What’s that plant with the big orange & red flowers blooming all over Austin? Pride of Barbados!


Orange and red blooms on the Pride of Barbados thriving in the Austin heat!

Orange and red blooms on the Pride of Barbados thriving in the Austin heat!


“What is that plant with the big orange and red flowers?  It’s blooming all over town!”  As a known plant-o-file, I hear this question all summer long.  And I’m happy to answer, because this showy gal is one of my favorite summer-blooming plants!  Pride of Barbados, or Caesalpinia pulcherrima, behaves like a perennial in Central Texas.  It thrives in the summer heat, and then dies back to the ground with the winter frost. It’s reportedly hardy to 18 degrees, and will grow back the next summer provided there are no severe freezes.

Summer is key for Pride of Barbados.  It loves the hot temperatures, and usually doesn’t come out of dormancy until the weather warms up.  Mine usually come out in mid-May when the temps start to reach 90.  I thought I’d lost the one by my mailbox the year we had a few 17 degree nights, but it surprised me in June with little sprouts!  It grew back to full size and was covered in blooms by midsummer.  And the blooms are really showstoppers. The multi-flower clusters of bright red and orange blossoms have ruffled edges and long red stamens.  The flowers always remind me of Vegas showgirls, especially when they shimmy in the summer breeze.

Butterflies love them too, and will often perch on the flowers for a sip of nectar.  The rest of us have to be a little more careful though, as Pride of Barbados does have small cactus-like spines covering the stems.

This plant prefers well-drained environment, so be sure to amend the soil if you’re planting is some of that Austin clay.   While Pride of Barbados does well with 100 degree days, she will not tolerate soggy roots.  With proper soil and planted in full sun, most will grow to be a medium size shrub (about 5-8 ft) each summer.  It’s a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and puts on pea-looking seed pods after flowering.

So give Pride of Barbados a try in your garden!  You can buy them at most nurseries and home improvement stores starting in June.  (If you’re lucky you might find them in May.)  It’s heat tolerant, drought tolerant, and has been selected as a Texas Superstar by the Texas A&M Agri-life.  You can even plant it in a large pot on a sunny  patio or balcony.  In the heat of summer when other folks are watering their begonias like crazy,  your Pride of Barbados will be the envy of the neighborhood!

How much home can I afford?


First, I have a confession to make.  I really wanted to title this post, “How Much Home Can I Afford, or Why Lady Cora’s Fortune Must Be Tied To The Estate.”  It’s true that I’m among the 57 gazillion people who are obsessed with Downton Abbey, and I honestly can think of no better example of being house poor than poor Lord Grantham.  In an early episode of the first season, he explained this to his eldest daughter, Lady Mary.  “If I could take Mama’s money out of the estate, Downton would have to be sold to pay for it. Is that what you want? To see Matthew a landless peer with a title but no means to pay for it?”  Now, I won’t drag you through the love/hate relationship of of Matthew and Lady Mary, but suffice it to say, no, she’d never want to see the man she is too proud to admit she loves left penniless.

Which brings us back to the question at hand — how much home can I afford?  At first the answer might seem easy to find.  The web is scattered with mortgage calculators and qualifiers that boil it down to a quick calculation of your income versus your debts. With about 15 minutes of effort, a lender can give you pre-qualification amount.   And sure, that’s a great place to start.

I’d challenge you to take things a step further.

If you really want see how the price of a home will affect your overall financial picture, consider your lifestyle.  Spend some time thinking about your daily activities in relation to your finances.  Do you spend most of every paycheck, or are you socking away some savings?  Of the money you spend, where does it go?  Tracking your spending for a few months, or looking back at your bank and credit card statements is a great way to figure this out.  For us it’s restaurants and travel — mostly tacos and Vegas.  Consider how an increase or decrease in your monthly mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, will affect your flexible income.   Lower monthly mortgage = more tacos and Vegas trips!

Once you get all that sorted out, decide what you can and can’t live without.  If I couldn’t have tacos once a week and go to Vegas once a year, I’m not sure life would be worth living!  For you, maybe it’s weekly frozen yogurt, monthly pedicures, lots of live music, or keeping that kegerator in your man-cave full of PBR.  Whatever it is, planning for it now will pay off well into the future.  Owning a home should make your life happier, not harder.

I think it’s worth repeating — Owning a home should make your life happier, not harder.  So take charge of your home buying process and decide for yourself what you can and can’t afford.  Lenders are here to tell you what loan amount you’ll likely get approved for, not what’s best for your life.  That part is up to you.

When you’re ready to start the process, let me know.  I have a great network of lenders — smart, honest folks who will have your best interest at heart!

Related Blog Post:  Financing 101:  Choose a Lender and Get Pre-Qualified