Queen’s Tears, Angel’s Tears, etc.
Billbergia nutans H.Wendl. ex Regel is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Bromeliad. It was first described by Hermann Wendland and ex author Eduard August von Regel in Garten Flora in 1869.
The Billbergia genus was named and described by Carl Peter Thunberg in Plantarum Brasiliensium in 1821.
According to Plants of the World Online (as of 12-15-17), there are 63 accepted species in the genus Billbergia. The website also says there are 66 accepted genera in the Bromeliaceae Family.
The 2013 version of The Plant List says there were 66 accepted species in the Billbergia genus (plus 2 infraspecific names), 159 synonyms, and 29 unassessed names. The Plant List also said the Bromeliaceae Family consisted of 51 accepted genera and 19 that were unassessed. In the Bromeliaceae Family, there were 7,896 species represented. 3,320 were accepted species, 84 are accepted infraspecific names, 4,186 synonyms (including infraspecific names), 1 unplaced, and 305 unassessed or unresolved. I say “were” because this was information supplied with the 2013 version. It hasn’t been updated because The Plant List is no longer maintained.
My Billbergia nutans was given to me by a good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, from Greenville, Mississippi in the fall of 2011 or the spring of 2012. He brought it to me in this neat old pot (which I still have) but it soon outgrew it.
The above photo shows the Billbergia nutans in its new pot and in the east sunroom at the mansion for the winter. If we had nice days, I would move the plants to the front porch then back inside in the evening if it was going to be too cold.
<<<<2013 IN MISSOURI>>>>
I sold the mansion in Mississippi to a group who remodeled the mansion and turned it into a nice bed and breakfast (The Thompson House Bed and Breakfast). Dad asked me to move back to the family farm in mid-Missouri, so I did. I left Mississippi and moved back in February 2013, I gave up hundreds of plants but took most of the succulents, Alocasia and some of my other favorites, including the Billbergia nutans. Amazingly, they survived an 8-9 hour trip in 30-degree temperatures in the back of a trailer. When temps started warming up in the spring, I had to figure out where to put the plants. I put this plant along the wall between the back porch and the basement steps where it received morning sun.
I didn’t like it in the back of the house, so in July I moved it to the front porch. I noticed it had its first bud…
Billbergia nutans is native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay at elevations between 2,300-3,000 feet. They grow in trees as an epiphytic plant and also on the forest floor.
This was very exciting because it was a first for me. My first Bromeliad and its first flower. The bud was coming right out of the rosette. As I started looking more closely, there were several buds, not just one!
It makes me wonder what the person who discovered this plant in the rainforest thought when he found this plant. His jaw must have dropped like mine did when it started flowering. Definitely one of my highlights in 2013…
Origin: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay
Zones: USDA Zones 10-11 (30-40° F)
Size: Around 24” tall
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Average, well-drained soil
Flowers” Anytime of the year
Uses: Great as a potted plant and ground cover.
The flowers of the Billbergia nutans always reminds me of a Hermit Crab sticking his legs and head out of a shell it has taken over.
The genus Billbergia is named after Gustaf (Gustav) Johan Billberg. He was an attorney, but also a self-trained botanist, zoologist, and anatomist. He also wrote the Flora of Sweden. The species name means “nodding” after the flowers. “Queen’s Tears” is one common name, but it is also called “Friendship Plant” because it readily offsets allowing it to be passed along to others.
Information online says you can “force” Bromeliads to flower. The Wikipedia says you can add a little Epsom salt to their water and they will flower within the next 1-2 months. From my experience, the Billbergia nutans doesn’t need any help as it flowers periodically throughout the year anyway. It even flowers in the basement during the winter, with not much light at all and 65-degree temperatures.
I repotted the Billbergia nutans in the spring of 2014 but needed it again in 2015. I have actually taken it out of the pot several times but I always put it back in. You would not believe how packed the roots are now, even though information online says they have few roots. Before when I repotted it, I just transferred it to a larger pot. It is in a 13” diameter x 11” tall pot already. I do have a larger pot available, but not that much bigger. If I put in a larger pot, next thing you know it will need repotting again. There are several people who want one of these plants, so I guess I will have to just do it… SO, dividing and repotting the Billbergia nutans will be one of my top priorities in 2018…
I decided not to put the Billbergia nutans on the front porch in 2015. Most of my potted plants are behind one of our sheds under an old Chinese Elm so I sound a spot in the same area for the Billbergia. Where I had it on the front porch gave it shade until in the afternoon then it received a few hours of intense sun. I thought it was a bit much sometimes, but this “rainforest plant” soaked it all in like it was a cactus. Information online says they do well in full sun to part shade, which has proved to be true. No matter where you put it, it does well, from full sun to part shade to a basement with very little light over the winter.
Information online also says you should fertilize your Bromeliad during the spring and summer with a diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer… Mine has been in this pot since the spring of 2014 with no added fertilizer. When I removed the plant from the pot in 2015 and 2016, thinking about dividing it, there was hardly any soil left. I wonder where it went? I experienced the same thing with my Parlor Palms once. There was only an inch or so of soil on the top and none left in the pot. Like the roots ate the dirt…
There are many amazing things about the Billbergia nutans. One is that for an epiphytic bromeliad, it is very drought tolerant. I water the pot the same time I water the other potted plants. I had other distractions in 2014 and didn’t water the plants at all. It survived and so did the Alocasia.
I am running out of words…
Information online says Billbergia nutans can survive periods of neglect. Well, I know that to be true… Being an epiphytic plant, they get most of their nutrients and moisture from the air.
When you water your Bromeliads, you should not only water the soil, you also need to water the vases of the plant. I just run the wand over the top of the plant and into the pot… Which has no soil left. I am laughing again.
I bring it in the house when it starts getting cooler but I could have easily left it outside longer. Believe it or not, it has wintered here in the basement since I got here in February 2013 with no problems at all. It even flowers in the basement! Last winter, I don’t think I even watered it but the vases of the plant still had water in them when I took it outside in the spring.
The Billbergia nutans is definitely one of the most versatile and easy to grow plants I have ever experienced. I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.
I hope you enjoyed this page and if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you.