Blooming in my garden right now is the charming queen’s tears, (Billbergia nutans). Native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, the plant is an is an epiphytic member of the bromeliad (bro-meal-ee-ad) family. Pineapples are also in this family.
Let me define the term. Epihytic means that the plant lives epi (upon) phytic (plants), as opposed to living in soil. Think of it as a plant that perches on other plants. It is not parasitic, it does not steal anything from the plant it lives upon.
Queen’s tears is easy to grow because it is used to perching on the trunks of trees high above the rainforest floor.
They are from a raiforest, but not wet rainy rainforest – instead, they come from seasonally dry rainforest. Yhis means they are used to drying out every so often and grow just fine in our homes with lower relative humidity. You can grow it either as a house plant or outdoors in part shade anytime it is above freezing. This plant is often used as an ornamental plant, and is probably one of the most common bromeliads grown. It is a durable house plant because it can often withstand periods of neglect.
Being epiphytic, bromeliads can grow almost anywhere – on the side of a tree or planted in the ground. They have few roots, just enough to anchor them. Thus, I plant them in succulent mix, with good drainage and low organic matter. Since they have few roots, you can top dress the soil with a layer of pretty aquarium gravel to help hold them up.
In the wild, when it rains, bromeliad cups fill with water. Thus when you water them, you need to get the water into their cups. If your city water is highly chlorinated consider letting a watering can of it sit out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate and use that to water.
Queens tears bloom in spring each year for me. There are two scientific varieties plus roughly 20 cultivars. Don’t be surprised if your plant looks different these pictured here. Some of these pictures were taken on a recent tour of Bullis Bromeliads, in Florida, thanks to the FNGLA.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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