The desert bird-of-paradise or Caesalpinia gilliesii is a native of South America (Uruguay and Argentina) but is widely cultivated in the southwest and to a lesser extent around the gulf coast of the US. It makes a small tree or shrub, generally 4′-6′ tall although it can get nearly twice that size. Feathery bipinnate foliage is soft and airy looking. It is topped in summer by heads of gaudy yellow flowers with brilliant red exerted stamens. It is marginally hardy in central NC where it often dies back to the ground in winter and can be killed outright if temperatures drop low enough. Once established though, it is reported to be hardy to near -8F. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil and mulch well in winter for the first few years.
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