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Turquoise Puya

Pitcairnia xanthocalyx 

Pitcairnia xanthocalyx is an attractive Bromeliad with some unusual qualities.  Unlike many Bromeliads, which have stiff or painfully spiny leaves, its foliage is smooth and grass-like.  And unlike most Pitcairnias, which have red blooms, its tall flower spike is a showy yellow.  This native of rain forests in Mexico is one of the easier Bromeliads to grow, thanks to its tolerance for wet soil.  Pitcairnia plants are uncommon in cultivation, and this one is rarely seen for sale.

Pitcairnia xanthocalyx

 It forms an attractive rosette of leaves about 18 inches long, which could be mistaken for an oversized grass.  It multiplies easily by underground rhizomes, eventually forming a large family of plants.  It grows well in a pot, and flowers at a young age, usually in spring & summer.  The 2 foot-tall flower stalk is lined with dozens of tubular, bright yellow blooms, each two inches long.  The plant may be cross-bred with some other Pitcairnia species, to create interesting new hybrids.

Pitcairnia xanthocalyx

It can grow in a wide variety of temperatures, reportedly tolerating the low 20s (-6 degrees C) as well as high heat.  It is happiest in part-sun, with some protection from strong afternoon sun.  It prefers well-draining, fertile soil that's kept evenly moist.  Avoid letting it dry out completely.  In the right conditions, it is an easy and care-free plant that blooms reliably each year.

 

Germinating the seeds

 

Photo #1 courtesy of Nick Bethmann

 

 

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