Pruning Desert Bird of Paradise bushes and shrubs

flowering desert shrubs Mexican Bird of Paradise
flowering desert shrubs fern leaves Texas
AZ TX Desert Bushes with Red Orange Flowers fern leaves

When should you prune desert bird of paradise shrubs?

Caesalpinia pulcherrima plant with red flowers fern leaves
Red Bird of Paradise shrubs orange flowers and fern leaves in the AZ TX desert

Pruning your Red Bird of Paradise,  Caesalpinia pulcherrima , which is what I have, should be in late winter or early spring.

Arizona bushes with red flowers
Red Bird of Paradise is sometimes called Mexican Bird of Paradise

I pruned mine a few weeks ago with a sharp pair of garden sheers. Many people cut these plants almost to the ground. I don’t, I prune my Red Bird of Paradise bushes about 18 inches from ground level.

Red Bird of Paradise cutting
Trimming Caesalpinia pulcherrima – pruning desert Bird of Paradise bushes

Red, Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise bushes, trees, and shrubs thrive in dry conditions; once established, they are drought tolerant plants, with fern looking leaves blooming with orange, red or yellow flowers.

Texas shrubs with orange red flowers
Red Desert Bird of Paradise, drought tolerant plants
bushes with bean pods orange flowers
Red Bird of Paradise shrub in AZ TX CA Mexico

The Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise need very little pruning.

Caesalpinia gilliesii is a drought tolerant desert shrub
Yellow Bird of Paradise has red stamens and yellow flowers

Caesalpinia gilliesii, or sometimes called Yellow Bird of Paradise or Desert Bird of Paradise is a shrub that has been naturalized in Texas;  planted as to give an effect of wild growth and may some year be considered native in the rest of the southwestern US.  In the photo below see the yellow bird of paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii.

TX bush with yellow flowers and bean pods
Yellow flowering Bird of Paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii

This yellow flowering desert shrub has clusters of beautiful yellow flowers with long red stamens.  The Yellow Bird of Paradise is a fast growing, upright shrub that is originally from Argentina.  Pruning your Yellow Bird of Paradise bush will encourage dense growth.

Caesalpinia gilliesii mistaken for Mexican Bird of Paradise
Yellow blooming Bird of Paradise desert bush in AZ TX CA

Yellow Bird of Paradise is drought tolerant and very durable, also cold and heat tolerant. Exposure to full sun is best for ALL Bird of Paradise Plants.   The yellow bird of paradise shrub is toxic.  

drought tolerant desert bush shrub
Yellow Bird of Paradise bush with Red Stamens bean pods

This Hardy Bird of Paradise shrub can grow to the height of 10 ft.

In the early Spring, prune to remove dead or damaged stems.  In the summer water your Yellow Bird of Paradise every week.  Water it deeply to stimulate an effective root system and tap-root.

The Mexican Bird of Paradise bush can be pruned and trained into a small tree, see photo below.

Bushes with round leaves yellow flowers desert
Mexican Bird of Paradise bush yellow flowers round leaves
desert shrub with yellow flowers in Arizona
Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers round leaves

In the photo ABOVE see the yellow flowers and rounded shape of the leaves on the Mexican Bird of Paradise bush or tree.

Caesalpinia mexicana yellow flowers
Mexican Bird of Paradise tree shrub with yellow flowers

Whether you pick the Yellow, Mexican or Red Bird of Paradise shrubs or trees,  you are certainly choosing a winner for your desert garden!

shrubs with bean pods red flowers
Desert bush with orange red yellow flowers, bean pods

Author: tjsgarden

We are a family that loves the Arizona Desert. A lot of research and team efforts go into our articles and photos. Come discover the beauty and mystery with us. Don't forget your sunscreen!

31 thoughts on “Pruning Desert Bird of Paradise bushes and shrubs”

  1. Hi, I have 4 Mexican Bird of Paradise plants which are all growing very well in Mesa, AZ. My challenge is how many seed pods they produce and cleaning them up from the rocks below the plants. I’ve tried using a blower, but to get it to blow the pods I have to use a setting that also blows the rocks. Any tips or tricks for keeping the pods cleaned up? Thanks!


  2. I currently have three young Desert Bird’s of Paradise. I’ll be moving in November and wonder if these plants can be transplanted? Also, if I wanted a potted plant, just how big would the planter have to be? Thanks in advance for your shelp

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sharon and yes they can be transplanted especially the younger plants. They look amazing in pots 1) It will be happier in a large pot 2) of course make sure you put it in a sunny location 3) make sure the pot/container has holes for good drainage If for some reason your plants don’t do well after your move, you can purchase them at Home Depot for a low cost. Best of Luck!


  3. We moved into a house that has a yellow bird of paradise tree and I noticed about a month ago that one of the two giant limbs was dying. It’s now almost completely dead and another limb is starting to die off. Any idea what met be causing or contributing to it? I’m bummed, I love this beautiful tree 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you are in Arizona I would say it may be the record high temps. Where are you located? Bird of Paradise have long tap roots and it may still survive. Does it get water?


      1. Sorry, should have provided my location. I’m in Northern California, Rocklin (outside of Sacramento). I don’t think the summer temps have been anything out of the ordinary. This is a pretty substantial tree and now one major arm of it has dead foliage and is brittle. We confirmed its receiving water. Is there a way to provide a picture?


          1. Yes, I do have two females dogs that may urinate near the tree. Could that kill it? Is there anyway to stop the damage? I don’t have a Facebook page but could use my husband’s account to post a picture if you think that would help? Thanks so much for your responses, I really appreciate it!!


            1. Alison you would be surprised at the damage urine does to a plant even a hardy tree like the Yellow Bird of Paradise. For our dogs we had to put a small border fence around our trees and plants they took a liking to. It is worth a try and will look really nice. Try deep watering to dilute any urine just in case.


              1. Thank you! I will make a barrier around the tree and do some deep watering. Do limbs that look dead have a chance of coming back at all or would it be best to cut the dead wood off? Thanks again for all of your help!!!


              2. Our experience is to cut them off. Dead limbs take energy from a tree or plant. It is our pleasure and we enjoy the questions! Please give us a future update on your Yellow Bird of Paradise.
                Best Regards,


              3. Just submitting an update – a sad one at that – the whole tree is almost completely dead. I trimmed off the dead branches and made sure it was receiving enough water. It appeared to be dying from the top down. Pretty bummed out, but have seen some little stalks popping up around the area. Not sure what to do with those and am now questioning my ability to keep anything alive since I just killed a desert tree (and my favorite in my yard) Thank you for all of your feedback, this is a great site 🙂


              4. Alison, something had to be seriously infecting it and you tried your best. It is sad but on a positive note – Those little stalks that are popping up could very well be your trees offspring 🙂 When it gets closer to winter you may want to protect whichever saplings you choose to keep.


  4. We have both types of Desert Bird of paradise plants. The seed pods from our yellow one just literally “pop” on their own and we find plants starting nearly everywhere in our yard! We live in Joshua Tree, Ca so we are in desert landscape and plenty of sunshine. If anyone wants seed pods, send me your address and I’ll send to you. I’ve sent to Friends in Mississippi & Louisiana. Both are growing well. We have some plants in our yard without watering and they do well on their own.
    Have a super summer.


  5. I want my Mexican Bird of Paradise to be busier and also allow to grow taller. Do I leave the seed pods and branches there on alone or prune them? Am I cutting off upward or bushy growth if I prune branch area with seed pods?


    1. Jeanne, great questions! To make it grow taller, prune the lower part of the plant, also make sure it is getting as much sun as possible. When you do water it, water it so it absorbs deep in the ground towards the tap root. Try using a stick to push in the ground to see how many inches the water has absorbed. We suggest trimming off branches that have dead flowers. Only just below the flowers.
      Best of luck!


  6. #1 When do I harvest the seeds? The question above was very valid, when the pods are green, do I open them at that time? So then I’d wait until the seeds dry AFTER I have them in hand?
    #2I have 3 seedings in a tall pot (seeds bought on Amazon) but how will I know when to transplant to the ground? Those seedlings were from 15 seeds, so they are very precious since not many actually sprouted and grew


    1. Thank you Sue for the great questions. First the bean pods must be brown before the seeds are ready. Second transplant your seedlings close to spring after there is no danger of frost. Keep your seedlings indoors by a sunny window but not direct sun until they get a little bigger and stronger.


  7. I have some of these pods from a red and yellow bird of pair dis can I still use them if there still green. Or should I let them dry out and then extract them from the pod. Never mind I just opened one and the seed is very small and doesn’t look matured enough yet I’ll have to wait.and pick more after they are dryed.


  8. Hi,

    Where can I get *Red Bird of Paradise, * *Caesalpinia pulcherrima *in Orange County, Southern California?

    Thanks, Dzung


  9. Now this is totally weird, I popped over yesterday, no new post for yonks. You must have known I wanted you to post BOL . Love all the colors 🙂 Your two favorite Blonds xxxoxxx

    Mollie and Alfie


    1. Well Hi there and thanks for popping by! My motivation for writing again is in full force and I’m very excited. Perfect timing hope you, Mollie and Alfie are doing well !!


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