The adaptable Billbergia nutans is an elegant and unusual houseplant that can also be grown outdoors in a warmer climate with very little effort.
The Billbergia is a bromeliad and one that is often seen grown as a houseplant. It originates from South America and will therefore grow happily outdoors in tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is thought that there are around 50 varieties of Billbergia, but the Billbergia nutans is one of the best-known and cultivated varieties.
The Billbergia nutans is not a difficult plant to care for and will reward with delicate and unusual blooms over a long period.
The long, narrow, light green/silver grey leaves can reach 1 mt. on a mature plant and grow from basal rosettes. Its roots are quite compact, so a small pot can be used to provide quite a large display, though making sure it doesn’t topple over, of course.
The delicate tubular flowers are a mix of pink, blue, green and yellow. They emerge from pink bracts, and the clusters of flowers hang like a pendent on a fine stem. Even after the flowers have emerged, the bracts retain their bright pink color.
The Billbergia nutans needs plenty of natural light and can also tolerate a certain amount of direct sunlight. As an interior plant, it will flower for many months of the year if kept in a temperature of between 18 and 24 degrees. The plant will also live well in cooler interior areas, but the flowering period will be affected.
Regular watering is necessary, but the soil should be allowed to dry out each time. A general liquid feed will be appreciated once every few weeks, particularly during the flowering period. These plants tend not to attract diseases and they never need pruning.
In warmer climates, the Billbergia nutans can be grown outdoors in well-drained soil or in pots on a terrace or patio. However, it has to be remembered that they are frost tender.
The plant in the photos included with this article lives on the Costa de Sol in southern Spain. It is about 5 years old and was bought at a boot sale as a small nameless clump! It has full sun, gets wet when it rains, is watered during the summer and is fed once a month! In return, it blooms beautifully from late winter for many months.
Friends will love to receive a small clump from a large plant and this is easily done by division or offsets from the base. From experience, this is best done after flowering.
The Billbergia nutans is an attractive yet undemanding plant, and when in bloom it does create a talking point! In cooler climates, it makes a fine houseplant, but in southern areas, it will live in the garden or decorate a patio or terrace and bloom for long periods with very little attention.