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Turquoise Puya

Ceratostema lanigerum

This is an up-close look at Ceratostema lanigerum, an unusual blueberry relative from rain forests of Ecuador.  This epiphytic shrub makes beautiful hanging clusters of orangey-red blossoms with dark burgundy tips that can almost appear black.  It also has attractive, ribbed leaves that change colors, making this a fine collector's plant.  It is rarely seen outside of a few botanical gardens.  I don't know anyone else currently offering it.

Ceratostema lanigerum

 The plant makes arching, woody shoots, and looks great when grown in a hanging planter.  Its leathery leaves are unusual in that they start out chocolate-colored for a while, before turning olive and finally green.  They are covered in a fuzzy coating of soft hairs.  Flowers appear in waves throughout most of the year.  The 1 inch blossoms usually appear in clusters of 5 to 10, and like the leaves, they are coated with fuzzy hairs.  They are probably pollinated by hummingbirds in the wild.  Once pollinated, they make round, white berries which are probably edible.

It comes from a mild climate, so it prefers conditions enjoyed by intermediate-temperature Orchids.  It grows well with daytime temperatures below 85 degrees F (29C), with nights around 60-65 F (16-18 C).  I haven't tried it outdoors, so use caution below 50 degrees F (10 C).  It don't think it can survive frost.  It likes bright, filtered light.  Shade it from strong afternoon sun.  Give it a loose, "chunky" mix.  A typical mix is equal parts of small-grade bark, perlite, and sphagnum moss or coco fiber.  It likes slightly-acid conditions, so don't add lime to the mix.  Keep the soil evenly moist, and give regular, light feedings.  Over about 50% humidity is best.  In the right conditions, it is easy to grow.

Ceratostema lanigerum

Photos used with permission of the S.F. State University greenhouse

 

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