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Puya alpestris


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Puya alpestris

Description

(Sapphire Tower) It must have been difficult to name this semi-arid desert plant from Chile and Argentina. Its long-blooming flowers are neither sapphire blue nor sapphire green; they are an intense combination of the two colors. Bright orange stamens provide a lively contrast.

"Tower" is an apt description for the thick flower spike, which erupts from a rosette of slightly fleshy, bayonet-shaped leaves with spiny edges. The leaves are light green on top and silvery on the bottom. Their margins are lined with tiny hook-like thorns. Is it any wonder deer don't want to snack on it?

Alpestris means alpine. One of the most cold-hardy Puyas, it is native to high, barren slopes. Their lanky flower spikes, topped with pinecone-like clusters of trumpet flowers and bracts, as yet unfurled, look like something out of science fiction or a Dr. Seuss story.

But once Puyas bloom, all gawkiness is forgotten. Onlookers unfamiliar with the genus stare in disbelief; honeybees and hummingbirds dive in for a filling meal. As Britain's Sissinghurst Castle Garden says, when in bloom "Puya puts on its party clothes."

When mature, the flower spike of Sapphire Tower rises about chest high, making the plant a good background accent in a dry garden. It also works well in containers. Wear gloves and protective clothing when weeding around it.

Puyas are part of the Bromeliaceae family, which includes the subfamily known as the Bromeliads and includes pineapples. Although many sources refer to pineapples as being the only edible Bromeliad, that isn't accurate. In South America, the fleshy hearts of Puya flowers are frequently shredded -- similar to cabbage in cole slaw -- and eaten in salads.

Details

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Common name
Sapphire Tower
USDA Zones
8 - 10
Size (h/w/fh)
48"/48"/48"
Exposure
Full sun
Soil type
Well drained
Water needs
Average to dry
Pot size
3 1/2 inch deep pot
Container plant?
Yes
Our price
$8.50

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Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
Click on an individual icon for more detailed information.

Exposure

Full sun
Full sun

Garden Uses

Container plant
Container plant

Growing Habit

8 - 10
8 - 10
48 inches tall
48 inches tall
48 inches wide
48 inches wide
Ground cover
Ground cover
Shrub
Shrub

Water Needs

Average water
Average water
Drought resistant
Drought resistant

Blooming Season

Fall blooming
Fall blooming
Spring blooming
Spring blooming
Summer blooming
Summer blooming

Wildlife

Honeybees
Honeybees
Deer resistant
Deer resistant
Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds
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    The plant’s foliage is equally eye-catching with its red stems and blue-green leaves with cream stripes. It makes a dramatic background planting, groundcover, perennial border or dry garden standout.

    You can grow True Blue Echium in a container as well, but select a deep pot for its long roots and expect it to grow smaller than its in-ground size of 4 feet tall and wide. Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds are all attracted to this long blooming, true blue beauty.

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    In 2011 and 2012 we grew dozens of the new Kniphofia varieties, and only a few stood out from the pack. This is absolutely our favorite. One of our nursery friends in Portland, Oregon said that it continued to bloom through January, even though the foliage was covered with a foot of snow.

    We don't grow many non-Salvias, and when we do it has to be special. This is one of those very, very good new plants. A must have plant.

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    In 2011 and 2012 we grew dozens of the new Kniphofia varieties, and only a few stood out from the pack. We love this one for its unusual, two-tone color that goes with anything. One of our nursery friends in Portland, Oregon said that it continued to bloom through January, even though the foliage was covered with a foot of snow.

    We don't grow many non-Salvias, and when we do it has to be special. This is one of those very, very good new plants. A must have plant.

    $10.00

    OUT OF STOCK

  • Kniphofia 'Pineapple Popsicle'

    (Pineapple Popsicle Hot Poker) This genus has become very popular in the last few years - for good reason. They feed hummingbirds & honeybees, and attract butterflies. And this superior variety from Oregon's TerraNova Nurseries is compact, free blooming and amazingly hardy.

    In 2011 and 2012 we grew dozens of the new Kniphofia varieties, and only a few stood out from the pack. We lobe this one for its bright, neutral color that goes with anything. One of our nursery friends in Portland, Oregon said that it continued to bloom through January, even though the foliage was covered with a foot of snow.

    We don't grow many non-Salvias, and when we do it has to be special. This is one of those very, very good new plants. A must have plant.

    $8.50
  • Kniphofia 'Redhot Popsicle'

    (Pineapple Popsicle Hot Poker) This genus has become very popular in the last few years - for good reason. They feed hummingbirds & honeybees, and attract butterflies. And this superior variety from Oregon's TerraNova Nurseries is compact, free blooming and amazingly hardy.

    In 2011 and 2012 we grew dozens of the new Kniphofia varieties, and only a few stood out from the pack. We lobe this one for its intensel color that really stands out in a crowd. One of our nursery friends in Portland, Oregon said that it continued to bloom through January, even though the foliage was covered with a foot of snow.

    We don't grow many non-Salvias, and when we do it has to be special. This is one of those very, very good new plants. A must have.

    $8.50
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    Thank you Forest & Kin Starr for the great photos!
    $7.00
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    Coerulea refers to the deep blue of the blossoms, which contain bright orange anthers. In contrast, the common name notes the pronounced silvery white of the foliage, which has spiny, bayonet-shaped leaves forming a sinuous, basal rosette.

    Puyas are native to semi-arid lands in a number of South American countries. This one is endemic to the dry coastal lands and rocky Andean slopes of Chile, which means that these are the only places where it originates in the wild. It comes from the Valparaiso region where the Mediterranean climate includes dry summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall.

    Silver Puya is drought resistant and does well in full sun. Give it well-drained soil. Although shorter than Puya venusta and Puya alpestris, it is more wide-spreading, so that makes it an economical groundcover for a dry garden. It also is attractive as a background plant or in containers. Wear gloves and protective clothing when weeding around it.

    Be patient about flowering. Silver Puya can take a few years to blossom, but when it does, honeybees and hummingbirds can't resist it.

    Puyas are part of the Bromeliaceae family, which includes the subfamily known as the Bromeliads and includes pineapples. Although many sources refer to pineapples as being the only edible Bromeliad, that isn't accurate. In South America, the fleshy hearts of Puya flowers are frequently shredded -- similar to cabbage in cole slaw -- and eaten in salads.

    $8.50

    OUT OF STOCK

  • Puya venusta

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    In Latin, venusta means handsome or charming. The stem of the flower spike and the bracts can vary from pinkish red to flamingo pink. While the flowers and bracts of Chagual look like a splashy party dress, the basal foliage is seriously handsome.

    Puyas are native to a number of South American countries. Puya venusta grows in semi-arid lands from the Chilean coast to rocky slopes in the Andes. Chagual grows at altitudes up to 1,500 feet. Its lanky flower spikes, topped with pinecone-like clusters of blossoms and bracts unfurl to reveal trumpet-shaped blossoms rich in nectar. Honeybees and hummingbirds are regular visitors. Perhaps deer avoid these plants due to the spiny margins of their leaves.

    Chagual looks otherworldly, like something that might grow on the windy, dusty landscape of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles

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    Puyas are part of the Bromeliaceae family, which includes the subfamily known as the Bromeliads and includes pineapples. Although many sources refer to pineapples as being the only edible Bromeliad, that isn't accurate. In South America, the fleshy hearts of Puya flowers are frequently shredded -- similar to cabbage in cole slaw -- and eaten in salads.

    $8.50

    OUT OF STOCK

  • Rabdosia longituba

    (Trumpet Spurflower) A close relative to Salvia, once known as Plectranthus longitubus, this woodland native from the Japanese mountains of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu is a Fall delight in the shade.

    Clouds of 1 1/2 inch long pale sky-blue trumpets are uncountable.  This shrub has a angular branching pattern and light yellow-green toothed leaves that give it an airy look.  Blue Fall color in the shady garden is rare, and this delightful plant is tough, fast growing and rewarding.

    Highly recommended.

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    (Saint Catherine's Lace) When in full bloom from spring to fall, you can barely see the foliage of this floriferous shrub. Its huge umbels of pinkish cream flowers form what seems like the skirt of a lacy bridal gown growing 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

    If the lower branches of this Buckwheat shrub are removed and its attractively gnarled branches are revealed, Saint Catherine’s Lace looks like a short tree. Under all those flowers are soft, wooly gray leaves.

    Saint Catherine's Lace is a member of the Buckwheat genus, which is widespread throughout North America. This full-sun species is endemic to California’s Channel Islands where it thrives on dry slopes. Grow it as a screen, background planting, a central highlight in a cut flower garden or in a large shrub border.

    Highly adaptable, this evergreen shrub does well in a wide variety of soils whether in a cool coastal region or a hot, dry area. It likes regular watering, but does well in dry gardens in USDA Zones 7 to 9. Give it full sun.

    Butterflies and honeybees are drawn to this bush; birds love its seeds. However, deer leave it alone.
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    OUT OF STOCK

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New at FBTS: South America Puyas Are Otherworldly

New at FBTS: South America Puyas Are Otherworldly


Category: Everything Salvias Blog
Posted: Feb 12, 2014 12:00 AM
Synopsis:

If you don't live in the Andes and certain other parts of South and Central America, it can be difficult to believe photos of the otherworldly Puya genus, which produces unexpected colors and flower stalks rising up to 30 feet tall. Puyas are terrestrial Bromeliads that grow throughout South and Central America. They look like the strange otherworldly plants in science fiction or a Dr. Seuss picture book. Here are three surprising species that are drought resistant and love lots of sun.

I like Amstiad

Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.


  1. Go tubular. Hummingbirds need tubular flowers that are easy for long, thin beaks to access.
  2. Provide lots of color. Think of yourself as a cafeteria manager who needs to provide many tempting choices in order to attract business. Red, pink, orange and purple sages are particularly powerful hummingbird magnets.
  3. Keep your garden blooming. Plant a variety of Salvias based not only on color but also a broad span of bloom times. Many flower from spring into fall. Others are prolific fountains of nectar for shorter seasons. Numerous winter-blooming species are available for areas that are home to hummingbirds year round.
  4. Grow sages native to the Western Hemisphere. Although hummingbirds will take advantage of many kinds of tubular flowering plants, these tiny birds are native to the Western Hemisphere and prefer flowering plants native to their half of the world.
  5. Select Salvia companion plants. Hummingbirds appreciate a variety of favorite tubular-flowered plants.
  6. Plant hummingbird gardens near cover. Trees and bushes surrounding feeding areas provide protection from predators and chilly, rainy weather.
  7. Don't use pesticides. Insects provide protein for hummingbirds, so don't kill these food sources.
  8. Provide water. Hummingbirds frolic in misters and shallow birdbaths.
  9. Supplement plantings with feeder tubes. Change the sugar water every few days and don't add food coloring. Keep the feeders clean, but don't scrub them with soaps or detergents. Here is more feeder care information.
  10. Read more. Our Everything Salvias Blog offers a number of articles about hummingbirds.
Hey, got any greens?

If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.


  1. Mask smells that deer like with aromatic sages. Deer and other members of the Cervidae family, such as elk, mostly leave Salvias alone. One theory is that they don't like the fragrance or taste of sage chemicals. Strategically planting sages near vegetable gardens or fruit trees -- elixir to deer -- may prevent consumption.
  2. Grow hedges including Salvias. Prickly hedges, including hairy-leafed Salvias and exceptionally thorny roses, can discourage deer from entering your yard. They don't like the mouth-feel of those textures. Tall hedges also hide strawberry beds and other yummy plantings from view.
  3. Don't overplant one species. Grow a variety of Salvias in case local deer take an unexpected liking to one species of sage.
  4. Fence deer out. Install electric fences or 8-foot wood or metal fences around particularly vulnerable areas. Make sure electric fencing is turned on during the peak feeding seasons of early spring and late fall.
  5. Use motion-detection tools. Install outdoor lighting that is activated by movement.
  6. Let the dogs out. Deer are especially wary of large dogs.
  7. Surround and cover. Wrap tough plastic around the trunks of trees that have tasty bark and cover foliage with bird netting when trees and bushes are fruiting.
  8. Change yard ornaments periodically. Objects such as scarecrows, statuary and cordons of monofilament string with strips of shiny foil attached cause deer to shy away.
  9. Make safe choices. Research repellants you plan to use to make sure they aren't poisonous.
  10. Be flexible and ready to share a bit. There is no such thing as a completely deer-resistant garden.