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Interesting Facts

There is only one known species of Bixa, Bixa orellana.  The seeds are used by some tropical Native Americans as a means of producing red body paint.

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Achiote   (Bixa orellana)

Lipstick Tree

Achiotes, or Annattos, are small shrubs and trees from the tropics of North and South America.  The fruits are inedible, but the seeds produce the pigment and spice Annatto.  It can be used as a substitute to the much more expensive spice Saffron.

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Plant Types: Perennial, Tree, Tropical
Light: Full Sun
Height: 22 feet to 30 feet
Width: 10 feet to 15 feet
Zones: 14a to 15b
Bloom Color: Pink, White
Bloom Seasons: Late summer, Early fall, Mid fall
Leaf Color: Green
Special Features: North American native
Shape: Upright or erect, Variable height, Variable spread
Fertilizer: Composted Yard Trimmings, Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
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Plant Care

Propagate from the seed in spring, at 66-75°F (19-24°C). Can also propagate from semi-ripe cuttings in summer. Semi-ripe cuttings are cuttings taken from semi-mature wood.


The fruit itself is inedible, but the seeds can be made into a dye that is often used to color food. The seeds are sold in powder or paste form.

Plant Growth:

Evergreen tree. Grows well in rich soils with full sun. Less hardy plants should be raised in a warm greenhouse. A warm greenhouse has a minimum temperature of 55°F (13°C). During the day, temperatures should be set to 55-64°F (13-18°C) or above, and at night, the temperature should be at 55°F (13°C). In warmer areas, grow Bixa as a hedge or ornamental tree for the flowers and seeds.


From late summer to fall, blooms open cup-shaped, 5-petaled flowers, followed by bristly bright red or dark pink fruit. The fruit contain numerous dark red seeds. The flowers are a great source of nectar, and thus attract honeybees.

Soil and Irrigation:

Does well in fertile, humus-rich loam that is well-draining. Soil-based potting mixes work well for indoor plants. Water freely during the growing season, less in winter.


Grows best in fertile, rich soils.


Clip hedges in early spring before the new growth season. Trim wayward shoots or shoots that are ruining symmetry, after the flowering period. Deadhead if necessary in midspring.


Some problems include powdery mildew, algal leaf spot, and fungal leaf spots.