Bauhinia purpurea - Hong Kong Orchid Tree
This vibrant purple Bauhinia is the perfect focal point for most gardens. In late winter, large magenta blooms cover the tree, completely hiding the heart-shaped foliage which is handsome in its own right. This small tree that grows to about 20', it has a pleasing umbrella shape.
An old cultivar discovered by missionaries in China in 1908, everyone agrees it's gorgeous. It's the official floral emblem of Hong Kong .
Bauhinia looks exotic, but it's easy to grow. It needs full sun, well-drained soil, appreciates regular water but will tolerate considerable drought. Evergreen in zones 8b to 11, it's hardy to 20-25 degrees, will lose its leaves in cooler climates, but recover if the freeze is not severe. It grows quickly, up to 3' a year. If planted from seed, you can expect blooms in 3-6 years.
In late summer, Bauhinia drops all it's curly pods straight down, easy to clean up if they land on a flat surface. Place it accordingly.
Bauhinia needs to be scarified and soaked in warm water for 24 hours prior to sowing. Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep in a well draining sandy potting soil and place in a warm/sunny location. Keep soil moist, but not soaking wet during germination. Cover with plastic wrap or zipper bag to keep in heat and moisture. Remove plastic wrap when you have seedlings.