Seed of the Week: Red Bird of Paradise

Our fascinating seeds in a pod from last week’s mystery were from a red bird of paradise, also called pride-of-Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). In Phoenix it is sometimes mistakenly called a Mexican bird of paradise, which is a different plant.

The red bird of paradise is a popular landscape plant in Phoenix. It grows to be a tall shrub during the summer, with lovely orange/red flowers.

It has lacy compound leaves.

Originally from the tropics of South America and the West Indies, the red bird of paradise is frost sensitive and loses its leaves in the winter. Many people cut the plant nearly to the ground in the winter, but it grows back readily when the weather gets warm again.

The floral structure is unusual, with very long stamens.

The stamens are the male parts of the flower that produce pollen.

The flowers are favorites of bees, wasps, hummingbirds and butterflies. The plants are thought to be pollinated by butterflies.

Once pollinated, the plant produces seed pods,

and these interesting ridged seeds. Note:  Some websites have indicated the pods and seeds may be poisonous.

You probably won’t see the seeds in the pods once they mature.

The dried pods burst open on the plant and shoot the seeds. Cool!

Red bird of paradise plants have a number of interesting features, including having nectaries outside the flower that produce nectar for visiting insects.

Have you ever seen a red bird of paradise?


A special thank you to Heather for suggesting this plant. 🙂


  1. Jenn

    Ok so I have been searching i found this plant in my gf backyard while i was helping her move so before i left i grab several seed pods and going to try to grow them.. i can tell u that the center of the bush/tree as thorns. Also it has a very nice honey/melon kinda fragrance even the seed pods smell amazing! I will try and update post one i get them to germinate. I wasn’t sure how to germinate so i just stuck them into a pot and lightly covered them in soil. >.< I have grown plenty of plumerias this was and works for me in this climate. (Central FL.. 9).

  2. Jenn

    Oh btw, I said bush/tree since it was almost twice my height! ( I’m 5’7) So yea… I was not sure, since other pics I have seen are very small shrub looking.

  3. Roberta

    Red bird of paradise bushes can get huge, so it just might be the right one.

    They shouldn’t be too hard to germinate from seed, as long as the seed was mature enough. The seeds do usually shoot out of the pods when they are ready.

  4. Lee

    My search was how to grow them from seed , your article did not mention this at all. I am going to soak them in water over night and plant them in starter containers and see what happens. I have been collecting seed pods from around the valley.
    If anyone has a better idea please let me know.

  5. Roberta

    Hi Lee,

    Usually finding the mature seeds is the problem, because once the seeds mature, the pods pop open and shoot them out.

    If you have been collecting seeds in the pods, they might not be mature yet. Hopefully they are close enough to germinate for you.

    Good luck.

  6. Dave

    Where do I purchase some of these seeds? I live in the California high desert and I’ve seen some type of a red bird of paradise but none of them are this colorful. I went to San Antonio, TX and found some of these growing and grabbed some pods. I was able to soak for a week in water. I wrapped tthe seed in about 10 napkins and soaked them then put in oven for about 20 minutes or so (I know, unscientific). The seeds cracked open and sprouted a little root. Planted it and they are growing up just fine (although still small). Seems like I have to water them a lot though. I’d like to get some more seeds and try it again.

  7. Roberta

    Most places around here sell plants, but you are in luck. Amazon has the seeds:

    Sounds like an interesting project.

  8. Dave

    Thank you very much for the info.

  9. Vernon

    I acquired some seed pods from a commercial lawn company’s beautiful RBOP and found information on the internet saying to lightly sand the flat sides of the seeds (I used an emery board) to remove some of the hard outer shell and then soak them in water for 6 to 8 hours before planting. I tried a few by soaking 8 hours and another few for only two hours and had equal results. I now have several healthy plants around east and south sides of our house outside of Houston, Texas. The east side plant has grown faster and has produced a goodly amount of seed this year and am soaking some for planting with my 11 yer old grandson as I type.

  10. Diana

    I now have seedlings that are about 2 inches high. How do I proceed from here? I have the seedlings in a bathroom that gets quite a bit of indirect sunlight. When do I move them outdoors and how much sunlight should these tender plants have?

  11. Roberta

    Congratulations on your seedlings!

    Red bird of paradise plants like a lot of sun and very warm weather. I would start moving them outside into a protected area as soon as it starts to warm up. Timing will vary with your location. has some general info for hardening off seedlings: Good luck. I just put some lemon tree seedlings out too quickly and they are looking a bit sunburned.

  12. Jeri

    I have a problem with the seeds. My golden retriever likes to eat plants & flowers. The seeds have cyanid in them. Is there a way to keep the pods & seeds off the plants?

  13. Roberta

    The seeds fly out of the pods as soon as they are mature. It is not very practical, but preventing the plant from flowering or pruning off the flowers would prevent it from making seeds and pods.

    Other options might be replacing the plants with ones that aren’t as likely to cause problems.

  14. terry schusterfred

    My girlfriend and i have been collecting beans🔹seeds in the valley for close to 10yrs now. ..every year we learn something new about the seeds or plants!😃 theyre pretty amazing 😮 . If anybody has any thing they think could help me out, lets hear it.👂 📢🔬😐 spill the beans …….. so to speak! Thx. BIG T.

  15. wendy saviola


  16. e.palmer

    have grown these birds for many years in my planter which faces the west. grows like a weed in the summer time after flowering i cut them back a lots then we had some more really hot hot 90* for 3 days and then they grew some more and blooms again wow i just found a article in a paper that this same plant was called a dwarf poinciana? WHAT?

  17. Roberta

    Aren’t common names fun? Yes, dwarf poinciana is another common name for this plant.

  18. Debra Gibson

    I have been planting Red Birds of Paradise seeds, for a month or so. I have one that is up to about 2 inches tall, I live in Arizona and of course these plants to ver y well her, I have a question so many sites say use a nail file to rough up the level or straight side of seed, my seeds dont have sides that look any different from the other, I also cooked my soil for the planting of 5 seeds I got ahold of in a park near by they pod was still on bush but very dark brown and popped right open for me, I had little black bugs in my soil and was told to bake to soil at 180 degrees of 1 hour or so, it seemed to work I did not see any flying bugs when I put the soil out to cool, I hope I did it right the planted the seeds about 1 inch down in soil will see what happens, I would like to keep as an indoor plant dont know about that?

  19. Roberta


    Sounds like you don’t have to worry about scarification (roughing up the seed) if you were successful getting one to germinate.

    Red bird of paradise plants are very large, and I think it would be impractical to try to keep one indoors. They like full, direct sunlight.

  20. Debra Gibson

    all the leaves fell off my Red Bird Of Paradise, it came up but then the little tiny leaves starting falling off, should I keep it indoors where I have had it by a window and see what happens or what and do you know how long after planting a seed does it take to come up

  21. Debra Gibson

    I wonder why my little red birds of paradise seed came up but then started loosing all the leaves, should I just leave it alone, I have planted more that I found cant remember how long does it take for them to come up from the dirt, I do have sand cover due to little gnats

  22. Roberta


    It seems a bit early for the plant to be losing leaves. They will lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter. Is it showing any other symptoms?

  23. clint

    i just got some seeds from a mature plant and I’m not sure how to plant them.
    i live in new mexico so its plenty warm and sunny
    is it ok to plant them this time of year?

  24. Roberta


    These plants go dormant over the winter, but planting the seeds should be okay. Just don’t expect them to do much until it warms up again.

  25. Duane

    FYI…I bought some seeds on line from Arizona but they did not want to sprout. Stayed hard and the same size after soaking and after five days in the wet paper towel. So I tried the scaring method on the pointed side opposite of the area that looked like it was once attached to something. Just a little bit filed down to the white area. Soaked them again in water for a few hours and then used the wet paper towel method again. They doubled in size and started sprouting about 2 days later.

  26. Roberta

    Congratulations on your success.

  27. Malcolm R Ridgeway

    I am in Somerset in England and brought some seeds back from Tombstone a few years ago. I have one plant now about 8 foot tall planted in a south facing garden, and the other just transferred from a pot to the garden at about 3 foot tall. They both lose their leaves in Winter but are fairly well protected. Do you reckon I will get flowers on them ?
    Bear in mind this is England and not Arizona !!
    Many thanks

  28. Roberta

    Sounds like an intriguing project.

    The plant is 8 feet tall and hasn’t flowered yet? Plants that are shorter than that flower here in the summer. Are they getting enough sun? Shaded plants sometimes fail to bloom. Or perhaps the extra moisture is causing it to put on vegetation instead of flowers.

    They lose their leaves in the winter here, too.

  29. Tina Miller

    I just got some pods off the most spectacular red bird of Paradise plant. About 8′ tall and a show stopper! Sadly I only got 2 mature pods and the others are just young flat pods, as I didn’t know better. I live in the high desert Ca and the nurseries don’t carry them but I have seen about 3 gorgeous plants doing well in the neighboring towns. The lady of the business where I asked if I could get some pods showed me how to cut them back in the freeze and they sprouted up huge in the warm weather. Oh I hope my seeds are mature as I cannot wait to have these everywhere in our front yard! Is there a certain kind of soil I should plant my seeds in and how often should I water them? When can I expect to see them sprout?

  30. Roberta

    If the pods are mature, they are likely to split open and shoot out the seeds on their own, but maybe yours are close. I would go with well-drained soil in a protected, sunny location. Scarify the seeds by giving the coat a light sanding with sand paper or an emery board prior to planting.

    Good luck!

  31. Brian Sutton

    i first saw these beautiful flowers in our North West of west Australia in 1968 so brought seeds to Perth & sprouted some grew to about 5ft high on a north facing wall(opposite to USA) side .The Poinciana seeds from a Poinciana Tree (Delonix) are hard to grow here too and go rotten when soaked too long. I succeed ed with two of them and our flowered for the first time after 10 years last summer. Bought some Pulcherima on E -Bay & its is now Spring time here in Australia so will try again with them they lose their leaves here too in winter after flowering

  32. Roberta

    The Poinciana Tree is a beauty. Hope your Pulcherima are successful.

  33. Tina Miller

    when can I hope for them to sprout after soaking and planting in soil in a peat pot?

  34. Roberta


    How long is going to depend on the temperature you are holding them under, etc.

  35. Pam Nix

    Can you help me with something please!! I took some healthy (big) bean pods off a plant & they are still green. Can I put them in something and wait until they pop open or will my seeds be no good since I picked them early. Thanks for the help!! Pam

  36. Roberta

    If they weren’t mature, they probably won’t ripen. However, it won’t hurt to hold them for a week or two and check.

  37. Pam

    These volunteer in my yard, I let them be most of the time because the hummingbirds like them. This evening I was in my yard, heard a snap and saw one of the seeds land. I had no idea they would do this, thanks for the info!

  38. Roberta

    Of course!

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