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Boophone haemanthoides

Welcome to the magnificent Boophone haemanthoides.  This bizarre Amaryllis relative from South Africa makes a dramatic fan of wavy, bluish-green leaves, which give it a prehistoric flair.  The plant forms a massive bulb 8 inches across or more, with much of it growing above ground like a caudex.  It's a distinctive collector's item for lovers of unusual plants.  

Boophone (pronounced "bo-OFF-on-ee") grows during winter and goes dormant for the summer.  The bold, wavy-margined leaves grow to about 15 to 18 inches long.  Around mid-summer, before the leaves emerge, the bulb sends up a large, brush-like flower head resembling Haemanthus, hence the species name haemanthoides.  The sweet-scented flowers tend to be cream colored, often with pink or red tones, as seen here.  As the flower head matures, it enlarges into a big sphere, which breaks off when it dries.  The wind then rolls it along the ground like a ball, which disperses the seeds!  Seedlings reach flowering size at 8 or 10 years old, but they are very long-lived, reportedly living over 100 years!

Boophane haemanthoides

It comes from the northern and western Cape sections of South Africa, where temperatures are mild during the winter growing period.  It probably can take warmer conditions throughout the growing season (October to April in the northern hemisphere), provided that nights are cool.  It's possible that the combination of hot days with warm nights might stress it.  I believe it can take a few degrees of frost, but i recommend protecting it from freezing temperatures, especially when young.  It grows well in a pot, which should be tall, to accommodate its deep root system.  It needs a fast-draining, sandy-rocky soil mix.  Give it ample sun and regular waterings during the winter growing period, and keep the soil almost dry during the summer dormancy.  Note that the foliage might be poisonous if consumed, and the bulb certainly is. 

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Turquoise Puya

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