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Turquoise Puya

Scilla madeirensis

The island of Madeira off the coast of Morocco is home to many endangered, rare species, like the beautiful Scilla madeirensis.  This large Hyacinth relative grows along steep cliffs near the coast - one of the last places left on the island untouched by humans.  Each autumn, it sends up a 2 foot tall stalk topped with an exotic, lavender-blue cone of flowers.  This is a choice ornamental bulb that unfortunately is endangered in the wild.  It is very rare in cultivation, and seldom seen for sale.

Scilla madeirensis / maderensis

Scilla madeirensis forms a large bulb about 4 inches across, which should be grown partly exposed.  This is fortunate, because the bulb is a beautiful amethyst purple!  It eventually multiplies into a large family of offsets.  A mature plant has about 9 fleshy, pointed leaves, each about a foot long.  On about half of the plants, the leaves have attractive purple dots covering them.  The bulb has a brief dormant period in the summer, when it sheds its leaves but not its roots.  New leaves appear in autumn, and a month later the striking flower stalk rises above the foliage.  Its 6 inch long raceme has dozens of bluish blooms held horizontally from the stem - like a big, blue bottlebrush.  The bulb flowers at a young age - typically 4 years old, and sometimes sooner.

Scilla madeirensis / maderensis

Scilla madeirensis comes from a cool, maritime climate and is untested in warmer climates.  It is accustomed to temperatures between 45 and 80 degrees F (7-27 degrees C) during the growing period of October to May (in the Southern hemisphere, April to November).  Consider it experimental in warmer conditions, especially if nights are warm.  During the summer dormant period, the pot may be moved to a cool spot indoors.  The plant is not frost hardy and declines below 40 degrees F (5 degrees C).

Despite coming from a rocky, cliff habitat, it adapts well to soil.  Give it a well-draining mix, such as half potting soil and half pumice or perlite.  It appreciates regular watering and feeding while actively growing.  Full sun is best, except in warmer conditions, where some afternoon shade is advisable.  Over about 40% humidity is best.  In the right conditions, it is an easy and long-lived plant.

 

Photo #1 courtesy of Guenter Wieschendahl, #2 by John Evans, #3 by Michael Benedito

 

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Germination tips for this plant

 

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Turquoise Puya

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