The name calliandra refers to the beautiful stamens which make the tufted or ball-like flowers on these loosely branched shrubs. Their colors, ranging from pale pink through deep red, are indeed beautiful. These small to medium sized shrubs produce their flowers against a backdrop of finely divided, lacy-looking foliage. Calliandras can be used in a wide variety of landscape situations. Fairy dusters are a natural for wildlife gardens, adding a bright spot of color and a good source of nectar for hummingbirds. Calliandras are also well suited to a more traditional yard, where their nearly evergreen foliage and delicate blossoms provide color and interest. Fairy dusters require very little pruning to maintain their naturally rounded form, are extremely drought tolerant, and bloom profusely in full sun. They tolerate most soil types and recover quickly if damaged by frost.
Calliandra eriophylla, Pink Fairy Duster/False Mesquite
Pink fairy duster is a small shrub native to the desert southwest, where it can be found abundantly on dry, rocky and gravelly slopes between 1,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation. This fine-textured shrub matures to about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide with supplemental watering. In late winter and early spring it will be covered with masses of fluffy pink flowers, and often reblooms in the fall.
Calliandra californica, Baja Red Fairy Duster
Baja red fairy duster is a medium-sized shrub with a delicate, ferny appearance. It grows to about 5 feet high by 5 feet wide and can be used as a natural hedge, screen, foundation planting, or garden accent. The deep green foliage and bright red flowers are especially attractive when viewed close-up. The exceptionally long flowering period attracts hummingbirds throughout the year. Baja red fairy duster works well when contrasted with yellow-flowering plants such as desert marigold.
Top right featured photo taken by Scott Millard.
This feature is based on a concept and text originally developed jointly by the Arizona Nursery Association and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) with partial funding from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Learn more about these and other great desert plants at the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert plant database.