Calliandra Fever

13 Apr

During winter I’ve been growing a few things indoors. Lately I’ve had a feverish interest in the Calliandra genus and their mesmerizing flowers.

Calliandra flowers are wispy soft and contain nectar appreciated by hummingbirds. Their white, hot pink, and red flowers are often called Powder Puffs.

Here are a couple of photos I took of one at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens:





It was blooming in February and it can bloom all year with the right conditions. It is labeled “Calliandra emarginata” at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and it seems to be the dwarf variety. Here’s a short video I took of it:


The following are photos and a video I took at Longwoodwood Gardens in Philadelphia. This plant was labeled Calliandra Haematocephala, Scarlet powder puff tree:


Here’s a video clip from my visit:


As far as I can tell, Calliandra Haematocephala gets larger, has larger, fuller blooms, has more leaflets, only blooms in winter and might contain more nectar than the dwarf variety. That is good for wintering hummingbirds in the South.

Calliandra Californica aka Baja Fairy duster seedlings I’ve started under artificial lights:

They have red flowers.

Below are Calliandra emarginata Dwarf Pink Powderpuff seedlings:


These are Calliandra Haematocepha Pink Powderpuff seedlings (notice more leaflets):



The closest we can get to the exotic flowers of Calliandra to survive New York winters is the Albizia Julibrissin tree and it also produces nectar which attracts and feeds hummingbirds. This tree will survive our cold but only in the right location–sunny and with a bit of wind protection. It’s considered a weed in warm areas but not here. A few disadvantages of this tree are that it is slow to leaf out, takes a few years to flower and often only flowers at the end of summer. Also, it appears to be slightly fussy about soil and prone to a fatal Fusarium wilt disease.

These are some Albizia Julibrissin seedlings too:




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