Powder Puff Tree the common name for Calliandra Haematocephala [kal-ee-AN-druh, hee-mat-oh-SEF-uh-luh] the most widely cultivated of the 150 calliandra species.
It belongs to the Fabaceae family, which people typically call the pea or bean family. Other Fabaceae members include:
- Erythrina (coral tree)
- Perennial sweet pea
- Dwarf Poinciana tree
- Chinese Lantern tree (Dichrostachys Cinerea)
It’s native to Bolivia, but this evergreen flowering shrub (small tree) is grown throughout the world for its bright winter blooms.
One look at the flowers and you’ll know why it is commonly called the powder puff plant.
Calliandra Powder Puff Tree Care
Calliandra haematocephala (image above) also known as Calliandra inaequilatera is cherished for its bloom clusters of shocking red flower buds colors appearing in the winter.
Calliandra surinamensis is the Calliandra pink powder puff plant species. A white flower ‘alba’ cultivar is also available.
Calliandra surinamensis ‘alba’ also known as Freund’s White.
Calliandra tweediei is a bright red powder puff tree which blooms in the spring to fall months.
Size and Growth Rate
The dwarf powderpuff grows quickly, reaching six feet tall with a three-foot spread. The small tree has dark green mimosa tree like compound leaves, with five to 10 pairs of leaves per stem.
In its native region, it can reach 15’ feet tall.
In cultivation, most people trim this tropical plant back to manage the height, especially when grown in pots.
Flowering and Fragrance
The powder puff flowers are the main attraction and the reason for the name.
The red or pink powder puff trees bloom in the winter with showy flowers containing many stamens. Each pink flower looks like a fuzzy puffball.
The most popular varieties produce pinkish-red flowers, but there are also white varieties.
While the flowers are attractive and unique, they don’t produce a noticeable fragrance.
NOTE: In warmer locations red, pink and white flower off and on all year round.
Light and Temperature
For outdoor planting, USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 are recommended. It’s not tolerant to frost and may start to sag if left in cool temperatures.
It’s commonly grown outdoors in South Florida and other warm, humid regions. Outside of these areas, the plant may freeze during the winter.
The pink powderpuff needs full sun or very light partial shade, whether grown indoors or outdoors. Place as indoor house plants near a window, even during the winter.
Watering and Feretilizer
In the spring, start watering the plant regularly. As the temperatures grow colder in the fall, start limiting the frequency of watering.
Once established powder puff plants are drought tolerant.
Apply liquid fertilizer during the growing season or a balanced granular fertilizer as the weather begins to warm in spring. Fertilizer is not necessary during the winter.
Soil and Transplanting
Use regular well-drained soil, and peat moss, leaf mold, or compost to improve drainage and the quality of the soil.
Repot plants each year in the spring. Use the same soil recommendation.
Only move powder puffs to larger pots if the plant outgrows its current container.
Grooming and Maintenance
Pruning is often needed to manage plant growth.
It can reach six feet in height, but most people keep it pruned to several feet, especially when grown outdoors as a hedge.
Pinch or prune the branches as needed in the spring.
It’s best to groom when repotting the plant. The pruning can also be used for propagation.
Red Powder Puff Plant Propagation
Use the cuttings from pruning to grow new Calliandra haematocephala australia or Calliandra surinamensis.
Propagating is relatively easy, as the cuttings root quickly.
- Spring or early summer are the best times to trim the plant and take cuttings.
- The cuttings should be at least 6″ inches long and healthy.
- Cut away the leaves from the lower section of the stem.
- Trim some of the upper foliage back as well. Too much foliage takes moisture away from the cutting.
- Dip the end of each cutting in a rooting hormone.
- Place the cuttings in a tray or small pot.
- Cover the tray with a plastic bag. Remember to poke holes in the bag for ventilation.
- Keep the tray in a warm spot, such as the kitchen, where it may also get a little more humidity.
- Keep an eye on the cuttings for signs of fungal growth.
- Use a fungicide to treat the problem before it spreads.
- After the cuttings take root, removed the bag.
- Wait for the plants to become sturdy before transplanting to their own containers.
Calliandra Powder Puff Pests or Diseases
The Calliandra plant is prone to aphid and mealybug infestations. This is more common when there is new growth.
Check the plant frequently for these insect pests. It is easier to get rid of a few pests instead of dealing with a full infestation.
Use sprays of water to get rid of a handful of aphids or mealybugs. Severe threats often require an insecticide such as neem.
Uses For Powder Puff Tree Calliandra
The red or pink powderpuff tree calliandra haematocephala is commonly grown as:
- Shrubs or hedges
- Potted as a small patio tree
- Trained on a garden trellis
- Dwarf varieties (Calliandra emarginata) will grow in hanging baskets
In warm regions, consider growing powderpuffs outdoors in full sun to add more color to the deck or patio area during the winter months.