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Turquoise Puya

 

Monochaetum humboldtianum

Monochaetum humboldtianum

 

Germinating the seeds

 

   Germination is similar to Begonia seeds (not tropical, terrarium Begonias), so if you have grown them successfully from seed, you may use the same technique.

Getting started -- Use about 6 to 10 small pots or cups that are 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) tall.  The pots should have drainage holes.

 Use a well-draining soil.  A typical soil mix for germinating them is 3 parts potting soil to 2 parts perlite or coarse sand.  An alternate mix is equal parts of coir fiber (or peat moss) and perlite. 

 The seeds are very small, so work in a well-lit area.  Sprinkle several seeds evenly across the surface of each pot.  An easy way to pick up the seeds is by breathing on your finger tip to lightly moisten it, then dabbing the seeds with it. 

 Next, add a very thin layer of long-fiber sphagnum moss (not finely ground), to help maintain moisture around the seeds.  If you don't have this, use perlite or coir fiber, but screen it first of any powder-sized particles.  Do not add too much of this top layer, because light is needed for germination.  Its purpose is simply to maintain moisture around the seeds.  Then add water until the soil is evenly moist (but not soggy).

 Until the seeds sprout, ensure that the soil surface never dries out.  A good way to maintain high humidity is by enclosing the pots in a plastic container or bag.  Leave it open a crack to let in fresh air.  Once or twice a day, drip a few drops of water on the surface to keep it moist.

 The best temperature for germination is around 68-75 degrees F (2-24C) during the day, and 64-70F (18-21C) at night.  Avoid letting them above 77 degrees F (25C).  I recommend placing a minimum/maximum thermometer near the pots, especially if using a heating mat.

 The seeds need light to germinate, so place the containers in a very bright spot out of direct sun.  A fluorescent bulb kept 4 inches (10 cm) above them provides the right amount of light.  Give at least 12 hours of bright light per day.

 The seeds should start sprouting in about 3 weeks, but may take longer at cooler temperatures.  Once they sprout, continue dripping water on the soil surface daily the first month, since young seedlings have a small root system.  A week after they sprout, open the plastic container or bag slightly more, to allow a little more air circulation.

 When the seedlings are a month old, you may remove the plastic container and carefully pull them and transplant them, however i recommend simply cutting off any slower ones, and leaving 1 strong seedling in each pot.

Fertilizing -- For the first 2 months, feed once a week with a very dilute (1/8 strength) liquid fertilizer.  Hydroponic fertilizer (non-organic) is best for this, because it is easily absorbed and nutritionally complete.  Don't saturate the entire soil, just moisten the surface.

 After 2 months, you may switch to a slow-release (pelleted or organic) fertilizer.

 On older plants, it's normal for an older leaf to occasionally turn yellow and drop, but if it seems excessive, the plant may need more nitrogen fertilizer.  The soil could also be too dry down in the root zone.

Watering -- Once the seedlings are a month old, you may allow the soil surface to dry between waterings, but keep the rest of the soil evenly moist (but not soggy).

Lighting -- The plant likes part sun, and will probably need protection  from strong afternoon sun.

Transplanting -- When the seedlings are 2-3 months old, repot to a larger container about 1 quart (1 liter) in size.  Repot gently to avoid damaging the root hairs.  Protect from direct sun the first week after repotting.

Growing onward...

Climate -- The plant grows well in mild daytime temperatures and cool but frost-free nights. Little is known about its climate tolerances, but it's possible that it might not thrive if temperatures consistently get above 85 F (29C) and nights are above 65F (18C).  It probably cannot survive below about 28 F (-2C).  Indoors, keep the humidity above about 40-45%, perhaps with the use of an ultrasonic humidifier if necessary.

If you have any questions or problems, please email me.

Enjoy your plants!

- Jeff

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