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Very few types of flowering trees can lay claim to producing blossoms for five months. And far fewer of them can accomplish this feat during the winter. But the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) is a rare exception! The long bloom time on this captivating tree is a glorious sight during the winter months when other landscape plants are past their flowering prime. You won't have to squint to see these flowers '– they command attention because of their sheer size, their profuse numbers, and their vivid coloration. Is it a True Orchid? Although many types of orchids are plants that naturally grow attached to trees, Hong Kong Orchid is a tree that bears flowers of its own '– it's not a true orchid. The tree's common name is simply a nod to the close resemblance its flowers have to orchids. This comparison gives you an idea of how magnificent these blossoms are. Flamboyant Flowers Hong Kong Orchid Tree's flowers are pure eye candy! First, their color '– in vibrant shades of rose, deep-pink, and purplish-red '– makes a dramatic impact statement in the landscape. Next, their size '– so substantial you won't believe it until you see how your tree is covered with 6-inch flowers that really do look like "true" orchids! And to top it off '– this incredible display is not a blink-and-you-miss-it show. You'll enjoy blooms over an almost unheard-of time frame '– flowers persist from late winter to springtime! Some trees start flowering as early as November, while most wait for January to start the show. Hummingbirds Will Flock to This Tree With flowers this fabulous, can hummingbirds and butterflies be far away? As you'd imagine, the blossoms of Hong Kong Orchid Tree are irresistible to these delightful little garden visitors. Depending on your climate within Hong Kong Orchid Tree's perennial range '– USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9, 10, and 11 '– hummingbirds may not be year-round residents to enjoy the nectar from these flowers during their winter bloom time. But if you are fortunate enough to live in a climate that hosts non-migrating hummingbirds, the massive flowers of your Hong Kong Orchid Tree will provide an important winter food source for them. No Messy Seedpods There are other species of orchid trees that you may want to steer clear from purchasing ?… and here's why. After the flowers fade on those orchid trees, they form seedpods. When the seedpods mature and fall from the trees, they sprout everywhere; in fact, they're considered a nuisance in the landscape because of their proliferation '– they create quite a mess for you to clean up each year. But the flowers of the improved Hong Kong Orchid Tree are sterile, which means that they will not form seedpods that litter your yard and germinate everywhere. But our Hong Kong Orchid Tree is such a well-behaved tree that you can order it with confidence as a valued and tidy addition to your landscape! Regal Flowers and Unique Foliage are Steeped in History Hong Kong Orchid Tree is truly native to Hong Kong, where it's so admired that it was chosen as Hong Kong's floral emblem in 1965. And the image of its flower has been prominently featured on the Hong Kong flag since 1997. But it is Hong Kong Orchid Tree's foliage that has an even older historical designation. The genus name of this tree '– Bauhinia '– acknowledges two 16th Century botanists from Switzerland, Gaspard Bauhin and Johann Bauhin. The Bauhins were identical twin brothers, represented by the distinctive two-lobed leaves! And the species name of this tree '– blakeana '– is named for the governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903 '– Sir Henry Blake. Drought-Tolerant and Heat-Resistant Hong Kong Orchid Tree flourishes in hot climates without being a water guzzler. You'll need to offer it more water during its first year of establishment, as you would any newly transplanted tree, but established trees won't need as much irrigation. In fact, the University of Florida notes that these trees are not only very drought-tolerant, but they "actually flower best on dry soils." This doesn't mean, of course, that the soil should be completely dry all the time. What it does mean is that after a good soaking from rainfall or an irrigation session, it's okay to allow the soil a dry period before the tree needs watering again. And during times of extreme drought, your tree will need watering to sustain it until the next substantial rainfall. Sensational Specimen Tree Certain trees have earned the reputation as a "specimen tree," which simply means that a single specimen in the landscape is so spectacular that it's an immediate focal point '– it stands out from other plants. With that definition, the Hong Kong Orchid Tree is unquestionably a specimen tree! Its potential mature height of 20 feet (with an equal spread) places this tree in the size range that's suitable even for some smaller landscapes, particularly in bare yards that aren't crowded with lots of plants. But it's not too small that it gets lost in larger landscapes '– it's so impressive that it commands attention among a host of other plants. So show it off '– plant it where it's prominently featured in your landscape design! A Canopy like an Umbrella that Provides Shade There's no need to buy a patio umbrella to shade your favorite outdoor sitting area when you plant a Hong Kong Orchid Tree. It has a wide, spreading canopy that's densely filled with wide 6- to 8-inch-diameter leaves. During an inordinately cold winter, the evergreen Hong Kong Orchid Tree may lose some of its leaves. So don't think your tree is dying if some (or all) of its leaves fall during an especially cold winter. It will quickly rebound when warm weather returns. It Creates a Habitat for Shade-Loving Plants Hong Kong Orchid Tree not only offers shade for you, but it also blocks the sun for shade-loving plants below. You can design a lovely shade garden underneath this tree's canopy by choosing plants with complementary colors and textures. Use a combination of flowering and foliage plants for an eclectic look or plant a solid carpet of monochromatic plants to blanket the area underneath your Hong Kong Orchid Tree. Your young tree won't provide lots of shade during its first few years of establishment, so you can use only a few shade-loving plants at first and then expand outward as the tree's canopy widens. What you'll end up with after periodically expanding this design is a stunning shade garden with your Hong Kong Orchid Tree as the central feature! Make a Bold Statement If you really want to "go big or go home," plant a row of Hong Kong Orchid Trees to outline the property borders on both sides of your yard. The breathtaking floral show will keep getting better and better each year as your trees mature. And because these trees are so long-lived '– their life span is up to 150 years '– you'll be planting a legacy tree instead of a flash-in-the-pan tree, which may be beautiful for a while but phases out quickly. But don't worry '– its longevity is not an indicator of slow growth. You'll see your trees put on up to 24 inches of new growth each year! Only Low-Maintenance Care Needed "True orchids" are sometimes a bit tricky to care for, but Hong Kong Orchid Tree gives you floriferous flower power without the hassle of a high-maintenance plant. Pay a little extra attention to it during the first year after you plant it, and it will reward you for many years to come with its outstanding attributes. • Find a sunny spot. With its health and flowering potential in mind, plant your tree where it receives sun for most of the day. It also handles '– and will favorably respond to '– some partial shade, especially during hot afternoons. • Plant on fertile, well-drained soil. Organically rich soils are optimal to promote healthy and fast growth. But you don't want to plant your Hong Kong Orchid Tree on soil that is so rich that it does not offer good drainage. Soggy soil will cause the roots to rot. • Water more when young. If your tree develops a strong root system, it will be better able to withstand climate extremes, including hot summers and drought. So it's worth it in the long run to keep your newly transplanted tree hydrated by thoroughly watering it every week if it doesn't rain. Remember that your established Hong Kong Orchid Tree will produce more flowers when the soil dries slightly between watering times. • Fertilize it in springtime. If you use a slow-release fertilizer, you'll only need to apply it in springtime. If you use a granular or water-soluble fertilizer, follow the label directions, which may include three applications each year '– spring, summer, and autumn. • Prune sparingly. We say "sparingly," because Hong Kong Orchid Tree doesn't need intensive pruning like other flowering trees for maximum flower production. You should only need to prune away broken or dead limbs '– that's it!