These plants are related to both Pineapples and the tropical Bromeliads that grow in trees in Central America. They're terrestrial (they live in the ground not halfway up a tree) but demonstrate their common ancestry with the tree dwellers by living in a pot quite happily for very much longer than most plants. Because they're not terribly hardy, this is convenient. They can be dragged in their pots into a shed for the winter.
The flowers are extraordinary. Metallic blue and copious on great spikes that emerge from time to time - up to 5ft tall.
The plant itself raises spikiness to a whole different level. It's not just the usual spikes at the end of the leaves but barbed spikes on the edges of the leaves too. Stick your hand and forearm into a mature one of these and get used to being firmly attached to a Puya alpestris for the foreseeable future or until being detached by a team of skilled surgeons. The closely related and much bigger and more terrifying species known as Puya raimondii is often fed by the rotting remains of woolly beasts that accidently brushed past them and never escaped their ghastly clutches.
This - relatively restrained - species can grow to 3ft x 3ft with a 5ft flower spike. Full sun and sharp drainage.
Propagated by us from seed.
IF IT HAS A RED TRAFFIC LIGHT
Hardy in Atlantic Seaboard gardens, The Channel Islands, gardens in Central London (and other large cities) and conservatories.
This is only meant as a guide; there are some plants with red labels that would only survive in extremely favoured spots such as The Isles of Scilly or coastal south-west Ireland.
We're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.
Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.
General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.