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A blue and white bird of paradise

April 16, 2010 | 10:19 am
giant bird of paradise
Longtime SoCal gardeners who have seen it all, indulge me: I freaked out when I saw this enormous blue and white bird of paradise while walking in my neighborhood. I had no idea these iconic tropical plants came in anything but the bright orange tipped with hot pink and blue model. And why was it so big? I needed to know more.

Online research revealed that this plant, about 8 feet high in the photo above, is casually known as giant bird of paradise (officially called Strelitzia nicolai). Unfortunately, according to Dale Uchida, co-owner of Bellefontaine Nursery in Pasadena, it is not a low-water choice. He said it is possible that this plant, once established, could go as long as seven to 10 days without water, depending on how much sun it gets, but chances are the more water it gets the happier it will look.

I embrace water conservation in the garden, so I guess I won't be planting a giant bird of paradise in my own yard, but I'll continue to admire it at my neighbor's house. I love variations on a theme.

-- Deborah Netburn

Addendum: After this post went up Dry Garden columnist Emily Green wrote in to say that in fact birds of paradise can be low water."While not Mediterranean climate plants, they aren't tropical and are actually quite drought tolerant," she said. For all you ever wanted to know about the bird of paradise, check out her full story--really a profile--here.

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Photo: Giant bird of paradise, aka Strelitzia nicolai. Credit: Deborah Netburn