Sapphire Tower - The Arboretum
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Sapphire Tower

The stunning Puya alpestris is a spring bloomer that can be found in the eastern edge of the Desert Garden. The dramatic and unusal plant is a native of Chile and part of the Bromeliad family.  Here is a detailed description by San Marcos Growers:

“This plants forms a 2-3 foot tall clump to rosettes of recurving, spiny-margined, light green leaves that are silver-gray beneath. The leaves about 1 inch wide at their base and narrowing along the 18-24 inches in length. In spring, but usually not every year, appear turquoise blue-green flowers (sometimes called metallic or “unearthly”) with vivid orange stamens that are held on a branching 3 to 4 foot tall stalks in the spring. Each branch of the inflorescence terminates in a long sterile branch with pink bracts that acts as a perch for nectar feeding birds – flowers are also very attractive to bees. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil where it is drought tolerant but can also be irrigated more regularly. Hardy to temperatures as low as 18° F for short durations – our garden plant undamaged at the temperature in our historic December 1990 freeze and also weathered the cold spell in 2007 with 3 nights to 25° F. It is native to high barren slopes in the Andes of southern Chile and Argentina. The name for the genus come from the Chilean name used for the species Puya chilensis and the specific name ‘alpestris’ is the Latin word for alpine, in reference to where this plant is native to in the Chilean Andes. It is sometimes confused with the larger Puya berteroniana which has much longer (to 4-5 feet) and wider (to 2-3 inches) leaves and flowers that are a kelly green color. This description is based on our research and observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We will also incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have some additional information about this plant, in particular if this information is contrary to what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Puya alpestris.”

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© 2023 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Phone: 626.821.3222

301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, 91007