I didn’t catch the flower of the Calliandra californica (Baja Fairy Duster) at its prime in this photo. The little puff-shaped stamens are already wilting and the red color is fading. In this heat the flowers go fast, but as you can see, there will be some more blooming in a day or two. The bloom cycle continues from early spring through September as long as it receives supplemental water. Before the flowers start to fade, they are a brilliant red, and they are a real hummingbird magnet. Bees, butterflies, and even hummingbird hawk moths love them too.
The Calliandra genus is part of the Pea (Fabaceae) family. Not surprisingly, the seedpods on this shrub resemble a pea pod. When ripe, the pods pop open and the seeds shoot out in a mini-explosion. Occasionally when I'm in my garden I’ll hear a soft cracking sound when the seedpods pop.
My 24-inch shrub froze to the ground during this past winter’s hard freeze, and I thought it was gone, but in early spring, it started growing again and is now about 12 inches tall. It is usually hardy in normal winters, so barring any more freezes it will reach, at maturity, a height of about four feet, and will be just as wide, or wider. Its branches grow in a criss-cross fashion so it’s not an easy shrub to prune. I just let it do its thing. I’ve located it in an area so pruning won't be necessary.
There are well over 100 species in the Calliandra genus native to Baja California, Madagascar and India. Another popular Calliandra species popular in the Phoenix area is the Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) that has bright pink flowers. I prefer the bright red flowers and darker green foliage of the californica species.