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Turquoise Puya

Colletia ulicina

Here is another exciting rarity that should be more widely grown.  Colletia ulicina from Chile explodes into color each summer with a spectacular display of pinkish-red blooms that are fragrant.  This unusual bush has long, arching shoots that sort of resemble conifer branches, except with small thorns instead of leaves.  The tubular flowers completely engulf the ends of the stems, putting on a 3-dimensional fireworks show that is difficult to capture in photos.  This plant is very rare, even among botanical gardens.  It is almost never seen for sale.

Colletia ulicina

Colletia ulicina is an evergreen bush that grows about 8 feet tall here in San Francisco, although it may be pruned to any size.  While the shoots are thorny, they are nowhere near as hazardous as the related Colletia paradoxa.  The spines aren't as sharp, and the shoots are flexible instead of rigid, so accidentally brushing against them doesn't usually draw blood!  The plant is actually leafless - its thorns are modified stems that function as leaves.  Flowering can happen from spring through autumn, with most of it occurring in summer.  The blooms have a delightful, sweet scent, and are visited by hummingbirds.

Colletia ulicina

Little is known about its climate tolerances.  It comes from low- to mid-elevations in central Chile, where summers are warm and nights are cool.  I suspect it can adapt to hot days with warm nights, but consider it experimental in those conditions.  It can handle a few degrees of frost (-4C), but it's best to protect it from prolonged frost, especially when young.  It likes mostly-sunny conditions.  Some afternoon shade might be needed in hotter climates.  It grows well in a pot in fast-draining soil such as cactus soil.  While it is fairly drought tolerant, it does best when the soil is kept lightly moist.  It can handle heavy rainfall if grown in quick-draining soil.  In the right conditions, it's an easy, low-maintenance plant.

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Germination tips for this plant

 

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Turquoise Puya

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