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Turquoise Puya

Macleania pentaptera 

This is a close look at the rare Macleania pentaptera from mountain rainforests in Ecuador.  This stunning relative of rhododendrons and blueberries makes vibrant, tubular blooms in traffic cone orange with flaring green tips.  Even without blooms, it is a handsome plant, with thick, glossy leaves and a woody, caudex-like base.  This is a highly ornamental collector's plant that is rarely seen in cultivation, even in botanical gardens.

Macleania pentaptera

 The plant grows as an epiphyte on trees in the wild, although it adapts quite well to soil in my experience.  It forms arching, woody shoots from 1 to 4 feet long, which look great when grown in a hanging planter.  A great picture of the plant is here.  Its leathery leaves vary in size, but usually are about 3 to 5 inches long.  The unique blooms appear in waves throughout the year.  The 1 inch flowers are thick and waxy, and are surrounded by flaring, fin-like bracts.  The color of the blooms is surprisingly intense.  The flowers are filled with sweet nectar and are pollinated by hummingbirds in the wild.  After flowering, it makes translucent white fruits that are edible and lightly sweet.

Macleania pentaptera

The caudex-like base

It comes from a mild climate, and grows well between the low 60s and 85F (16-29C).  It reportedly tolerates cooler temperatures, but it probably requires protection from frost.  It enjoys bright light, with protection from strong afternoon sun.  It likes a loose, well-draining soil mix.  A typical mix is equal parts of potting soil, perlite and small orchid bark.  Or you may use 2 parts perlite to 1 part coco fiber or peat moss.  Don't add lime to the mix, since it likes slightly-acid soil.  Let it dry out halfway between waterings or keep it evenly moist - just don't keep it constantly soggy.  Over about 40% humidity is best.  In the right conditions, it is very easy to grow.

 

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Turquoise Puya

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