ENCINITAS, Calif. — A plant that hasn’t bloomed in three years is on spectacular display at the San Diego Botanic Garden, just in time for Earth Day.
The sapphire tower plant, which features 3- or 4-foot spikes of blue-green flowers that rise above the plant’s foliage, was the first to bloom at the garden in three years. Garden staff expect a second tower to open up by the end of the month.
“The electric-teal color of the flowers is really something that has to be experienced in person to fully appreciate,” garden spokesperson Ashley Grable wrote in a news release. “Each sapphire tower has dozens of blooms in a gorgeous jewel tone that is rare to see in nature. It’s quite a treat.”
Native to the mountains of Chile, the plant’s botanical name is Puya alpestris. It grows well in dry conditions and doesn’t need much water, according to the botanic garden, and its wind-resistant nature also makes it well-suited to San Diego’s coastal climate. The plants produce a significant amount of nectar, attracting hummingbirds.
Families who have never visited the botanic garden might make Earth Day their reason to finally check it out. The sprawling grounds in Encinitas make a fun weekend activity.
Located on Quail Gardens Drive just south of the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, the garden features four miles of trails with a huge variety of plant life.
The 37-acre grounds are split into different areas, like the South American Desert Garden, which the sapphire towers call home. It also features three designated children’s gardens. You can plan your trip using the botanic garden’s map.
The grounds open each Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staff members strongly recommend reservations, especially in springtime, because walk-in admissions are limited.
A standard adult ticket costs $18 and kids ages 3 to 17 can get in for $10. The garden also offers memberships and special deals — learn more here.
If you’re smitten with the sapphire towers, you may actually get to take one home with you. The garden will have a limited number available for purchase through the plant and gift shop at the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory.
You’ll have to be patient and have space, though: The young plants, sold in small containers, will need time to grow into grassy clumps about 6 feet wide and 3 feet tall. And some plants take as long as 15 years to have their first flower bloom. Garden staff can help you decide if it’s right for your yard or garden.