Butterfly or Orchid Tree
Giving tropical colour from spring to autumn different species of Bauhinias are not commonly seen in gardens here but they do well and could be more widely planted. As Bauhinias come from the tropics and subtropics of Eastern and Western hemispheres several species can be tried. We have growing here the following.
From India, China and Africa comes Bauhinia tomentosa, here a twiggy, deciduous bush which has clear yellow flowers with a dark brown, central eye.
Bauhinia natalensis comes from Southern Africa and has small white flowers on a small twigged, bushy plant.
Bauhinia candicans is the big one of the group and has large, spidery, white flowers. It is supposed to give good timber. Unfortunately it also has prickles so handle with care. It also suckers which can be a nuisance.
Bauhinia purpurea from SE Asia, India and China has deeper shades of pink, carmine, purple to lavender coloured flowers usually in the Autumn.
From the same area comes Bauhinia variegata which is reddish-purple to magenta which flowers in the spring, early summer. In the East leaves and pods are eaten. The pure white form Alba is very beautiful.
The brick-red flowered B. galpinii (punctata) is a beautiful, bushy, a spreading to semi climbing plant which comes from Africa.
All Bauhinias can be cut back hard if required. Some, if uncut, will grow into trees while others are only bushes. Most will stand a little frost. Dryness doesn’t seem to affect them but they do appreciate a reasonably well drained soil.