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Turquoise Puya

Macleania pentaptera 

This is a close look at the rare Macleania pentaptera from mountain rainforests in Ecuador.  This stunning relative of rhododendrons and blueberries makes vibrant, tubular blooms in traffic cone orange with flaring green tips.  Even without blooms, it is a handsome plant, with thick, glossy leaves and a woody, caudex-like base.  This is a highly ornamental collector's plant that is rarely seen in cultivation, even in botanical gardens.

Macleania pentaptera

 The plant grows as an epiphyte on trees in the wild, although it adapts quite well to soil in my experience.  It forms arching, woody shoots from 1 to 4 feet long, which look great when grown in a hanging planter.  A great picture of the plant is here.  Its leathery leaves vary in size, but usually are about 3 to 5 inches long.  The unique blooms appear in waves throughout the year.  The 1 inch flowers are thick and waxy, and are surrounded by flaring, fin-like bracts.  The color of the blooms is surprisingly intense.  The flowers are filled with sweet nectar and are pollinated by hummingbirds in the wild.  After flowering, it makes edible, translucent white fruits.

It comes from a mild climate, and grows well between the low 60s and 85 degrees F (16-29 degrees C).  I have no information on how it do outside that temperature range.  In the right conditions, it is very easy to grow.  Give it bright light with protection from strong afternoon sun, and over about 50% humidity.  It likes a loose, well-draining soil.  A typical mix is equal parts of potting soil, perlite and fine-grade bark.  Or you may use 2 parts perlite to 1 part coir fiber.  It likes slightly-acid conditions, so don't add lime to the mix.  Keep the soil evenly moist, and give regular, light feedings.

Macleania pentaptera

Fruit photo courtesy of Ryan Somma

 

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