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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Powder puff always in bloom

By Staff | Jun 1, 2016

The powder puff hails from Mexico and Honduras. PHOTO BY ANITA FORCE MARSHALL

Plant Subject: Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala)

First impression: Large clusters of red wispy hairs too numerous to count. I could mistakenly think these flowers were bottle brush tree mutants, but the blooms are shaped like pompoms. This bushy multi stemmed shrub has oodles of light green to reddish bipinnate leaves and pea pods. I detect no fragrance, but the bees are in a holding pattern for the sweet nectar. I can’t remember when this super star was without flowers. Wow-what a gardeners dream come true!

Upon further investigation: The powder puff species name haematocephala means redhead and is a nonnative who hails from Mexico and Honduras. It is among my most asked about, “What is this?” plant.

The flowers aka puffs are super thin bright red tips graduating to creamy colored bases of filaments clustered together, in the shape of a woman’s powder puff. Pre-bloom resembles a red raspberry, which in a blink explodes into the unique flower. Being numerous, ever blooming, and dense, they become one of the hard working stars in our garden. The wispy leaves are fern like and small, but very dense in greens and reds. Seed pods look like pea pods starting out green and tuning a lovely coffee color.

It can be planted alone or grouped together; mature height can be 8-14 feet or request a dwarf variety (Calliandra emarginata), which only gets 3-5 feet tall. They are multi trunked, and have a natural upright bushy like shape, easy to care for. I shape and prune only to fit the space needed.

This sun to partial-shade lover needs good drainage and regular watering to stay healthy.

When introducing new foliage in your garden, here are a few suggestions for success. Remember, your plants whether exotic or native need initial attentive care for a healthy beginning. Plant in a hole dug a little larger than the root ball. The most common planting error is placing your new addition too deep. The trunk is extremely sensitive, and planting too deeply will cause root suffocation, nutritional deficiencies, root rot disease, and frequently, loss of your plant.

Watering is essential to establish your newbie. Newly planted landscape needs to be mulched and receive daily watering for approximately two to three weeks. Once they are established, supplemental watering might be needed when the plant exhibits that weeping quality, telling you that it’s thirsty.

At any stage of growth of your powder puff, you can expect pollinators and people to flock to its blooms!


Always blooming

You gotta have at least one

Pollinators love it

Red and pinks color choices

Non invasive

Will always be able to fix your shiny nose

Hard working looks good, but not a Diva


Cold sensitive

Can look messy with spent blooms

Will tire of telling people its name


Conclusion: Your not gonna believe this pouf of a flower. Go ahead and touch it. Is it a real flower?

You betcha! So many blossoms . . . sighhhh . . . there’s never enough time in your tropical eye catching garden. Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!