red flowers of Calliandra californica

You Can Grow That: Baja Fairy Duster

Calliandra californica Baja Fairy Duster
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)

Colorful flowers, attractive foliage, heat tolerance, and wildlife magnet are just a few of the characteristics that describe Baja Fairy Duster. This Mexican native thrives in desert gardens due to its drought tolerance and ability to handle full sun, reflected heat, and partial shade.

red flowers of Calliandra californica
The uniquely shaped flowers of Baja Fairy Duster


One of Baja Fairy Duster’s exciting features is the “feather-duster” shape of the flowers. The blooms occur from spring into fall; in frost-free winters they will continue to flower year long. Their red color attracts hummingbirds, and butterflies use this shrub as both a nectar source and as a larval food plant for caterpillars. In short, if you want to attract wildlife to your garden, Baja Fairy Duster is a must-have.

The foliage is made up of tiny medium-green leaves arranged tightly together, creating a lush green look. This lovely shrub adds an attractive green element to the landscape with splashes of red from the flowers.

blooming Baja Fairy Duster shrub
Baja Fairy Duster shrub in spring

Size, Hardiness, and Maintenance

Baja Fairy Duster grows to approximately 5 feet tall and wide and is hardy to 20 degrees F. This shrub is ideal for low and mid-altitude desert gardens, in USDA Zone 9, where it looks great all year with little fuss.

Freezing temperatures might result in frost damage on outer branches. Prune back in late spring to remove up to half of its outer growth. No other pruning is needed as long as there is enough room for it to grow to its mature size. Alternatively, you can prune by ‘thinning,’ which allows you to keep the overall height while getting rid of old growth. This can be done by pruning one-third of the branches at the base of the shrub. Resist the temptation to prune into a formal shape and allow Baja Fairy Duster to grow into its attractive, natural growth habit.

desert garden with Baja Fairy Duster
Baja Fairy Duster is a great addition to the desert garden

Planting Notes and How to Use It

Plant in soil that drains well and is in full sun or partial shade. Locate Baja Fairy Duster in full sun for maximum flowering.

This large shrub is an excellent choice for use against a wall or fence. I also like to plant it in groups of three and use it to anchor the corner of a property. Pair with desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata), Woolly Butterfly Bush (Buddleja marrubifolia), and Goodding’s verbena (Glandularia gooddingii) to create a butterfly haven.

pink fairy duster Calliandra eriophylla
Pink Fairy Duster

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is a close relative, which has pretty pink blooms that appear in spring and fall. It is smaller than its red cousin but is more cold hardy handling temperatures down to 10 degrees F.

Either of these shrubs will add beauty to the desert garden with little fuss.

You Can Grow That!


AZ_Plant_Lady_Noelle_Johnson_horticulturist_Southwest_GardeningNoelle Johnson is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, certified arborist and garden writer. Also known as ‘AZ Plant Lady’, she’s the author of the popular garden blog, Ramblings From a Desert Garden and received her B.S. in Plant Biology with a concentration in Urban Horticulture from Arizona State University. Originally from California, Noelle now makes her home in the Phoenix area where she helps clients create attractive landscapes focusing on using beautiful, drought tolerant plants that thrive in arid climates. As a garden writer, she contributes to Heirloom Gardener, Houzz, and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is a noted speaker and appears on local television programs focusing on a variety of gardening subjects. When Noelle isn’t writing or helping other people with their landscapes, you’ll find her ‘playing’ in her own desert garden – growing fruits, vegetables, planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.

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