Bauhinia Species, Bauhinia, Camel's Foot, Mountain Ebony, St. Thomas' Tree, Variegated Orchid Tree

Bauhinia variegata

Family: Fabaceae (fab-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Bauhinia (baw-HIN-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: variegata (var-ee-GAY-tuh) (Info)
Synonym:Bauhinia chinensis
Synonym:Bauhinia decora
Synonym:Bauhinia variegata var. candida



Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade




Foliage Color:

Light Green


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

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)

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers


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:


Medium Purple

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Congress, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Fallbrook, California(5 reports)

Fountain Valley, California

Joshua Tree, California

Manhattan Beach, California

San Diego, California

Santa Barbara, 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

Sarasota, Florida

Tampa, Florida(2 reports)

Kapaa, Hawaii

Wailua Homesteads, Hawaii

Marrero, Louisiana

Crossville, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Brookshire, Texas

Converse, Texas

Cypress, Texas

Edinburg, Texas

Galveston, Texas

Houston, Texas

New Braunfels, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

San Benito, Texas

Santa Fe, Texas

Frederiksted, Virgin Islands

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 25, 2016, Missyro from Naples, FL wrote:

I live in Naples, FL and have 4 goats. We just bought a 25 gallon Hong Kong Orchid Tree from a local nursery and it would make a great shade source for our goats. I cannot find anything anywhere about whether or not the falling leaves or flowers are toxic to goats. Does anyone know? Thanks so much!


On Mar 18, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

If you like this tree, you can plant the sterile hybrid Bauhinia x blakeana and have the beauty without the weediness or ecological problems.

As noted below, this species is a problem self-seeder. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council has listed it as a Category l invasive species.

It's also been described as weedy in gardens in Hawaii.

In much of South Africa it is a prohibited species.

It is not poisonous, nor does it cause hayfever.


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).


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


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 whi... read more


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!!


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!


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

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


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!


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).


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.


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.


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.


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......


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.