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Turquoise Puya

 

"Plum Paradise" Iochroma

 

Getting started -- Any small containers will work. I use the plastic "6-pack" containers that small nursery plants are sold in. Fill each container to within 1/2 inch of the top with regular potting soil. Don't compress the soil. After filling the containers, water the soil so that it's uniformly moist. Place 1 or 2 seeds on top, and sprinkle a thin layer of soil on top - about 1/4 inch. Spray the top soil with a spray bottle filled with water, and put the pots in a plastic bag and close it. Or you can put the pots under a propagation dome.  The point is to keep the soil surface moist. Place the pots in moderate temperatures (about 65-75 degrees) in a bright spot, but not in direct sun. A fluorescent bulb works well for this. 

The seeds should start sprouting after 3-4 weeks, although allow up to 8 weeks for any slow ones to sprout. It's normal for some seeds to be sterile and not sprout. Once you see the little green leaves, remove the dome or bag, to avoid "damping off" fungus. Spray the soil whenever the surface looks dry.  If you have more than one seedling in each container, snip off the weaker one(s) when they're an inch tall - or very carefully remove them. 

I recommend growing them indoors until they're at least a few inches tall. You can use a fluorescent bulb, if you keep it about 4-8" from the plants. Do not use incandescent (screw-in) bulbs, even if they're called "plant bulbs". You can also put your plants in filtered sunlight. Transition them to more sun gradually so they don't burn.  Once they are 2+ inches tall, you can increase the sun to about 75%.  They appreciate some mid-day shade in warm areas.  You can raise your Iochromas indoors provided that the air isn't too dry.

Repotting --  Repot whenever the roots start to circle the bottom of the container.  Transplant gently to avoid damaging the roots.  Iochroma likes well-draining soil that's fairly high in organic matter, like compost. 

Watering -- Iochromas do best with regular, deep waterings. Don't keep the soil perpetually soggy, however.  Allow the surface to dry out a bit between waterings.  You can use a moisture meter probe to measure the moisture.  Most garden stores sell this for about $5.

Fertilizing -- Most potting soil contains fertilizer, so your seedlings shouldn't need any feeding until they're 1-2 inches tall.  After that, feed your plants every 3-4 weeks during periods of active growth.  Any balanced vegetable fertilizer should work - follow the label's directions.  When your plant starts flowering heavily switch to a "bloom" fertilizer that has some nitrogen.  Cut back on the feedings if your plant goes through a dormant period, and increase the feedings when growth is quick.  Don't feed your young plant too much, and don't try to force faster growth with excessive fertilizer.  It's normal for the plant to shed some of the older leaves throughout the year, but excessive leaf yellowing and shedding can be a sign of not enough nitrogen fertilizer. 

Growing outdoors -- Full sun may be too much for this Iochroma, except in cool, coastal areas. The ideal would be either filtered sunlight the whole day, or morning + afternoon sun, with some mid-day shade.  It may have trouble flowering in hot temperatures, so give it mid-day shade in warm areas, and don't plant it where heat can collect, like near a wall.  Keep the roots cool with a thick layer of mulch, and don't use a black pot, which can overheat the roots.  Protect the plant from frost.  It can tolerate light frosts, but it may lose branches.  Provide overhead protection in mild-winter areas.  In cooler areas, bring indoors before frost is expected.  

Pruning & shaping -- Pruning isn't necessary, although you can prune it back if it gets leggy, and this will encourage side-growth.   Avoid pruning more than 15-20% of the plant in a 10 day period.  

Bugs to watch for -- Spider mites (tiny "dots" under the leaves), mealybugs, whitefly, Japanese beetles, aphids (green ones are hard to see), snails/slugs.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Have fun growing them!

Jeff

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Turquoise Puya

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