Caesalpinia gilliesii

nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)June 2, 2010

Will Caesalpinia gilliesii (Desert Bird Of Paradise) grow outside year round in the seattle area (unprotected) ? I know it prefers dry. Some places say it's only hardy to zone 9 - other places to zone 8. Some online forums people say it survives zone 5 / 6. Just wondering if seattle is too wet? Any know examples growing planted out in the seattle area?

I just planted seeds on sunday and four of the seven seeds have already germinated - much to my surprise.

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I had two that survived from 1988 to 2009 in Portland. I think the hard freeze last December got them. They were in almost pure sand, but I don't know if that's necessary. I watered them every 3 weeks or so. They were in a protected spot on the SW corner of the house. I believe this is an optimum placement. First, the west side of the house is shaded from the morning sun. So in wintertime, plants on the west side don't thaw rapidly when the sun comes up. Rapid thawing is not good. Second, they are sheltered from wind. Third, the SW corner gets a lot of heat accumulation during the growing season, since it gets sun during the afternoon, the hottest part of the day.

Once established, these plants can put on several feet of growth in one season, and will bloom on the new wood. This is helpful if they freeze down to ground level. You should always give them time to recover if this happens.

The seedlings will make a long taproot very quickly. You need to get them into the ground ASAP. I think they are worth a try.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 12:01AM
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nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)

Thanks! I'll have to try them outside then. Looks like six have germinated :) so I may have a couple extra if they all survive.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 4:41AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The 30 year killer winter was in 1990, so if exposure to cold was the critical factor you'd think it would have kicked in then.

This plant can be found on page 236 of the 2007 edition of the Sunset WESTERN GARDEN BOOK (Sunset Publishing, Menlo Park). Whoever worked on its description zoned it south of our area - but included the observation that it was "occasionally seen in Zones 6, 7". In Seattle you will probably have to be even more sure of giving it a hot exposure and light soil than would be needed in Portland.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 12:49PM
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nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)

I started the seeds last sunday (four days ago - after soaking them for 48 hours) and of this morning, six of the seven seeds have germinated. Thanks for all the info - I'll try them outside then.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:23PM
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After growing mine in a pot for several years I discovered that it needs to be in the ground to flower. It was quite a large plant, several feet high, and it was planted out last spring and the pic is from the summer. It was killed back to the ground this winter, which surprised me a bit because it was a mild winter here with few frosts and the max low in the -4 C range. Anway, the base of the plant is still green/white when I scrape it with my fingernail, so if it ever warms up here again it might come back, and if I'm really lucky, flower again!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 3:15PM
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nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)

That is the best picture of this plant I have seen! - thanks for posting it! A couple of mine will have to live in pots for awhile since I may be moving out of the northwest (have to go if I can't find a job here and I'm getting desperate) - I may give my landlord a couple of the seedlings when they are a little older (we trade plants / cuttings all the time - I will hate moving)

I am very surprised the germination was so quick and so high. I had hoped to get 1-2 plants out of the seven seeds - and six germinated so far (in four days)

November was VERY cold in the seattle area (20F / -7C) for about two weeks then the rest of the winter was mild. We had snow one day - but it didn't stick here. So far it really hasn't warmed up and it's been rainy. More rain (w/ wind) tonight.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 9:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Very cold here is more like 10F (or less) than 20. And in 1990 it got colder than that. One party who lived near North Seattle Community College during that time claimed to have seen 2F. As you move inland here, away from a salt water beach minimums can drop markedly. This effect does not seem to be evenly distributed. The low for Seat-Tac airport is 0F, for the University of Washington weather station 10F.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 10:42PM
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nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)

Yes - I have lived in the puget sound area all of my life (except for the four years I was in college) I was more concerned with how much rain this plant could take - the wet cold is much different than dry cold.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 10:51PM
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Thanks, Nancy. I get too excited when I see the first flowers on plants, especially ones that I've waited a long time for like this one, and have a bad habit of taking pics before the flower is fully opened.

We had a lot of rain this winter, but it wasn't evenly distributed at all. There was some really intense events, with flooding in nearby Courtenay. I meant to mention that mine is planted in mostly gravel. I think excellent drainage is key for this area. Also, I vaguely remember reading that it flowers more with extra water in the summer, in a hot climate anyway. I watered mine a fair bit last summer.

I'm a bit skeptical about ever seeing a flower on this plant again, but Lilydude's experience is encouraging.

Maybe you will end up somewhere warmer and drier and your plant will be really happy then! :-)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 11:20AM
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nancyanne_2010(Z 8 / WA)

These seeds germinate and grow FAST.

8 days since sowing (after soaking 48 hours) and they are 6" tall, have true leaves (a couple of them have four true leaves already), and are now outside (protected) each in their own container.

I did not expect them to germinate, let alone be transplanted and outside, within a week!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 2:06AM
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