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Plant Database Search Results > Puya coerulea var. coerulea
Puya coerulea var. coerulea - Silver Puya
Image of Puya coerulea var. coerulea
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Bromeliaceae (Bromeliads)
Origin: Chile (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Purple
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: [P. coerulea var. violacea, Hort.]
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: Spreading
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
Puya coerulea var. coerulea (Silver Puya) A large rosette forming succulent that eventually mounds up to 2 to 3 feet tall and can sprawl out 6 to 8 feet wide with very attractive silver-white narrow and slightly recurved leaves that have sharp teeth on their margins held in 2-foot-wide rosettes. Stout silvery spikes rise several feet above the leaves bearing dark blue-purple flowers in late spring.

Plant in full sun. No irrigation is required in coastal garden and has proven hardy to short duration temperatures to 18 F. A very attractive plant that adds a silver white color to the garden, but care needs to be used as to where to plant it as over time as it can become a wide solid patch with its viciously sharp foliar teeth that needs to be given some respect.

Puya coerulea var. coerulea grows naturally central Chile from Playa Las Tacas to the north south to Cachapoal where it can be found between 1,600 to 6,500 feet in elevation growing on rocky outcrops in semiarid areas matorral (Chile's equivalent to California's chaparral) in the Chilean Coastal Range (Cordillera de la Costa). The name for the genus come from the Chilean name used for the species Puya chilensis and the specific name is from the Latin word 'coeruleus' or 'caeruleus' derived from 'caelum' that referred to the color of the "vault of heaven" but has come to mean "dark-colored", "dark blue", "cerulean" and "azure" and references the dark blue-purple color of this plants flowers.

Puya coerulea var. coerulea has been a plant that has circulated around in Southern California since at least the mid 1960s and its botanical name and origin was a bit of a mystery. It has occasionally labeled Puya coerulea var. violacea which, though similar, has leaves that are not nearly as white and flowers not so dark. This plant was originally tagged as Puya coerulea var. violacea at the Huntington Botanical Garden (HBG 20943) though there was long been discussion about this name being incorrect as it did not match up with other Puya coerulea var. violacea plants. Fortunately the Huntington hosted Puya specialist Rachel Schmidt Jabaily, now a professor at University of Colorado, who collected specimens at the garden in 2007 in preparation for her February 2010 paper in American Journal of Botany titled "Phylogenetics of Puya (Bromeliaceae): Placement, major lineages, and evolution of Chilean species" (V.97 N. 2 p 337-356). During Jabaily's visit to the Huntington she made a presentation about her work and was specifically asked about this plant and desert garden curator John Trager concurred with her that the correct name of this plant in their garden is Puya coerulea var. coerulea.

Our plants came from the garden of noted tropical botanist Sherwin Carlquist who received this plant in the 1960's from the late Will Beitel, the onetime University of California Santa Barbara greenhouse manager, Santa Barbara City arborist and tree book author. 

This information about Puya coerulea var. coerulea displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.