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Turquoise Puya

Brachyotum campanulare

It's likely that nobody you know grows this one, or has even seen it!  Brachyotum campanulare is a rare shrub found in the Andes in Ecuador.  It makes spectacular blossoms with metallic purple petals and topped with velvety, red bracts.  Unfortunately this beauty may never become widely grown, because it requires cool yet sunny conditions to thrive.  If you can give it the right conditions, it's a choice collector's plant.  It probably isn't available anywhere else online.

Brachyotum campanulare

Brachyotum campanulare is an evergreen bush in the Melastome family, related to the more common "Princess Flower", Tibouchina.  The plant tends to grow about 4 feet tall in cultivation.  Its ribbed leaves are covered in small, white hairs that have a downy texture.  The blooming period is from spring through autumn, with the heaviest show during summer.  The 2-inch blossoms hang in clusters from the new growth, attracting hummingbirds to the magenta pistil.

It's found at high elevations in Ecuador, at approximately 13,000 feet, where temperatures are cool all year.  It thrives here in cool San Francisco, and is reportedly difficult in warmer climates.  Consider it experimental if temperatures regularly get above the low 80s (23C), especially if nights are warm.  It should be able to survive a light frost, but it's best to protect it from freezing temperatures.  It flowers best in mostly-sunny conditions.  Some afternoon shade might be needed in warmer conditions.  It prefers acidic soil that drains well and is evenly moist.  A typical mix is equal parts of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite.  Despite coming from nutrient-poor soils, it responds well to feeding.  It prefers higher humidity, above about 50%.

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Photos used with permission of Martin Grantham

 

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Turquoise Puya

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