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Turquoise Puya

Sinningia helleri

For over 100 years, Sinningia helleri from Brazil was believed to be extinct, being last seen alive in 1907.. until a few plants were discovered in 2015!  This is an exciting find for the horticultural world, combining awesome foliage with exquisite flowers.  This tuberous Gesneriad happens to be easy to grow, and would make a fine show plant.

Sinningia helleri

  The plant grows to about a foot tall, with large, glossy leaves that are 6 inches long.  The veins are darker than the rest of the leaf, which can vary in different plants from bright green to almost silver!  The undersides are a lovely shade of purplish-red.  Even without blooms it's a very attractive plant.  It flowers quite heavily, with numerous blooms at the top, which tend to all face the light source.  The flared calyx is bright red, showing off the white corolla with its greenish-yellow tube.  You may cross-breed it with some other Sinningias to create new hybrids.

Sinningia helleri is the "type species" for Sinningias - it was the first Sinningia to be described in the 1820s.  Because it was presumed to have gone extinct, it was never given endangered species status.. which made it difficult to protect the small colony that was discovered outside of Rio de Janeiro.  It was almost destroyed by construction, but fortunately was added to the endangered species list in time.  Efforts are underway to add more plants back into the wild.

Sinningia helleri

A botanical print from 1820

It grows well for me in warm indoor conditions with a drop in temperature at night, similar to intermediate-temperature orchids.  I haven't tried it outside that temperature range.  I presume it will be unhappy below about 55 degrees F (13C), although its underground tuber could probably survive a light frost.  It enjoys bright, filtered light, and will probably need protection from strong afternoon sun.  It grows well in a typical, well-draining soil mix that's kept evenly moist (but not constantly soggy).  Over about 40-50% humidity is best.  In the right conditions, it is a fast grower and flowers very young.

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Germinating the seeds

 

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Turquoise Puya

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