The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension (reg)

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  This Issue:
    2003 Highlights &
          2004 Changes
    Calendar of Events
    Things to Expect & Do
    An Agave Stalk
          Becomes A Nursery
    Pruning My Red Bird
          of Paradise
    Computer Corner
    Coping with those
          Irritating Weeds
    Who Am I?
    Experiencing the
          Wonders of
    Going Bananas in the
    Banana Recipes
    Small Trees for the
          Arizona Desert
    Spotting Nutrient
          in Citrus Leaves
    Word Wise
    Landscape Water Use
         Results are In
    Desert Willow
          Indigenous Imposter
    Book Review
    Master Gardener
          Journal Index
          of 2003

Two Citrus Clinics

Master Gardener Journal  

A S K   A   G A R D E N E R

Pruning My Red Bird of Paradise

by Judy Curtis,
Master Gardener

Question: I notice that some of my neighbors are pruning back their red bird of paradise shrubs (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). Is this the right time of year to do this?

Answer: Yes, this is the time of year you begin to see red birds hacked, axed, and stubbed into all sorts of grotesques shapes. If there were an equivalent to the SPCA for plants, I would choose to report abusers who deform not only red birds but Texas rangers (Leucophyllum frutescens) and cassias as well. If asked why they are pruning, most homeowners will reply, "Because everyone else is."

Consider the following dialogue:

Me: What would happen if you left them alone?

HO: They would look ugly during the winter when the leaves fall off.

Me: So, do you cut down your shade trees because they lose their leaves in winter?

HO: No, but the red birds will grow too large.

Me: What is "too large"? If left alone and not over-watered, the red bird is simply not a large shrub. And its natural growth habit is quite handsome.

In fact, all three of these plants-red birds, cassias and rangers-can survive on natural rainfall here in Phoenix. I have established specimens of each, and I seldom water them. I do prune them lightly every couple of years, and I cut the green pods off of the cassia so I won't have volunteers coming up everywhere.

If you give them a once-a-month soak in the summer and leave them alone from November through March, they will look good on this watering schedule and not grow too fast. The need for pruning will be reduced drastically, and you will save time and money.

So sit back, enjoy them, and let them do their thing.

Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 23, 2004
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092