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PlantFiles: Variegated Orchid Tree
Bauhinia variegata

Family: Caesalpiniaceae (ses-al-pin-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Bauhinia (baw-HIN-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: variegata (var-ee-GAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Bauhinia chinensis

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

17 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
Scarify seed before sowing
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

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There are a total of 28 photos.
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9 positives
5 neutrals
5 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative nativelyeager On Jun 13, 2011, nativelyeager from Brooksville, FL wrote:

In Florida this invasive non-native pest plant, FLEPPC Cat I (back and forth Cat II to Cat II in the FL Keys), makes a mess if your yard is nowhere near natural areas, and is a serious invader into hammocks if it is. The blossoms are pretty, but if that is your goal, go with Hong Kong orchid, B. blakeana, which has no seed pods (propagation by air layering works well).

Neutral encanto On Mar 27, 2010, encanto from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

i planted my hong kong orchid tree 3 years ago and it is healthy and green. early on there were 2 or 3 white flowers but none since. how can i get this tree to bloom? thx encanto

Positive tropicaldude On Mar 13, 2010, tropicaldude from Orlando, FL wrote:

This lovely tree might be invasive (in south Florida) but it's a perfect flowering tree for most of the state (it can take low 20s, so most freezes won't touch it). Those who say this tree is invasive should be concerned about REALLY invasive weeds like the Chinese Rain Tree (Koelreuteria) and Camphor trees which can grow everywhere (and are even sold by unscrupulous nursery managers at Lowes and Home Depots here in Florida).

Bears flowers during winter/early spring, when most flowering trees don't, further enhancing its appeal. On the internet they usually say the "Hong Kong Orchid tree is showier" but from what I've seen, it's the opposite. The Variegated Orchid tree is also more cold tolerant.

There's a specimen near me that doesn't go bare and flowers while keeping a considerable leaf canopy. Yet down the street is another one, unhealthy looking, sheds most leaves for a period and bears few flowers. Some can grow large, most I see are smallish.

Good specimens are downright gorgeous and flowering period can last months (vs weeks for the more popularly sold Pink Tabebuia trees)

Contrary to what Signal20 wrote, I have never seen this Bauhinia wild anywhere in Central Florida or the Orlando area. Instead of the cheap and boring Oaks and Crape Myrtles, which look as if they were dead in winter (ever driven by Baldwin Park or any newish residential community in Orlando?), housing developers should not be so cheap and start planting better looking trees. Again, one can always yank those and plant beauties such as Bauhinias ;-)

Positive Tefoe On Jan 3, 2010, Tefoe from Lakeland, FL wrote:

Can you hate Such beauty! Wow If ever a plant to catch my eye!

Anyway, to fix an error, this plant is edible! The new leaves, green young seeds, Small green pods. Just boil them for a bit, and the invasive plat problem will be solved!!

Negative Tetrazygia On Feb 6, 2007, Tetrazygia from Miami, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

DawnRain may not find seedlings in their part of Florida, but I have frequently found them in South Florida hammocks. It is listed as a category I invasive for a reason--because it has already negatively impacted our environment.

It is a beautiful tree, but any Floridian can buy the sterile Hong Kong species (which is similar and just as beautiful) instead. I have one, for I have my cake and eat it, too.

To those outside of Florida, ignore what I'm saying unless it's also invasive in your area!

Neutral frostweed On Jan 4, 2007, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Variegated Orchid Tree Bauhinia variegata is Naturalized in Texas and other States.

Neutral crimsontsavo On Jun 29, 2006, crimsontsavo from Crossville, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Seemingly impossible to kill. Mine have been mowed over and after I left Florida never watered by a person. They didnt grow big with all the neglect but are here in tennessee now, no worse for the wear- and growing fast.
I am planning to use them in a japanese inspired garden.
I was born and raised in northern Florida and have never seen one growing in the wild. This doesnt mean they arent invasive in the southern and central parts though!

Positive PrimeTimeMom On Jun 17, 2006, PrimeTimeMom from Sherman Oaks, CA wrote:

When I bought my home three years ago I hired a guy from our local nursery to help with the garden. I was going to pull what looked like a random plant and he said "oh no" that's a Japanese Orchid Tree. So we staked it and it is now a gorgeous bushy tree about eight feet tall. It has beautiful light purple/pink blooms off and on throughout the year. We have a lot of deer in our yard and they leave the blooms alone. I give it no special care other than regular watering with the sprinkler. It is in full sun. I highly recommend this gorgeous tree (mine is more like a big bush).

Positive DawnRain On May 19, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

Winter Haven had the most beautiful planting of these trees on the edge of a lake going into the city. When they widened the road they destroyed all of the trees and thus the most attractive part of the city outside of Cypress Gardens and that is to their shame.
I have never seen an orchid tree growing in a Florida forest. I am not in favor of the white list because many of the plants on it should not be there. Some, yes, but this is another I disagree on. And I don't think the seeds are carried by birds. The beauty of the tree attracts people and they carry the seeds to their yards. Seedlings do come up under the trees, but only there. Mine have never seeded farther than 10ft from the tree. Unwanted seedlings are easily pulled or mowed. I dearly love this beauty.

Negative jnana On May 18, 2005, jnana from South Florida, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Listed as Category I of most invasive plants by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Do not plant if living in Florida.

Negative TREEHUGR On Jan 6, 2005, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Catagory I invasive within it's hardy range in florida. Not to be confused with the very common Bauhinia chinensis (but that could be invasive too for all I know). Birds will carry seed into natural areas and that's where the problem will be realized... not from seedlings in your yard.

Positive peterson89 On Sep 16, 2004, peterson89 from El Cajon, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

We have been growing this tree for several years now [ approx 4] in our zone 10 California...the tree performs very well here, it has grown very tall, [ quite rapidly] I do believe perhaps 4 - 6 ft when we purchased possibly 15 feet, it does take some drought, and flowers on and off during the year [ flowering again right now in September] it starts flowering without the leaves first..I am sure it would do even better with more water and fertilizer..we have not done any fertilizing as yet.. It seems to respond to neglect only because of health reasons I have not been able to give it the attention it deserves......

Neutral Philomena On Sep 15, 2004, Philomena from TAMUNING, GU (Zone 11) wrote:

I just planted a 6 ft tree about a month ago. It lost all its leaves entirely and got hit was a typhoon about a week after that. I had nearly given up and noticed small buds growing so now the tree is fully leafed and looking good. Can't wait until it blooms.

Positive trois On Sep 14, 2004, trois from Santa Fe, TX (Zone 9b) wrote:

We collected seed from our neighbors very large tree and planted them in containers as soon as they were dry. We now have six 12 to 15 inch tall young Orchid trees. We have prepared raised beds in which to plant the young plants next spring. We intend to try for an Orchid forest for our west view.

Positive Strever On Aug 6, 2004, Strever from Hiouchi, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

they are grown in Southern Calif as a Japanese Garden tree. the branches are trained to grow horizontal at about 8 to 10 ft high & kept pruned so the orchids can be enjoyed
but the variegata flower is an ever-changing color. white during the warm months to dark purple during the colder months

Positive EC On Apr 3, 2003, EC from Edmonton AB
Canada (Zone 3b) wrote:

They are widely planted along freeways and parks in Hong Kong. Hong Kong picked Bauhinia blakeana as its emblem; Hong Kong dollar coin has Bauhinia on it. Besides white flower variety, there are also other colors like purple and pink.

Neutral Dinu On Apr 3, 2003, Dinu from Mysore
India (Zone 10a) wrote:

It seems it is a quick grower and is supposed to give white flowers and in profusion in 2-3 years. Medium size tree. My friend gave this seedling a couple of weeks ago. March 2003.

Negative KWDave On Mar 15, 2003, KWDave from Key West, FL (Zone 11) wrote:

I have several of these single-trunk specimens reaching 20-25' in a sheltered, shady location in Key West. They are very drought resistant, but as soon as it rains in the spring, they leaf out and flower mightily. Key West receives sporadic rain at best this time of year, and the blossoms last one-two days and fall off. This is a huge mess in an enclosed space. Please plant these in an open exposure, or as specimens in a border so that you do not have to remove entire garbage barrels of detritus daily.

Positive signal20 On Jun 9, 2002, signal20 from Orlando, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I planted a 2.5 foot tall tree in the front yard in central Florida in January. It is now approximately 5' tall now with lots of green foliage but no flowers. Pinch back tips to promote bushy growth and remove leaves which turn brown.

This plant can be grown as a shrub tree with many stems or select the thickest and grow as a single trunk tree. I water and fertilize when I water the lawn. Grows wild almost everywhere in central Florida and is listed as an invasive plant. Have seen lots of trees over 30+ feet tall with purple flowers.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Congress, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona
Fallbrook, California
Fountain Valley, California
Joshua Tree, California
Manhattan Beach, California
San Diego, California
Sherman Oaks, California
Stockton, California
Bartow, Florida (2 reports)
Clearwater, Florida
Dade City, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Miami, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Palmetto, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Tampa, Florida (2 reports)
Kapaa, Hawaii
Marrero, Louisiana
Crossville, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Brookshire, Texas
Converse, Texas
Cypress, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Houston, Texas
New Braunfels, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Benito, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas
Frederiksted, Virgin Islands

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