How I take care of my Calliandra Powder Puff Plant

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How I take care of my Calliandra Powder Puff Plant

Namaskar Desi Gardeners. The first time I saw the calliandra, it was ‘love at first sight’! I was on the way to my office and was waiting for a taxi near the local nursery. I spotted the beautiful red puff balls from the other side of the road. It pulled me so much that I crossed the road, bought the plant (there was only one plant) and took off to office with it 🙂 That’s the level of madness we gardeners live in!

Here is how I take care of my Calliandra

Step 1 – Fertilizers for Calliandra / Powder Puff
Step 2 – Watering of Calliandra
Step 3 – Pests and diseases in Calliandra

Calliandra / Powder Puff Care 

When I got the plant I knew nothing about the plant care. I had potted the plant in an old pot, which had average soil. At that time I was a beginner in gardening without any guidance, learning by trial and error. All I gave it was water and dry mustard card fertilizer monthly. And I must say that the Calliandra plant thrived very well. The one-foot has grown into a seven-foot plant in a pot.

The Powder Puff plant I have has deep-red fluffy balls which are very eye-catching. I later discovered that this plant comes in other colours like white and pink. There are some in multiple shades of white and pink. Sometimes the pink shade can also look somewhat like mauve as the flower matures.

Basically Calliandra is a hassle-free plant. However to get the best out of it, I take care of these important steps.

Step 1 – Fertilizers for Calliandra / Powder Puff

The Calliandra Plant creates a lot of buds and flowers. I have had 50 to 60 flowers everyday on my five-feet tall plant during the summers. Therefore, it needs food. The best food for Calliandra is mustard cake fertilizer. I apply liquid mustard cake fertilizer once every month. Along with that I also put a handful of dry mustard cake powder in the pot and lightly rake the top of the soil. Do this once every month.

To ensure the fertility of the soil, add compost / vermicompost / leaf compost to the soil once every two months. This will also keep the soil cool during the warmer months.

Spraying NPK on the foliage also works but for a big plant like Calliandra, receiving proper nutrition from the roots is most important.

How do you know if you are fertilizing Calliandra properly? A healthy plant will have bright and deep colours. The flower will be bigger. For example, if my plant runs low of nutrition it gives and indication. Its flowers becomes light red. After adding fertilizer within a few days, the flowers turn deep red healthy balls.

How I take care of my Calliandra Powder Puff Plant

Step 2 – Watering Calliandra

It is a plant that will flower almost all throughout the year but it blooms the best in summers. It needs moisture to retain its blooms.

In summers, I water it in the morning and evening. In winters, even if the other plants do not need watering, I have to water Calliandra daily to keep the soil moist. Be careful, do not make it soggy. Keep an eye on the soil, mine is a big plant so it has to be watered daily. Check the top soil, if it is wet then wait till it dries.

How to check if you are watering Calliandra correctly? Look at the leaves. If they do not receive enough water, the leaves will hand sideways. Ideally, the leaves should face flat up towards the sky. Then also, look at the flowers. The flowers usually stay for two to three days. If they do not get proper watering, the flowers will not open well. A healthy flower is bright, round and stays for a few days.

Calliandra bud

Step 3 – Pests and diseases in Calliandra

From my experience I can say that the Calliandra is a very hardy plant and I have had very less pest attacks. In a span of five years, the first attack came from mealybugs from the hibiscus plant beside it. It went away with neem oil application and with a little pruning of the affected stems.

The second disease was more serious. It happened during the monsoon season. We had heavy showers that continued for a week without a pause. The neighbour’s plant had bent towards my garden touching the Calliandra. Their plant had a bad case of spot fungus and it badly affected my plant. When the rains stopped, I applied fungicide but it was not helping very much. So I did heavy pruning to save it. Within a few months, the plant has grown back well with new branches.

Prevention is the best cure, as it is wisely said. I apply spray of neem oil, soap and baking soda every week. Also with that I also apply all-in-one organic pesticide, insecticide, fungicide solution once every month. You can see the process here.

Also I add a handful neem fertilizer to the soil every 3 to 4 months. That is quite a lot.

Usually I avoid applying chemical fungicide to this plant because this the favourite plant of the bees, butterflies and the sunbirds. The bright flowers attract them and the pollens and nectar provide food for them.

Some more care tips 

How I take care of my Calliandra Powder Puff Plant

Repotting of Calliandra

Calliandras grow best in soil but you can easily grow them in pots. As they are very active plants, grow them in a big pot, depending upon the size of the plant. Depending upon the growth, repotting has to be done within 2 to 4 years. Even if root-bound, calliandras adjust well but it is always better to give it more space to grow after a period of time.

How to prune

I hard prune my calliandra every two years. I will do it either at the onset of monsoon or in the winter season. During the winters, the powder puff flowering slows a bit and seed formation happens now. If I want keep the seeds I let it go ahead. But I cut away the seeds if I want it to continue flowering.

I soft prune my powder puff all throughout the year. I wait the flowers to bloom and while new buds are coming up, I trim off the tip of a branch or two to make it bushier. Do it very lightly without disturbing the plant. I do such small pruning every month so hat it does not stress the plant.

How does Calliandra propagate?

Calliandra propagates through seeds and cuttings. Seeds are formed in pods.

It is easy to propagate through cuttings of its stems. Taking a pencil thick stem with three nodes will successfully grow into a new plant.

 

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