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Turquoise Puya

Cyrtanthus obliquus

Welcome to the magnificent Cyrtanthus obliquus from South Africa.  Rarely seen in cultivation, this relative of Amaryllis and Clivia sends up a dazzling stalk of oversized, nodding blooms in vivid colors.  Its foliage is equally impressive.  The strap-like leaves spiral as they grow upward, hence the species name obliquus.  This is a mild-climate plant that is untested in hot conditions.  More pictures of this beautiful species are here.

Cyrtanthus obliquus

Cyrtanthus obliquus tends to be evergreen, and grows actively during the warmer months.  The bulb is large, growing to be the size of an orange.  The twisting, bluish-green leaves grow about 1 feet tall straight upwards.  This is the largest species in the genus Cyrtanthus.  In summer, it sends up a towering 2 foot-tall scape with around 7 to 12 blooms, each about 3 inches long.  The general color is reddish-orange, fading to yellow & green toward the flaring ends.  The blooms looks somewhat like Clivia nobilis, and both species happen to be pollinated by the same sunbirds in the wild.

Cyrtanthus obliquus

A botanical print of Cyrtanthus obliquus

This species comes from a climate with moderate summers, so it might not thrive in consistently hot conditions, especially if nights are warm.  Ideal summer temperatures seem to be about 65-85 F (18-29C), with nights that are 10 degrees cooler (12-23C).  During the winter rest period, it should protected from frost, and be kept relatively dry.  It grows well in a pot in a fast-draining soil mix.  A typical mix is 1 part potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, and 1 part perlite or pumice.  It prefers its roots to be cramped in a relatively small pot, with the top half of the bulb exposed.  Give it regular watering during the growing season, but allow the soil to dry somewhat before watering.  Full sun is best, except in warmer climates, where some afternoon shade might be needed.

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Turquoise Puya

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