Blooming in my garden right now is the charming bromeliad called queen’s tears, (Billbergia nutans). Since it’s blooming, it’s this month’s “You Can Grow That” topic. In December I covered “Captivating Cyclamen.”
Queen’s tears is native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. This lovely plant is an epiphyte and a member of the bromeliad (bro-meal-ee-ad) family. Pineapples are also in this family.
Let me define the term “epiphyte.” The word comes from epi (upon) and phyte (plant). Pretty simple. This plant lives perched on other plants instead of living in soil. 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. While queen’s tears are from a rainforest, it’s not wet rainy rainforest – instead, they come from seasonally dry rainforest. This 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.
Queens tears 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 epiphytes, 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 bromeliads 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. Or use rain water.
Queens tears bloom in spring each year for me. There are two scientific varieties plus roughly 20 cultivars. So many plants, so little space!
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico” (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I may get a few pennies.
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