Tag Archive for: Tropical Bird-of-Paradise

The Beauty and Challenges of Growing Tropical Bird of Paradise in the Desert Southwest

tropical bird of paradise that looks dead and beat up

Tropical bird of paradise

Nature’s Unfairness to Tropical Bird of Paradise Flowers

Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Especially when nature hasn’t endowed you with any noticeable outward beauty. What worsens the situation is that you’re a flower, expected to be beautiful.

The Ugly Stepsister - The Floral Edition with tropical bird of paradise

When you are a flower and are supposed to be pretty

Comparing the ‘Ugly Stepsister’ to Her Gorgeous ‘Sister’

What exacerbates the situation is when you find yourself being compared to your ‘sister,’ who possesses a breathtakingly stunning appearance.

tropical bird of paradise

Imagine having to stare at her vibrant colors and exquisite shape all day long?

It doesn’t matter which angle you use, there is no improving your outward appearance. So you decide to concentrate on inner growth and decide to be the best flower you can be on the inside.

comparing two flowers from the same plant

Beautiful tropical bird of paradise bloom

6 Tips for Growing Tropical Bird of Paradise in the Desert Southwest

Life can be challenging for tropical bird of paradise flowers in the desert Southwest. These exotic blooms, known for their striking beauty, often struggle to thrive in the harsh desert climate. But with the right care and attention, you can cultivate inner beauty and help these stunning flowers reach their full potential.

In the world of flowers, outward beauty is highly prized. Unfortunately, not all blooms are created equal. Some may find themselves overshadowed by their more vibrant and exquisite counterparts. Imagine being a lovely tropical flower, having to compete with your drop-dead gorgeous ‘sister’ day in and day out.


Vibrant colors and exquisite shape

But there’s hope for these less glamorous blooms. Just like the ‘ugly stepsisters’ from Cinderella, they can focus on their inner growth. If you’re interested in nurturing tropical bird of paradise in the desert Southwest, here are some essential tips to help them thrive:

1. Choose the Right Variety:

Not all tropical bird of paradise plants are created equal. Opt for varieties like Strelitzia reginae or Strelitzia juncea, which are better suited for desert conditions.

2. Sunlight:

Provide them with ample sunlight. These plants love full sun but can tolerate some shade during the hottest part of the day. A side yard is a great location for these tropical plants.

3. Well-Draining Soil:

Plant them in well-draining soil to prevent root rot. Adding organic matter to the soil can help improve drainage.

4. Watering:

While tropical bird of paradise plants need regular watering, be mindful not to overwater. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Attach an irrigation line near the base of the plant.

5. Protection from Frost:

Protect the tropical bird of paradise from frost during the winter months, as they are sensitive to cold temperatures.

6. Pruning:

Prune dead or damaged leaves to encourage new growth and maintain a tidy appearance, particularly after an exceptionally cold or hot snap.

Nurturing Tropical Bird of Paradise in the Desert Southwest

In the arid desert climate of the Southwest, tropical bird of paradise plants require extra care and attention to thrive. By following these guidelines and focusing on their inner growth, you can help these beautiful flowers reach their full potential, even in the face of nature’s challenges.

So, the next time you encounter a less-than-perfect bloom, remember that with a little love and care, even the ‘ugly stepsisters’ of the flower world can shine in their own unique way.

ugly stepsisters

I hope you enjoyed the floral edition of the ‘Ugly Stepsister’.

Drought-Tolerant Landscapes – Colorful or Boring?

Westmont College in Montecito, California

A week ago, my husband and I took a stroll through our past, visiting the campus of Westmont College in Montecito, California, where we met 28 years ago.

What is special about this place is not only the memories, but the beautiful gardens that surround it.

Last week, I introduced you to the converted mansion, the courtyard with its iconic fountain, the ocean view from my dormitory window and a glimpse of a beautiful flower garden.

Today, I would like to show you the small chapel, hidden among the trees, a beautiful pond, an area burned by wildfire and a garden filled with bird-of-paradise.  

oak trees

This small chapel sits underneath the canopy of large oak trees.

magnificent trees

I have always loved oak trees because I grew up in Southern California where the hills are dotted with with these magnificent trees.  

Westmont College

The chapel was built in the 1960’s to honor the memory of the then college president’s daughter who died tragically in an auto accident while attending college here.

Westmont College

Students can often be found spending a few moments in prayer here and I did my share, while attending.

Westmont College

Regular chapel services aren’t held here, but they do host weddings at the chapel.

I just love the view of oak trees from the windows, don’t you?

Westmont College

As you walk away from the chapel, you are greeted by the sound of water.

water fountain

 I like the simplicity of the water fountain in the form of am earthen jug, which does not compete with the surrounding, lush plantings.

Westmont College

The Weeping Mulberry, while leafless in winter, adds a graceful, drooping element to the water.

Weeping Mulberry

Believe it or not, Weeping Mulberry is also grown in Arizona.  There is a large one at my other alma mater, Arizona State University.

A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane

As we left the chapel and its pond, the path led into a truly beautiful garden…

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise

This was the favorite part of the landscape surrounding the college.

Boxwood hedges enclosed rectangular areas of lawn that were surrounded by staggered plantings of Tropical Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). 

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise

The bright orange and blue color of this tropical plant are quite familiar to me.  They are the official city flower of Los Angeles, California where I was born.

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise is native to South Africa, but thrives in warm climates all over the world.  Sensitive to frost, it is hardy to zone 9 and does grow in the low desert, when protected from afternoon sun.  However, it does not grow as well in desert locations as it does in milder areas such as Southern California.

A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane

Even unopened, I think that the flowers resemble birds.

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise bloom

It was somewhat surreal to be walking through a garden in full bloom at the end of December when most of the nation was blanketed in ice and snow.

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise bloom in winter and spring.

Tropical Bird-of-Paradise bloom

While I love this flower, I don’t grow them in my desert garden.  The reason for this is that they can struggle in our extreme heat and cold winters.  It is a rare occurrence when I see one that is thriving and blooming in our low-desert climate.

Westmont College

As we walked through the garden, we heard the sound of running water, but could not see where it was coming from.

So, we headed up the stairs toward the sound.

Westmont College

The sound led us to a narrow, stone-lined trench, filled with water.

As you can see, the fountain part is subtle and understated.  Its main purpose is to lend the sound of water to the garden setting.

As we continued our journey, we came to an area that is still struggling to recover after a wildfire burned parts of the school grounds in 2008.  

Westmont College

A lone oak tree is the only survivor in this large, formerly treed area.  

Westmont College

As you can see, there used to be a lot of trees.

There were signs that construction was soon to take place, so it will be nice to see what they will do with this area.

Our walking tour was almost over and I admit that I was doing a bit of huffing and puffing while walking up and down the mountainside where our college is situated.  It was much easier to walk up and down when I was a 19-year old student 😉

Before we leave, I’d like to show you where my husband and I met, by our old dormitory 28 years ago…

A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane

Our dormitory was divided into men and women’s sections.  It was connected by a bridge and you would often find us taking turns walking over to visit the other…

A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane
A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane

Our stroll through memory lane was almost over and I was sad to go.

A Garden Stroll Through Memory Lane

Years after I left Westmont College, I finished my degree in horticulture.  As a new horticulturist, I was given the task of re-designing the landscape around a golf-course country club building.

There is a popular saying with young women at the school, “I went to Westmont and came away with my ‘MRS’ degree.”

While I did not get my bachelor’s degree from Westmont, I did meet my husband there and become ‘Mrs.’ Johnson.

Thank you for allowing me to share memories and the beauty of the gardens of this special place.