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Turquoise Puya

 

Cavendishia bracteata

Cavendishia bracteata

Germinating the seeds

 

 Getting started -- Use small containers or cups that have drainage holes.

 This plant prefers a loose, well-draining soil that is high in organic matter.  A typical mix to germinate them in is 2 parts perlite to 1 part coir fiber or peat, with some slow-release fertilizer mixed in.  An alternate mix is 3 parts potting soil to 2 part perlite.  Do not add lime, since this plant likes slightly acid soil.  Screen the mix of any large chunks.

 Fill the pots with the mix, place 1-2 seeds on top, and cover with a thin layer of long-fiber sphagnum moss (not ground peat moss).  This helps retain moisture around the seeds while allowing light to reach them, which aids germination.  This photo shows how much moss to use.  If you don't have the moss, sprinkle some vermiculite or your soil mix on top.   Then add water until everything is evenly moist (but not soggy).

 Until the seeds sprout, ensure that the surface soil doesn't dry out.  A plastic bag or dome may be used to maintain high humidity, but leave it open a crack to allow some fresh air in.  You may need to drip a few drops of water on the surface each day.

 The ideal temperature for germination is about 68 to 77 degrees F (20-25C).  A little cooler at night is ok.  Avoid letting the seeds get above 80 F (27C) for prolonged periods.  I recommend placing a minimum/maximum thermometer near the pots, especially if using a heating mat.  Keep them in a bright spot out of direct sunlight.

 The seeds should start germinating in 4 to 6 weeks and continue for a month.  Cooler temperatures may slow germination.

Lighting -- Once the seeds sprout, give bright shade, or filtered sunlight.  A fluorescent or LED bulb kept a few inches (10 cm) away provides the right amount of light.   Avoid prolonged, direct sunlight until the plants are 2 months old. 

Watering -- Continue keeping the soil surface moist the first 3 weeks, but increase air circulation a bit more, to avoid stem rot.

 After 3 weeks, you can let the soil surface dry out, but aim to keep the soil evenly moist most of the time.  Don't let it dry out completely, but don't keep it perpetually soggy either.  If your tap water is very alkaline or "hard", meaning high in minerals, it's best to use bottled water or rainwater.

Fertilizing -- When they are 1 week old, give a very light dose of liquid fertilizer (about 1/8 strength), and repeat 2 weeks later.  Hydroponic fertilizer is ideal for young seedlings, since it is easily absorbed and complete.  Once they are a month old, you may switch to a general-purpose granular fertilizer, feeding about every 2 months. 

Climate -- The plant is usually found in the tropics between 1500 and 2500 meter elevation, where temperatures are milder than the lowlands.  I suspect that it might not thrive if temperatures are consistently above the low 80s (28C) and nights are warm.  It reportedly is hardy down to 20F (-7C), but i would be very cautious about exposing it to hard frosts.

 The humidity should be above about 40-45%.  Indoors, if the humidity is too low, consider using an ultrasonic room humidifier, which you can buy at home-improvement stores and thrift shops.

Transplanting -- Wait until the plants are at least 3 months old before repotting.  Water the soil before transplanting, to keep the soil ball from breaking apart, which can damage the roots.  A good soil mix to use is 1 part fine-grade orchid bark, 1 part perlite or coarse sand, and 1 part coir fiber or peat.

Have fun growing them!

- Jeff

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