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Turquoise Puya

Orphium frutescens - The Sea Rose

If you like pink, you're going to love this one.  Orphium frutescens is a rarely-seen species with the PINKEST flowers i know of!  All summer long it puts on a splendid display of glossy, thick-textured blooms that rival Plumerias in beauty.  Also known as the Sea Rose, this perennial comes from cool, coastal areas of South Africa.  The plant is untested in warmer climates.

Orphium frutescens - The Sea Rose

Orphium frutescens is the only species in the genus.  It's a member of the Gentian family, forming an attractive, small, evergreen shrub about 2 feet tall.  The lush foliage is thick and narrow, giving the plant the appearance of an upright Rosemary bush.  The slightly cupped blooms cover the plant throughout the summer.  Lilac and white flower forms of this species exist, however mine is an intense bubble-gum pink!  The 1" blooms are accented with bright yellow anthers. 

The plant has an unusual relationship with a certain species of African carpenter bee.  The flowers only release pollen when they sense the vibration of the buzzing bee!  You can read the fascinating story in this BBC article.  With some experimentation, i've managed to produce seeds without the bees.

Orphium frutescens - The Sea Rose

This species grows along the coast of the western Cape region of South Africa, where the climate is spring-like all year.  It seems happiest between 45 and 75 degrees F.  It has handled temperatures in the low 80s, but consider it experimental in areas that regularly get over 85 degrees (29 C), particularly if nights are warm.  It is said to take several degrees of frost, but it does best for me above 40 degrees (5 C).  It grows well indoors in an 8" pot, provided that the air isn't too dry.  It likes a rich, well-draining soil mix that's kept evenly moist.  Full sun is best, except in warmer areas, where some afternoon shade might be needed.  The plants seem to lose their vigor after 3 years, but they are easily replenished from rooted tip cuttings.

Orphium frutescens - The Sea Rose

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Turquoise Puya

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