Saturday, March 15, 2008

You can't have a flower with these colors, can you?





This beautiful flower is Billbergia nutans, also known at Queen’s Tears. It’s named for Swedish botanist Gustaf Johan Billberg (thank you, Wikipedia). I have this growing at my favorite client’s house in a few locations. I just took my landscape design class on a tour of a few gardens, and this was in full bloom.

Billbergia is in the Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), and if that seems foreign to you, just open a can of Dole pineapple and you’ll be eating a bromeliad.

Back to this stunning gem. It grows in part shade, likes to be a little moist, and needs no special care or fertilization. What absolutely stuns me is this amazing floral color scheme. When you get up close, you see these perfect blue stripes juxtaposed with the crisp green, yellow stamens and pink outer layer.



If a child whipped out they’re crayons and created a flower like this, they’d probably have some grown-up tell them, “That’s not what real flowers look like.”

Anyway, spring has really hit us in Santa Barbara. If it’s not showing up on the arrivals board near you, it’ll be here soon. Hope springs eternal.

UPDATE - I'm getting lots of comments about growing it as a house plant, so I just went to Google, typed in "Billbergia houseplant" and it looks promising. I suggest that all who are interested in trying this one out do the same search. I hope you have great success. Now I feel guilty for being able to grow it using benign neglect.

31 comments:

Nancy said...

That is WILD! Would they grow in a Houston garden? I've plenty of shade!

Nancy said...

Yeah!! I found a nursery near me who carries some!

I think I'm going to visit Hempstead, Texas..

YuccaDo!

Garden Wise Guy said...

Nancy - I just sent you a regular e-mail via your blog, but the good news is a located the Houston Bromeliad Society and sent you a link. The house where I took this picture has low temperatures in the low 20s two winters ago and these guys came through pretty much unscathed. The color of the leaves gets a bit yellow, but the new growth in spring takes care of that. I'm not familiar with Houston's climate, but if you get decent humidity, these should be really happy. They do great in Florida, but I know your temps can be more extreme.

Happy Green Thumbs Sunday.

ourfriendben said...

WOW!!! Talk about a stunner. As a big fan of crayons, I'd love to try this in a container here in PA. How big does it get? (Winter greenhouse space is always at a premium.) And thanks, Nancy, for finding a source!

jodi said...

OOOOoh, I WANT it! Never mind that it wouldn't grow in my climate except as a house plant. Those colours are perfectly marvelous. Want. Want. Want! (stamps feet and has trembling lip and teary eyes).
Seriously though, what an exquisite plant. I wonder if I COULD find it as a house plant. Not likely, given that the few nurseries around here that carry indoor tropicals and such are pretty uninspired.

WiseAcre said...

I knew they were too good to be true. After looking them up I find I'm at least 7 zones short of growing them in my garden. They've become one more reason to build that green house I've wanted

mightymatt1313 said...

Beautiful!

No Rain said...

This is one of the most unusual plants I've seen. I bet it looks great planted en masse. Does it flower only in spring?
Happy GTS,
Aiyana

byrningbunny said...

That is very cool. I've never seen one before. Do they grow as houseplants?

Garden Wise Guy said...

Seems to be a lot of interest in this plant as an indoor or green house candidate. I've only grown it outdoors but it's a relatively small pants (should do fine for years in an 8" terra cota pot) and works will in our SoCal subtropical climate. For more about the plant, visit www.smgrowers.com and type in Billbergia in their search engine.

BG (aka GWG)

kate said...

The colour combination here is spectacular ... just did a google search and think I will try and track one down. I've done well with one Bromeliad this past year and it sounds as if this one isn't too hard to grow.

We're still under a good cover of snow ... but a few more warm days and I should be able to see my garden again.

Gardener of La Mancha said...

There's another beautiful "crayon" flower called Fuchsia procumbens. It looks great in hanging containers. You can find a nice picture on the UBC website, here:

http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2007/06/fuchsia_procumbens_1.php

theysaywordscanbleed said...

nice plants

karen said...

That is a totally amazing flower. But bromeliad color schemes are amazing. All the ones we grow are more pineappley and their leaves tend to rot in the humidity. This one looks as if it might shed water better.

Ahava Hopps Brooke said...

Wow that's a fabulous flower and very nice plant. Thanks for your blog.

Wicked Gardener said...

Wow, wow, wow! That is such a cool plant. I've never seen anything like it before. I hope it can take a little Florida humidity!!!

shirley "EdenMaker" said...

Unreal color! Will look for this plant!
Shirley

Ewa said...

Billie,
you are my hero.... I am speachless..
opening act before The Doors...
oh my, oh my .... any observations?

Deviant Deziner said...

Not only is the green foliage variety that you show in the photo also blooming in my garden ( I got them planted all over the place ) but the yellow and green foliage variety is also blooming too. ( Billbergia nutans "Blondie" )
I had "Blondie", displayed at a recent garden show next to some succulents and a dark bronze semi dwarf phormium and it was frequently asked about.

Nice thing about this particular Billbergia is that it comes without those dangerous serrated dagger like spines that can easily cut an ear or finger off.

love the close up photo !

Teresa said...

How amazing! The shape looks an awfully lot like fuchsia.

Ralph said...

Just purchased billbergia nutans but am not sure how it will like the more extreme California foothill environment so it is currently potted. If it can stand 20 degrees then it will certainly grow here since I haven't seen anything below34 or so.
I haven't seen it and believed the flowers to be only so so. Now I can't wait for next year.
Thanks for the preview.

Angela said...

Billbergia nutans... Queen's Tears... is in my list of top 10 fave plants. I think anybody can grow it as a houseplant, right?

I've grown it successfully in the ground and in pots in Sunset zones 14 and 8. In the ground, I give it dappled sun. Right now, all my Billbergias are bursting out of their pots, and spiking with flower buds.

The foliage is sharp (which explains why I haven't divided my pots), but the flowers are so spectacular and delicate. Queen's Tears makes a beautiful cut flower.

I found mine at Capital Nursery in Sacramento. Dark green and variegated. The variegated variety's flower is a bit different from B. nutans.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

"If a child whipped out they’re crayons and created a flower like this, they’d probably have some grown-up tell them, “That’s not what real flowers look like.”"

So true! What a great plant for, say, a Seussian garden. And gorgeous.

starnitesky said...

What stunning colours on this plant!

ldybug said...

great...now i have another plant to add to my "need" list.

weeder1 said...

They grow in utter chaos and abandon in my Sacramento garden. They have been known to bloom more than once in the summer months. Some of mine have gotten lost in deep shade and do not seem to bloom as well.

jacqueline said...

Very cool flowers! I blog about flowers for Teleflora: www.teleflora.com/flowerblog. Recent posts include trends in entertaining, tulip care, a chance to win free flowers, floral horoscopes and a flower happy-hour.
I hope you’ll check it out.
Jacqueline

PalmMom said...

I've had some of these around for a while, and they only seem to bloom once a year.

Do you know if they're invasive? They have been extremely hardy here in FL... we were in the teens a couple of weeks ago and lots of my plants died, but these guys are ok.

Garden Wise Guy said...

PalmMom: In SoCal, they spread slowly but colonize into good size masses under cool, bright conditions. I have no idea whether they'd be invasive in your climate, so I'd rather have you check with local sources. Sorry I can't provide more info, but thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...

I've had a potted one for about 8 years. I bought it in Morro Bay, took it home to LA, and then moved it up to the Sierra foothills in Nevada Co. six years ago. I never repotted it - it's bursting at the seams - and have substantially neglected it. It rewards me with bountiful blooms once a year, and even now, after no feeding, minimal water, and too much sun (it's outside,) it has 17 spikes ready to explode.

I want to buy one for a friend who lives in Sacramento but can't find a source. Can anyone tell me where to get them? I've Googled on it, to no avail. Thanks!

Garden Wise Guy said...

Anonymous: You might try connecting with someone at Annie's Annuals in Richmond CA. Ask for Elayne and tell her Billy Goodnick sent you. If Annie's doesn't supply it, Elayne might know of a source. They grow great around that area, so she's bound to hook you up. Good luck.