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Bauhinia variegata (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Bauhinia variegata (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Zone
Zones vary by species.
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Bauhinia

Orchid tree
Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Deciduous, Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees, Semi-evergreen

These flamboyant flowering trees and shrubs have a very special place in Hawaii and mild-winter areas of California and Arizona. They vary greatly by species and climate. Common to all garden bauhinias are twin “leaves,” actually twin lobes. Thin crowded growth after bloom.

Bauhinias flower best when grown in wind-shelteres spots in well-drained, semi-fertile soil. Though they thrive in heat, dry heat or drought may cause leaf edges to brown.

Bauhinia forficata

Native to Brazil. Probably the hardiest bauhinia. Often with twisting, leaning trunk and picturesque angled branches. Growing 20 ft. tall and wide, it makes good canopy for patio. Short, sharp thorns at branch joints. Narrow-petaled, creamy white flowers are 3 in. wide, appear from spring into summer. Deep green leaves have more pointed lobes than others.

Bauhinia variegata ‘Candida’ (photo courtesy of Claire Curran)
Bauhinia variegata ‘Candida’ (photo courtesy of Claire Curran)

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Bauhinia variegata

Native to India and China. The plant is hardy to 22°F/–6°C. The most frequently planted bauhinia, it is inclined to grow as a many-stemmed shrub, but if staked and pruned, becomes an attractive 20–35 ft. tree. Wonderful show of light pink to orchid purple, broad-petaled, 2–3-in.-wide flowers, usually winter into spring; a spectacular street tree where spring is reliably and steadily warm. Light green, broad lobed leaves generally drop in midwinter. After bloom, it produces a huge crop of messy-looking beans; trim them off if you wish (trimming brings new growth earlier). ‘Candida’ is white-blossomed but otherwise identical to the species.

Bauhinia x blakeana (photo courtesy of San Marcos Growers)
Bauhinia x blakeana (photo courtesy of San Marcos Growers)

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Bauhinia x blakeana

Umbrella-like growth habit to 20 ft. high and wide. Flowers bloom from late fall to spring and are shaped like some orchids; they are much larger (5 1/2–6 in.wide) than those of other bauhinias. Colors range from cranberry maroon through purple and rose to orchid pink, often in same blossom. Gray-green leaves tend to drop off around bloom time, but this partly deciduous tree does not lose all of its foliage. This is the city tree of Hong Kong.

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