Powder Puff Tree

Powder puff tree is captivating, covered with big, bright blooms that last for months. It's easy to see why it's tempting to grow this tropical as a house plant. Find out what care will make Calliandra haematocephala thrive indoors.

powder puff treeFuzzy blooms on this tree give any room sizzling style. Photo: ©Tin Nguyen Chon

Those bright red fuzzy "flowers" are actually made up of stamens and can grow to 3 in (8 cm) in diameter. Powder puffs are long-lasting and will cover the tree nearly all year, making this a stunning accent in the home.

Calliandra haematocephala needs sunlight, warmth and high humidity to really thrive. If you can meet those requirements, your powder puff tree will do well indoors. A sunroom or greenhouse is an ideal spot for it.

Move your plant outdoors for the warm months, if you want, to give it the sunlight it needs. Just shelter it from hot midday sun. This flowering shrub is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.

calliandra, red powder puff plantPowder puff buds kind of look like raspberries before they open.

Repot in spring, moving to a pot only 1 size larger. Want to keep your powder puff tree small? Keep it in the same pot and just top-dress every year.

How to Top-Dress: Remove the top 2 inches (5 cm) of potting mix and replace it with fresh mix. Take care not to harm any roots that may be near the surface.

Calliandra is an evergreen perennial. Its foliage is made up of dark-green, bipinnate leaves, with each leaflet about 2 inches (5 cm) long. Those leaves fold up at night and reopen in the daylight. 

Over time, this shrubby plant will grow into a tree, reaching several feet high and will spread about as wide. Pruning will help it to branch out, giving Powder puff tree a fuller, bushier look, as well as more blooms. You can prune it back hard in spring to keep it to 3 ft (90 cm) tall. It doesn't mind being cut back. In fact, this tree makes a charming bonsai.

Calliandra Buying Tips

Calliandra is a genus that includes about 200 tropical and subtropical flowering plants, shrubs and trees. Red powder puff plant is rare and may be difficult to find in garden centers. Your best bet is to shop for it at online nurseries.

powder puff tree, calliandra haematocephala, Calliandra haematocephala 'Alba''Alba' is a rare white cultivar.

Want a smaller plant? Look for dwarf powder puff 'Nana' that is slow-growing and grows to 6 ft (1.8 m). This dwarf variety is easier to keep small with regular pruning. It's a prolific bloomer and makes a beautiful bonsai. 'Alba' is a rare variety with white blooms.

Give this tree what it wants and you'll find it is easy to grow. You'll enjoy it for many years.

Powder Puff Tree Care Tips

powder puff tree, calliandra haematocephala, powder puff plant

Origin: Bolivia (South America)

Height: 10 ft (3 m) or more if not pruned back; dwarf Calliandra grows to 6 ft (1.8 m)

Light: Bright light to full sun year-round. Shade from strong, midday summer sun.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist year-round. Yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering.

Humidity: Moderate to high (50% relative humidity -- or higher). Use a humidity tray or a cool-mist room humidifier if air is dry.

Temperature: Average to warm room temperatures (65-80°F/18-27°C). If you move your plant outdoors for the summer, don't worry -- it can take the heat. Just be sure to bring it indoors when the temperature drops to 60°F/16°C at night. This South American beauty doesn't like the cold at all.

Soil: Good-quality, all-purpose potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer, diluted by half.

Propagation: Easy to start from seedCalliandra haematocephala seeds have hard coatings and need to soak in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Seeds will germinate in about 2-3 weeks. They will also grow from cuttings. Take 3 in (7.5 cm) stem tip cuttings in spring, dip cut end in rooting hormone powder, then insert the cutting in moist perlite. Keep the cuttings warm (70°F/21°C) until rooted (it's a good idea to use a heating mat to maintain even temperature).

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