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Tibouchina grossa

This is a close look at the beautiful Tibouchina grossa.  You might be familiar with its cousin, the Purple Princess Flower, Tibouchina urvilleana.  Unlike most Tibouchina species, which have purple blooms, this one's unusual for its flashy red blossoms.  The plant comes from the cool Andes mountains around Colombia, and i suspect it might not thrive in warm climates.  It's extremely rare in cultivation, even in botanical gardens.  I've never seen it offered in the U.S. before.

Tibouchina grossa

An old botanical print

Tibouchina grossa is a dense bush or small tree, typically growing 6 to 16 feet tall.  Even without flowers it's an attractive plant, with fuzzy leaves that have distinctive, lengthwise veins.  The blooms can appear most months of the year.  The cup-shaped flowers are 3 inches across and are accented by yellow anthers, which may be seen here.

Tibouchina grossa

It's found in shrubland known as páramo, usually between 2700 and 3400 meter elevation.  Temperatures there are cool to mild all year, with nights that are cool, similar to San Francisco.  Little is known about the plant's climate tolerances, but i suspect it might decline if temperatures consistently rise above the low 80s (28°C) and nights are warm (over 65°F / 18°C).  It might be able to handle warmer days if nights are cool.  It can probably survive a few degrees of frost, but i recommend protecting it from freezing temperatures.  It grows well in a container in well-draining soil that is slightly acid and kept evenly moist.  It likes mostly-sunny conditions, but it might need some protection from strong afternoon sun.  Over about 40-50% humidity is best.

 

Photos courtesy of Alejandro Bayer

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Turquoise Puya

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