Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree)

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I planted this tree 2 years ago and it's about 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It was a good idea to plant it at the time but now I have a major itch to chop it down. There's only one problem. The wife bought the tree (the only plant she bought for the house) and do not want me to lay a single finer on it. Anyway, it has been flowering for over a month now and the petals are all over the driveway and garden every single day. Then there are the thick leaves that decompose very slooooooooooooowly. I'm sweeping the petals and leaves every day. I made up my mind to prune it back to a more mangageable size and face the music afterward.

Do any of you prune this tree or would you recommend pruning this tree?

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Pruning can be done, obviously after flowering. Usually they are pruned to just to maintain shape, I would do it slowly if you plan on removing a large amount of the tree.

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Common wisdom is to remove no more than 1/3rd of a tree. However, these things occaisionally freeze to the ground here and return from the roots, so they are sturdy trees. But I would go with the 1/3rd rule if I were you.

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Chop it down?!? Oh, man, that's on my wish list!

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Chop it down?? I love that tree... it provides colours in the garden as it flowers for a long time here. I use the leaves as mulch.... and the flowers are gorgeous!!

Regards, Ari :)

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The Hong Kong Orchid Tree is grown a lot here in the Kona area and it is commonly trimmed back, sometimes quite heavily. Our tree has grown to approximately 18 X 18 ft. and I did prune it back heavily last year and it has grown back very nicely since. These trees flower heavily during our cooler 'winter' months here. Yes the flowers fall and the leaves at times also. I just mostly let them fall in place and let them mulch the ground under the tree. Keeping a driveway clean under the tree could be a bit of a problem. Too bad because it is a beautiful flowering tree and no seed pods as in the other species of Bauhinia trees. Pics of our tree below . . .

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Cut it down.....I heard that the Holiday Inn is offering specials this month. ;)

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I could think of far worse plants for the Boss to fall in love with than B. blakeana.

B. purpurea, for starters, with those same leaves, faster growth and a HUGE crop of ugly beans.

Or, weeping willows, poplars, the list goes on.

Hmm.

If you can't afford the Holiday Hotel (that sure makes a cowboy blue) then just trim Hong Kong Orchid back a bit when the Boss ain't watching . . . .

(Be sure to dump the clippings out behind the 7-11!) :)

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Every year, I have nursed one of these through winter hoping for flowers. This year for the first time, due to our mild winter this year it is flowering and I am delighted. As always, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

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Here's a nice Bauhinia variegata 'rubra' in bloom in West Hollywood today:

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I have Bauhinia variegata candida... similar looking flowers but white. But, I have seedlings popping up everywhere. Would this be the same, Peter? It is a small price to pay (weeding) for nice flowers though...

Regards, Ari :)

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I think this tree should be cut back pretty heavy once a year. But you should take care not to destroy the branch structure. If you have a nice branch structure established you should try to stick to that.

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I have a white orchid tree has that has bloomed for weeks now. I usually trim up to shape in June.

Edited by Tampa Scott
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How fast growing is this tree? 

Also, does it stay evergreen in winter in USDA Zone 9a?  (For example, Keith, is yours evergreen?)  I understand that these trees have a cycle whereby they lose all of their leaves in approximately May each year, but that is different from leave loss in winter. 

Thanks for any advice.  

 

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It should lose all the leaves in your area.  I would cut back to almost the trunk area, leaving about 1 or 2 feet when the tree gets bigger.  I cut back the branches right after flowers dropped or near dropping.  This should save you from raking. The tree will come back much bigger leaves.  This is one of the tree that will look better if you trim it way back.

In some year I will cut back 2 or 3 times before the flowering because I didn't want it to be too big.

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Here is 2014 after 3 trimmings in late summer.

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It looks very nice! I like these, even the species that seed everywhere. Interesting leaves and pretty flowers. 

The seedlings are easy to chop if they are in the way compared to my African Tulip trees that just come back stronger!

You did a very nice job pruning yours to keep it in bounds!

 

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If I had more space, I'd get an obsession with Bauhinias, too.

Trouble is they want sun and palms shade them out.

B. variegata is a species that seeds like an expletive; "blakeana" is a sterile hybrid. But vigorous. So, don't be afraid to trim back after flowering.

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21 minutes ago, DoomsDave said:

If I had more space, I'd get an obsession with Bauhinias, too.

Trouble is they want sun and palms shade them out.

B. variegata is a species that seeds like an expletive; "blakeana" is a sterile hybrid. But vigorous. So, don't be afraid to trim back after flowering.

Depends on which species you grow.. Some get big/lanky like blakeana, purpurata, galpinii, tomentosa, and variegata.

Some stay smaller/ more shrub-like: ie macranthera, lunarioides, natalensis, hookeri, mexicana, & pringlei (rare, from Mexico)

Orchid tree awesomeness, regardless..

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I had them in both my two prior homes, specifically Bauhinia blakeana, which does not form seeds.  I learned that they can handle serious butchering from one growing down the street from my parents house in the 70's.  I always wait until after they start dropping leaves and before they start budding new leaves, which varied year to year a little, but was normally mid-May to mid-June.  I took it back to a main structure of about 3-4 limbs with almost nothing.  The problem can be in wet winters when they are still young, they have all that foliage and blossoms during the wet/windy season, and I have seen young plants blown over.  It's also a great way to contain them.  The downside is that the shade loving plants below them get the heaviest dose of sun just as summer is beginning.  Those understory plants always appreciated coastal San Diego's May Gray, and June Gloom, after I butchered the Bauhinia.  My wife had enough of cleaning the flowers up with me, so no Bauhinia blakeana in the Leucadia home after 26 years of them.  Anna's Humming bird loves the blooms in winter too.  It was only for a few weeks at a time, that we didn't have humming bird nests going as a result of the attraction.

20120503-IMG_7753 Bauhinia  blakeana hummer.jpg

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I like this tree (the flower) very much!

 

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The flower with a BROWN-THROATED SUNBIRD (Anthreptes malacensis)

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A couple shots of a tree in Kiwanis park in Tempe AZ. Also saw several trees kept small in planters while in downtown Chandler today.

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Pardon my ignorance, but are these photos of orchid trees (attached)?  These photos were taken in mid-February in Orlando, Florida.

Thank you.

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Those are Tibouchina, sometimes called Lasiandras.

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Agree with Tropicbreeze,  The last couple pictures are Tibochina granulosa, Aka: Purple Glory Tree.

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Now going to have to research orchid trees for an already crowded yard....sheez!

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David, mine is just starting to bloom thanks to this mild winter.   But be warned, in 10 years it has only had a decent bloom for 3.   They aren't real fond of our winters.

Oh, and when it freeze to the ground, and it will some years, it comes back ugly.  Take a year or two of pruning to get it right again.

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Saw this beauty on campus. I love the purple and white! 

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Hi AliceHunter2000.  I know you're considering buying one of these trees, but I've actually decided against this tree and here is why.  My research shows that:

- It will probably lose most of its leaves in winter in my region, and yours too (although apparently in Tampa Bay or Orlando, just south of here, it remains mostly evergreen until its annual leaf drop cycle each May)

- It is a winter bloomer, so might look like a leaf-bare tree holding blooms (not very appealing) when December or January rolls around

- If you have a shaded yard, it isn't worth it anyway because you won't get any blooms.  As far as I can tell from online sources, this tree is not really a shade-bloomer

 

For all of these reasons, this tree sn't for me.

If I have misrepresented any facts here, please correct me, PalmTalkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Sandy Loam said:

Hi AliceHunter2000.  I know you're considering buying one of these trees, but I've actually decided against this tree and here is why.  My research shows that:

- It will probably lose most of its leaves in winter in my region, and yours too (although apparently in Tampa Bay or Orlando, just south of here, it remains mostly evergreen until its annual leaf drop cycle each May)

- It is a winter bloomer, so might look like a leaf-bare tree holding blooms (not very appealing) when December or January rolls around

- If you have a shaded yard, it isn't worth it anyway because you won't get any blooms.  As far as I can tell from online sources, this tree is not really a shade-bloomer

 

For all of these reasons, this tree sn't for me.

If I have misrepresented any facts here, please correct me, PalmTalkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SL,
 While they may defoliate during colder winters there, id still give one a try. As far as blooming in the Fall and/or Winter, considering all the specimens i have seen locally throughout the valley are in Full bloom now, id have to debate the suggested blooming period. Same with Jacaranda which i have seen flowering in the Fall, and a few here flowering now,  a bit ahead of the usual, suggested mid April-May time frame. Remember too there are several other, albeit smaller Bauhinia species that tolerate more cold and may hold foliage longer.

As far as flowering on bare or nearly bare branches, personally, i prefer this look over trees that flower when fully leaved out. Even Royal Poinciana will generally flower before they re-grow their canopy. Additionally, stuff like Floss Silk, Bombax, and the White flowered variant of B. variegata (or the standard purple type) looks best when flowering bare/ nearly leaf less, as do most Trumpet trees (Tabebuia/Handroanthus sp.)

As far as shade, id cut down whatever kept me from placing something as nice as an Orchid tree in my yard in a heart beat. Remember too "Shade" is a broad term. We have a large Mesquite in the yard here that provides a nice dappled shade most of the day that should be perfect for some of my flowering stuff that wants a little afternoon rest from the summer heat ahead, as well as some of my palms that also would burn up in full sun.. This is different of course compared to planting something that needs sun to flower under a huge, thick leaved Ficus, Magnolia, or, Calfiornia Bay tree which create dense, dark shade.  I've seen Hong Kongs do fine with roughly half day sun, as long as the shade was light/ filtered thus allowing some sunlight through.

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Thanks, Silas_Sancona, for your additional insight.

In the Phoenix, Arizona region, do these trees remain evergreen all winter?  So far, this thread contains photos of a couple specimens in your region, including one in Tempe, AZ, and all are evergreen in February-March.  You're in zone 9b whereas I am in zone 9a, although our winters can vary from 10a to 8b depending on the year.

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37 minutes ago, Sandy Loam said:

Thanks, Silas_Sancona, for your additional insight.

In the Phoenix, Arizona region, do these trees remain evergreen all winter?  So far, this thread contains photos of a couple specimens in your region, including one in Tempe, AZ, and all are evergreen in February-March.  You're in zone 9b whereas I am in zone 9a, although our winters can vary from 10a to 8b depending on the year.

Can't say for sure, will have to observe near by trees next winter. Perhaps other local forum members have more info on that?. Traveling around town, i have also encountered several B. variegata of good size suggesting even some of the colder winters here haven't set them back all that significantly but, that is just a thought via casual detective work. 

The interesting thing i have seen so far is seeing both types of Orchid trees in some of the out-lying parts of Chandler which border the Indian Reservation to our south. Like any other neighborhood further away from the added warmth of an urban heat island, these parts of town would typically be colder since there is nothing but open desert a couple miles just south of there. Some of the Orchid trees i have seen look old enough that they could have seen at least 1 or 2 of the colder winters there.

 

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On ‎2‎/‎16‎/‎2016‎ ‎9‎:‎32‎:‎49‎, BigFrond said:

Here is 2014 after 3 trimmings in late summer.

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Wow..  so beautiful..  I wish they were hardier!

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On 3/28/2016, 4:15:18, Sandy Loam said:

Thanks, Silas_Sancona, for your additional insight.

In the Phoenix, Arizona region, do these trees remain evergreen all winter?  So far, this thread contains photos of a couple specimens in your region, including one in Tempe, AZ, and all are evergreen in February-March.  You're in zone 9b whereas I am in zone 9a, although our winters can vary from 10a to 8b depending on the year.

Depending on our winter. I have 5 trees that have remained evergreen the past 3 years. If we get a freeze down to maybe 26-27f for a long period, they will defoliate but quickly recover once the warm weather rolls in. Very fast growing tree here in AZ, but occasionally needs chelated iron to remain green and not get chlorotic.

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2016 I cut it back to the trunk 2 tmes this year and here it is.

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My in-ground B. blakeana bloomed the best this year (about a dozen blooms, but that's a big deal for me in this location), although the heat and lack of humidity seem to make the flowers smaller and fades their color. Those aren't issues for my in-ground Bauhinia variegata var. candida, although it has to compete for light with a Feijoa sellowiana and a Brachychiton acerifolius on either side of it. Beautiful white flowers with a nice scent and quite attractive to a hummingbird who's staked out my background as part of its foraging territory. 

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1 hour ago, Hillizard said:

My in-ground B. blakeana bloomed the best this year (about a dozen blooms, but that's a big deal for me in this location), although the heat and lack of humidity seem to make the flowers smaller and fades their color. Those aren't issues for my in-ground Bauhinia variegata var. candida, although it has to compete for light with a Feijoa sellowiana and a Brachychiton acerifolius on either side of it. Beautiful white flowers with a nice scent and quite attractive to a hummingbird who's staked out my background as part of its foraging territory. 

Bauhinia-white.png

Your plant looks more like a white B. purpureea.

Still magnificent!

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1 minute ago, DoomsDave said:

Your plant looks more like a white B. purpureea.

Still magnificent!

DoomsDave: Thanks, but now you have me wondering. The seed it grew from was labeled as Bauhinia variegata var. candida, but it could have been misidentified. :unsure:

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3 hours ago, Hillizard said:

DoomsDave: Thanks, but now you have me wondering. The seed it grew from was labeled as Bauhinia variegata var. candida, but it could have been misidentified. :unsure:

I think it's correctly ID'd.

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