(Bromeliad)The genus Puya is somewhat large, containing 199 species of hardy bromeliads. These exotic plants are almost entirely a South American genus , with only two species creeping up into Costa Rica. Luckily for us here in the temperate US, a few Puya species live in the Andes mountains of Chile and have developed some cold hardiness.
Puya is somewhat succulent and looks like it could be an agave or yucca, but surprisingly is actually a bromeliad. In fact, the largest bromeliad in the world is in the genus Puya (P. raimondii). Some puya species have an interesting trait...they are protocarnivourous, which means that animals may get tangled or caught by the spines of the plant, and unable to escape the trap, starve to death. Their bodies then fall to the ground and decompose, thus providing nutrients to the puya roots.
One protocarnivourous Puya is grown here in the US as an ornamental. Puya chilensis is an Andean species that is very slow growing up to about 6' tall. Its bizarre flower looks like a medieval weapon (a mace) but does not appear until the plant is around 20 years old.
As you might expect from Andean plants, most winter hardy puya are drought tolerant, and require dry, perfectly drained soil for winter survival. During summer, it appreciates plenty of water and full sun. Even if you cannot grow it outside, puya makes an excellent, albeit spiny, container plant. When you're ready to buy puya for your perennial or container garden, check out our online puya for sale.