancy. 

😎 Pruning Your Mexican Bird of Paradise

Although the mexican bird of paradise is a moderate grower, it doesn’t have to be pruned regularly. You should prune to remove frost-damaged limbs or remove dead, crossing, or damaged branches.
If you’d like to maintain the Mexican bird of paradise as a smaller shrub, you’ll also need to prune regularly. When pruning, cut back any branches to a point of healthy wood. 
The most ideal time to prune is in the fall or early winter after blooming has finished for the year. You will also want to avoid pruning until this time if you want to collect seeds for self-propagation. Make sure you’re wearing garden gloves to prevent scratches and irritation. 
After your Mexican bird of paradise blooms and the flowers fade, you can deadhead the flower stalks to prevent seed pods from forming.

How to Propagate Mexican Bird of Paradise from Softwood Cuttings

You can propagate Mexican Bird of Paradise from softwood cuttings taken in the spring or early summer as opposed to older wood.

01

Make sure to wear garden gloves and then sever the stem between leaf joints or nodes, but just below a node.

02

You may want to use rooting hormone to encourage roots to develop.

03

Plant in well-draining, loamy (sandy) soil and keep in a well-lit, bright sun area.

04

Cover the cutting with a plastic bag to retain moisture and ensure a humid microclimate and place your cutting in a warm sunny spot.

05

Remove the bag for a few hours everyday to let the plant aerate.

06

After the cuttings are large and sturdy they can be repotted into large containers or moved to permanent locations outdoors.

How to Grow Mexican Bird of Paradise From Seed

The simplest way to grow a Mexican bird of Paradise is from seeds. Like other legumes, C. mexicana produces large, easy-to-handle seeds in elongated pods which you can harvest in late spring. At full maturity, they’ll pop and spray seeds everywhere (ballistic! Pun intended…), so you’ll want to harvest before they’re completely brown and dry.

01

Store the pods in a dark, dry spot in a brown paper bag until they’ve dried and split open.

02

Like sweet pea seeds, they have an extra tough seed coat and you’ll get better germination if you abrade them lightly with a fine piece of sandpaper.

03

Next, soak the seeds for a few hours in lukewarm water. 

04

Plant them about ½ an inch deep in well-draining, loamy soil. Place in a warm, well-lit spot. You can use soil designed for succulents and cacti. 

05

Keep the soil moist during sprouting and seedling stages, and then gradually reduce the water as the plant matures.

06

Once your seedlings are sturdy and have multiple sets of true leaves, they can be transplanted into large pots as container plants or to permanent locations in your landscape.
Pro Tip Icon
Are Mexican bird of paradise toxic?
Mexican Bird of Paradise seeds are very toxic. Ingesting them can cause mouth irritation, stomach ache, and nausea. Keep away from pets, animals, and children.

Common Mexican Bird of Paradise Pests and Disease

Generally, Mexican Bird of Paradise are easy to care for and resistant to most diseases and pests. When grown in a lush garden, they can struggle with issues with the most common being powdery mildew and aphids. Usually, these are caused by improper light or water conditions.
You will want to make sure that the soil is moist and that the plant gets at least 4-6 hours of light every day. Below, we'll cover how you can address some of these challenges and keep your Mexican bird of paradise nice and healthy.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect your mexican bird of paradise. When the disease starts, a layer of mildew made up of many white-looking spores forms across the top of the leaves. The spores are then carried over by the wind to neighboring plants. Powdery mildew can slow down the growth of your plant and reduce blooms if severe.
If your leaves look like they have been dusted with flour, it’s likely a sign of powdery mildew. They usually cover the upper part of leaves but can also grow on the undersides. Younger foliage is most susceptible to disease.
In order to treat powdery mildew, you will want to prune off affected areas. Then, use a fungicide like a neem oil or baking soda and spray on the plant's leaves. If you'd like to use baking soda, mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of liquid, non-detergent soap with 1 gallon of water. Place in a spray bottle and spray your plant thoroughly.

Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects and tend to be very common pests for most indoor and garden plants. They are incredibly annoying pests because they rapidly proliferate and can completely swamp some succulent plants. 
Aphids can cause damage to a Mexican Bird of Paradise by sucking out the sap from the leaves which can weaken and deform the plant and its leaves. Aphids tend to excrete a sticky sap or “honeydew’ that can stick to leaves and discolor them. Unfortunately, this damage ends up being permanent. This honeydew oftentimes attracts ants to the plant.
Symptoms of aphids can include sticky residue, discolored or yellowing leaves, ants, etc.
Severe infestations will be obvious since at that point aphids would have greatly proliferated.
On the first sign of infestation, quarantine your plant immediately so the infestation doesn’t spread. The quickest way to kill aphids is to use a pyrethrum-based pesticide - either organic or synthetic purchased at your local garden center. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat your plant.
You will want to wipe down or spray down your entire plant. You may have to repeat every couple of days until the infestation subsides.

FAQs on Mexican Bird of Paradise


Can you grow Mexican bird of paradise in a pot?
Yes, you can grow them in a container! You will want to plant it in a pot at least 10 inches wide. We recommend planting in a large, terracotta planter that will give the plant enough space to grow. Place the plant in bright light near a south-facing window where it'll receive at least 4-6 hours of light.
Is Mexican bird of paradise toxic?
Yes, all parts including the seeds are toxic and cause death. Make sure to keep away from animals and children.
Where to buy Mexican bird of paradise?
You can buy Mexican bird of paradise through a vetted merchant on Neverland.
Do Mexican bird of paradise go dormant in winter?
Yes, they do! When the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant goes into dormancy. You will want to decrease your watering frequency.
Why is my Mexican Bird of Pardise not blooming?
Lack of blooms is commonly a symptom of insufficient light. They need at least 4-6 hours of full sunlight to grow. Move them into an area that receives more bright light.
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