Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rare Opportunity! “Sapphire Tower” About to Bloom at the L.A. Arboretum

Puya alpestris in bloom last year. 

Puya alpestris bud as of 3/30/2013; this bud promises a more spectacular bloom than last year. 

Puya alpestris, an unusual South American succulent from the high, barren slopes of the Andes in southern Chile and Argentina, is now in bud at the Arboretum and will come into full and spectacular bloom in the next week or two.  An almost 6-foot teal-flowered spike emerges from the heavily serrated grey-green leafed base which grows to 2-3 foot high and 3-5 foot wide.  At full bloom, the flower spike will be heavily covered with bell-shaped teal flowers containing startling orange anthers.  The prickly leaves are 1-2 inches at the base and about 2 feet long.  

Puya is a form of bromeliad, the same family as the pineapple.  The Puya alpestris is often sold as, but should not be confused with, its larger relative, the Puya berteroniana.  

In your own garden,  you can use this plant as a complement to cacti and other succulents.  It takes full sun and poor soil and is drought tolerant.  You will need elbow-length gloves, however, to weed around it’s base in order to avoid scapes from the serrated leaves.  It can be propagated by dividing rhizomes or offsets and even by seed.  The plant is suitable for xeriscaping.  While in bloom, the plant is attractive to hummingbirds.

The Puya alpestris does not usually flower every year so make sure you see this unusual teal-flowered plant while the opportunity is here.  You’ll find our “Sapphire Tower” in the Cactus and Succulent Garden. Keep checking here for updates.

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