Monthly Archives: February 2015

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s a Bird of Paradise Bud!

The coolest thing about plants is how they can surprise you. This week I was surprised by a bird of paradise plant that’s overwintering in an upstairs window.

Bird of Paradise Flower (By William Warby (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/8190627451/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Bird of Paradise Flower
(By William Warby (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/8190627451/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

I tried growing a bird of paradise a few years ago, but it was a disaster. The plant I had gotten was labeled as a white bird of paradise. The plant grew well, but it was huge! The leaves were well over 1 and 1/2 feet long and they were supported by petioles that were over 4 feet tall. The plant looked great, but it was just too big to overwinter in the house.

Come to find out, there are (at least) two different kinds of bird of paradise plants. The white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) produces large white flowers and can grow to over 30 feet tall. No wonder the plant I was growing was too big for my limited space.

The more traditional bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) has orange, blue and yellow flowers and grows 3-5 feet tall. That’s a size that, while on the tall side, I can manage!

Last year I started growing one of these more manageable sized birds of paradise. After bringing it home, I transplanted it into a large pot and put it on a covered porch with a southern exposure. While it didn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, it was in very bright location. The plant grew well, and in the fall, I moved it into an upstairs bedroom with a southern exposure.

All I was looking to do was keep the plant alive until the spring. Everything I’d read said that it can take at least 3-4 years for a bird of paradise to blossom.

bird_edited-1That’s why I was shocked when I saw an inflorescence on this plant. As clear as day there was a 2 foot tall stalk with a spathe (a beak-like structure that protects the flowers) on top. Why I hadn’t noticed this before I don’t know; I probably didn’t see it because I didn’t expect to see it.

The fact that this bird of paradise is going to blossom lets me know that the plant I purchased at a garden center was at least a couple of years old. I also now know that the summer growing location of this plant was a good one for it.

It also shows that you never know when a plant will surprise you!

Tulips in February

Every year in the fall I plant a few hyacinths and tulips in pots. I keep them in a unheated garage and bring them into the house in early February. After a few weeks in a sunny window, I’m rewarded with flowers at the end of winter.

On a cold but sunny February day, it’s nice to see a hint of spring in the house.  These white, double tulips look amazing and they feel like a sign of what’s to come!

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Finding Achimene Rhizomes

I’ve posted in the past about how impressed I am with achimenes. This hard-to-find plant is so easy to grow and it offers a very impressive show of flowers during the summer.

Hard to Get Achimenes

Hard to Get

Last year I discovered an online greenhouse that offers over 75 varieties of achimenes. Kartuz Greenhouses in Vista, California sells each variety as a package of 5 rhizomes. I have to say that I was very impressed with the rhizomes that I received from them. They were healthy and each variety was individually packaged with a plastic plant label that included the variety name and the address and website of Kartuz Greenhouses. (The only negative I would give to this site is that the list of achimenes includes no pictures. While there’s a written description of the flower, if you want to see it, you have to Google the name. With so many varieties, Googling each of them can get a little tedious.)

I tried three different varieties: Hard to Get, Caligula and Yellow Beauty.

Hard to Get was my favorite. The plants were large and filled with blossoms all summer long. As an extra bonus, this variety produced a ton of rhizomes! I started with 5 and I now have well over 40.

Caligula Achimene

Caligula 

I like the color of Caligula, but at the end of the season, there weren’t a lot of rhizomes for the next year. I’m assuming this is just a varietal difference; some plants multiply more than others.

Yellow Beauty Achimene

Yellow Beauty

Yellow Beauty was OK, but it was never covered with blossoms. I think that might be because the standard colors of achimenes are pinks, reds, whites, and purples. Yellow is an unusual color and often in plants, unusual colors didn’t have the vigor that you find in plants with the standard colors.

I’m continuing to look for new varieties of this plant. There are lots of achimenes on eBay, but I’m always a little hesitant to order plants from an unknown source. Also, most of the eBay listing are for one single rhizome. However, there are some really cool looking varieties for sale there. I might try one or two and see how it goes.

The basic varieties of achimenes that I found on Easy to Grow Bulbs hooked me on this amazing plant. I look forward to trying more varieties and finding which ones grow the best for me.