FloridaGardener.com Get answers to your gardening questions here!Cultural information for hundreds of plants that grow in Florida.   
FloridaGardener.com
Books regarding gardening in Florida you can buy online.
Search FloridaGardener.com for something specific.
Tell Us What You Think
Links to other garden-related sites.

Community
 The Patio
  Gardening Games
  About FG

Growing Tips
  Gardening Tips 
  Grow Veggies 
  Soils and Climate 
  Hardiness Zones  
  Butterfly Gardening  
  Build a Greenhouse
  Garden Critters  

Florida Plants
  Native Plants
  Plant of the Month
 Florida Palms
 Poisonous Plants 

Help
  Privacy Statement
 What You Think of FG


Help Us to Keep Growing!

Member of :

GWAA

The Garden Writers Association


Last Update 08/07/11

Plant of the Month

 

  Bauhinia variegata

 Orchid tree, Purple Orchid Tree, Mountain Ebony, Poor Man's Orchid

Although its name would seem to imply that it has variegated leaves, B. variegata doesn't,  color variation appears within its flowers. The flower contains shades of purple from very light to very dark on the primary petal.

Bauhinia variegata (Orchid tree) bloom and seed pod.

Bauhinia variegata (Orchid tree) bloom and seed pod.

The regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a red flag with a bauhinia highlighted by five star-tipped stamens.

The regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a red flag with a bauhinia highlighted by five star-tipped stamens.

Click image to enlarge.
Bauhinia variegata bloom [Click to Enlarge]

Bauhinia variegata (Orchid tree) bloom. Click image to enlarge.

 

Plant Facts:

Common Name:  Orchid tree, Purple Orchid Tree, Mountain Ebony, Poor Man's Orchid

Pronunciation: bah-HIN-ee-uh vaa-ree-uh-GAH-tuh

Botanical Name:   Bauhinia variegata

Family:  Leguminosae 

Plant Type:  Semi-deciduous in warm areas, fully in cool areas

Origin:  India and S.E. Asia

Zones: 9 - 11 -- Usually recovers from brief freezes (after dropping its leaves), will stay shrub-like where subjected to frost and freezing. Can survive temperatures to 22 F.

Height:  25'

Rate of Growth: Fast

Salt Tolerance: Poor

Soil Requirements:  Acidic, fertile, moist, but well-drained soil

Water Requirements: Water freely during the summer and less so in winter

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly

Light Requirements: Full sun for best flowering

Form:  Multi-trunk shrub or small tree growing as wide as it does high.

Leaves:  Briefly deciduous leaves 4-6" across and rounded with lobed ends and heart shaped bases.

Flowers:  Bears beautiful fragrant flowers abundantly Feb. -- May and intermittently through summer. Bauhinia variegata color variation appears within its flowers. The flower contains shades of purple from very light to very dark on the primary petal. The petals overlap.

Fruits: 6-8" flat, narrow seed pods

Pests or diseases:  Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, fungal leaf spots, stem galls and root-rot.

 

Uses:  Street tree, shade tree, specimen or focal tree in tropical and subtropical landscapes. It bears beautiful fragrant flowers abundantly in late winter and early spring and intermittently through summer. Orchid trees have brittle branches that can break in strong winds and they can be messy, dropping hundreds of dried pods in autumn. The hybrid, Hong Kong orchid tree doesn't produce pods because it is sterile. Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia X blakeana is a sterile hybrid between (probably) B. variegata and B. purpurea, and is usually considered to be the most beautiful of all the orchid trees. It is a somewhat larger tree, evergreen with large thick leaves and striking purplish red flowers.

Bad Habits:  The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council lists the orchid tree as a Category 1 invasive species. This category identifies "invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives". This was one of the original eleven species that the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association recommended for removal from the market by its members.

Cost:  $$ -- Very reasonable

Propagation:  Seeds germinate readily. Can be propagated from cuttings of semi-ripe wood taken in summer and rooted over bottom heat. Branches can be induced to grow roots if they are layered, either by burying a section in the ground, or scarring a small section and then wrapping it with damp sphagnum moss and enclosing in a plastic bag. The tree sometimes produces suckers which can be dug up and replanted.

Sources: AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY A-Z ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN PLANTS, Flowering Trees of Florida

 

 

Copyright 1999-2011 FloridaGardener.com All Rights Reserved.