Calliandra houstoniana is a fast growing small tree or large shrub with fine feathery foliage and bright red fine structured powderpuff flowers. This species is very close to calliandra calothyrsis, but the flowers open fully, unlike c. calothyrsis, where the flower opens gradually from the bottom to the top.
The genus Calliandra contains 132 species. Most are endemic to the Americas, but a few species are endemic to the South Asian subcontinent or Africa, including Madagascar. Most species are shrubs or small trees, although a few are large trees or herbs.