March 2003


Orchid Trees –  Bauhinia ssp.


Origin: India, China, and Madagascar





Here's a genus of plants that are definitely favorites. Bauhinias were named in honor of the brothers Bauhin, who were Swiss botanists of the 16th to 17th century. The common name, Orchid Tree was probably given because their blooms resemble orchids even though they aren't related. The twin lobed leaves also lend them a tropical aura. But in actuality they are more of a sub-tropical, hardy to zone 10 (22 degrees F or –6 C). Some of the species adapt themselves nicely to pot culture so they can be grown indoors or out.

 Orchid Trees enjoy full sun to light shade and need moderate watering. They are sensitive to chlorosis, the build of chlorine from treated water. However, this can be treated with iron chelate. I recommend fertilizing twice a year organically, followed by a thorough flushing with rainwater.

 I have grown Orchid Trees in my bird room for many years. It's important to keep it misted at least every other day. And during the month of December, my Orchid Trees experience a massive leaf drop almost like clockwork. However, it replaces the leaves with new buds in a matter of a few days. 

 Orchid Trees bloom in the winter to early spring. The tree is covered in spectacular orchid-like flowers. Here are some examples of a few species in various colors that work well in containers.

 Enjoy the show!

 Purple Orchid Tree – Bauhinia purpurea or variegata


  White Orchid Tree aka Love Tree – Bauhinia alba


 Pink Orchid Tree aka Butterfly Tree – Bauhinia monandra



Red Orchid Tree – Bauhinia galpinni