They had fallen in love with Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), an evergreen shrub that can grow to a small tree in frost-free areas. They called around local nurseries and found one at Al Cook's in Beaumont.
There are many things to like about this plant, which is so drought-hardy once established. In zone 9, it is a deciduous shrub. After a frost, it can die down, but comes back faithfully in spring and quickly attains 5 feet or more in height. It reseeds freely, so if you don't like to deadhead, plant it somewhere that you can mow around or weed out seedlings. The plant blooms in summer and fall and benefits from pruning to a desired shape - or you can let it spread into a small tree. It can grow in alkaline to acidic, well-drained soils. Full sun is best for the showiest blooms, but it tolerates some shade. All these positive traits earned the Pride of Barbados the Texas SuperStar designation.