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Turquoise Puya

Medinilla balls-headleyi 

It's only fitting that an unusual plant should have an unusual name.  Medinilla balls-headleyi is a cool, botanical novelty with showy pink berries that turn purple when ripe.  The fruits have an odd habit of appearing along the main stems, instead of from long panicles on the branches, like most Medinillas.  The plant comes from tropical rainforests in Queensland, Australia.  It is a very decorative species that is rarely seen for sale.

 It is a vigorous plant with a scrambling habit, with long, woody shoots that weave up into trees.  The shoots typically grow from 4 to 15 feet long, although they may be pruned shorter if necessary.  It's usually found growing as an epiphyte near the tops of trees, but occasionally it grows in the ground.  Even without blooms it's quite an attractive plant, with smooth, leathery leaves that are reddish on the new growth.  Pinkish flowers appear throughout the year and are followed by juicy berries that are edible but rather bland.

It comes from a tropical climate, with conditions similar to Miami.  It does best in temperatures above 55 degrees F (13 C).  I don't think it can survive frost.  It is easy to grow in a pot or hanging planter in a loose soil mix.  A typical mix is 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite, and 1 part fine-grade orchid bark.  Aim to keep the soil evenly moist (but not soggy).  It enjoys filtered sunlight, and might need some protection from strong afternoon sun.  Over about 50% humidity is ideal.

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Germinating the seeds

 

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Turquoise Puya

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