Billbergia Bromeliad Species, Friendship Plant, Queen’s-Tears

Billbergia nutans

Family: Bromeliaceae (bro-mee-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Billbergia (bil-BERG-a) (Info)
Species: nutans (NUT-ans) (Info)
Synonym:Billbergia linearifolia
Synonym:Billbergia minuta


Tropicals and Tender Perennials


Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade


Grown for foliage



Foliage Color:



18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


9-12 in. (22-30 cm)


USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:




Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Alameda, California

Amesti, California(3 reports)

August, California

Berkeley, California

Brea, California

Brentwood, California

COARSEGOLD, California

Camarillo, California

Carmichael, California

Casa de Oro-Mount Helix, California

Clayton, California

Clovis, California

Corralitos, California(3 reports)

Elk Grove, California

Elkhorn, California(3 reports)

Fairfield, California

Fortuna, California

Fremont, California

Fresno, California

Fullerton, California

Interlaken, California(3 reports)

Lafayette, California

Lakeside, California

Livermore, California

Mckinleyville, California

Monte Rio, California

Nevada City, California

Oak View, California

Pajaro, California(3 reports)

Rancho Cordova, California

Sacramento, California

Salinas, California

San Diego, California(2 reports)

San Leandro, California

Santa Ana, California

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Rosa, California

Sonoma, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Tracy, California

Upland, California

Vista, California(18 reports)

Watsonville, California(3 reports)

Yosemite Lakes, California

Apopka, Florida

Bartow, Florida

Bonita Springs, Florida

Bradenton, Florida

Bradley, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Floral City, Florida

Fountain, Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Green Cove Springs, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Keystone Heights, Florida

Lecanto, Florida

Melbourne Beach, Florida

Miami, Florida

Newberry, Florida

Ormond Beach, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Trenton, Florida

Umatilla, Florida

Venice, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida

Brunswick, Georgia

Hawkinsville, Georgia

Thomasville, Georgia

Hawi, Hawaii

Louisville, Kentucky

Baker, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Mandeville, Louisiana(2 reports)

Long Beach, Mississippi

Raymond, Mississippi

Jersey City, New Jersey

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Kure Beach, North Carolina

Wilmington, North Carolina

Lebanon, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Houston, Pennsylvania

Beaufort, South Carolina(2 reports)

Bluffton, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Okatie, South Carolina

Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Clarksville, Tennessee

Crossville, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Brenham, Texas

Copperas Cove, Texas

Georgetown, Texas

Houston, Texas

New Braunfels, Texas

Richmond, Texas

San Antonio, Texas(2 reports)

Victoria, Texas

Church Road, Virginia

EASTSOUND, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Puyallup, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Cabin Creek, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 26, 2018, LipLock from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I rescued this plant from a house that had been vacant here in Austin, Texas for over 2 months during a very hot, dry summer. I would walk my dogs past the house and see it sitting out in a pot in a sunny spot of the front yard looking rattier and rattier as the days passed. I finally decided to take it home as I couldn't stand to see it suffering. It was obviously potbound and, even in this period of TERRIBLE neglect, it was blooming like crazy. I had it for 2 years before I pulled it out of the pot today. It had about 2" of soil in the very bottom of a 12" pot and was crammed full of plants. I separated them and now have about 30 pots of plants. I plan to post on and give them away to the neighborhood. It's been great reading the comments here about their hardiness. ... read more


On Mar 19, 2016, RustyB from Mandeville, LA wrote:

Has anyone tried growing these from the seeds they produce? If so can you detail how? Thanks.


On Oct 11, 2015, BellaMB88 from Camarillo, CA wrote:

This plant grows well in Camarillo California. It is very tough, surviving and multiplying in pots in both shade and part sun. Seems to take both dry and wet conditions. I've even had a plug inside the house in just water in a bud vase for almost a year now. Blooms are very unusual and pretty.


On Jan 28, 2015, Nanthawat from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

It is growing just fine outdoors in Portland, Oregon.
It survived multiple 15 degree Fahrenheit + wind winters just fine without any damage.


On Jan 17, 2015, blackravan from Portland, OR wrote:

Someone gave me one of these plants thirty years ago--I didn't know what it was. They said it was 'difficult' and they didn't want it anymore. I had it for ten years before it bloomed. It was fussy and I kept moving it around the house until it found a spot it was happy in. Now it blooms in the winter--it's blooming now! I didn't know it could grow outside. I live in Oregon--anybody know if
this climate will allow that. I'm very fond of it--the one I have
is huge and continues to grow. After reading on this site,
I have better ideas on its care.


On Jan 10, 2015, Lily_love from Central, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

Today is the day! Ten days into the new year, I discovered my pot of Billbergia nutans sending out a 5-6" flower bud/stalk. I've had this 'Friendship Plant' from one of our DG members who shared with me a small plant. I waited for several years before it became mature enough to send out flowers. Once it's mature; it rewards me every winter-- while everything seems to be bare and gray outside, with the exotic multicolor blooms. What's a delight!!!

Easy care plant; a bright lit window (in my zone it does well indoor year round). Required very little fertilizer, I don't remember when was the last time I fed this pot of plant. But, it remains faithful, just as a true friend would have. Its unconditional friendship gives me its flowers every year, whether I sometime forg... read more


On Oct 14, 2014, scalkins from Watsonville, CA wrote:

The plant grows beautifully in my zone 9B shady area. However, gophers seem to have discovered it, and my black lab puppy has taken to chewing on the stems which seem to give her uncontrollable diarrhea. They're listed as "non-toxic", but that is about the only thing she is chewing on consistently.


On Nov 25, 2013, jv123 from Chehalis, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I picked this plant up for 50% off at a nursery, since it was basically dead in the pot. I don't know how they managed to almost kill it, because as soon as I watered it it decided to perk up and start growing like crazy. I have this hardy bromeliad outside year round here in Vancouver WA (zone 8b). It has survived down to 15 degrees F without any leaf damage. It is in a planter bag hanging in the crook of a tree, and temperatures that have frozen everything else haven't even phased it. This plant is nearly unkillable, and by far one of the hardiest bromeliads out there in my experience.


On Sep 27, 2013, plantsrgreat from Bakersfield, CA wrote:

Enjoyed all the comments, especially how plant got it's name.
Thanks to some comments next spring we will see how she grows out of the pot in the tropical section here in Bakersfield, CA, zone 9b.
Leaves may be less than picture perfect, but the tree frogs love to live in them, just like in habitat probably. Great plant to demonstrate plant diversity


On Sep 11, 2013, pizzasqueeza from Jacksonville, FL wrote:

Many posters bemoan the lack of flowering of Queen's Tears, however, they can be forced to bloom at any time by enclosing the plant (with its cup empty to prevent excessive humidity buildup) in a plastic bag with a ripe apple. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which stimulates flowering in Bromeliads. Leave the plant and apple in the plastic bag for 7-10 days; the plant will flower in 1-2 months


On Sep 2, 2013, loreleisue from Brenham, TX wrote:

I have had this plant for over 10 years and it has thrived on neglect. I started with one small piece and now have 4 large baskets of them. I could have had many more, but did not divide them as often as I could have. I have them hanging on my board fence in baskets lined with coconut fiber. These plants do not need any dirt, just an occasional watering in the top to fill the bracts. They bloom several times a year. They are in the shade and enjoy the hot Texas summers and mild winters. I have put them inside a shed in prior winters, but just left them on the fence the past few winters.


On Sep 2, 2013, sparkie1 from Eastsound, WA wrote:

I live on Orcas Island, and was given a start of this plant by a good friend. I enjoy it indoors in the winter, but put it out on the deck late spring until early fall. It blooms twice, once indoors and again during the summer. It has wonderful graceful leaves, and the most astonishing flowers, the tears from the queen. It seems to enjoy being pot bound, and is easy to grow.


On Feb 25, 2013, nathanieledison from Santa Rosa, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant is a delight to have in the garden. I'm in zone 9b and we had some pretty nasty frosts, but these little critters merely turned a little yellow and kept on pushing. They were completely unprotected. Ours bloom all the time and when they do, we put them out near a walkway where you can't help but stop by and enjoy the beautiful flowers.


On Feb 5, 2013, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:

An enthusiastic positive rating for this plant. I think it might be hardy to z9a, as it grows in a hanging basket in my garden and it was not overwintered in 2011 or 2012. Granted, those were very mild winters for us. Just got a little ratty. It is a very easy plant for me.


On May 22, 2012, chickenmom2012 from Raymond, MS (Zone 8a) wrote:

I love this plant because I can't kill it! It has been pot bound for several years, but seems to love it. A couple of years ago, I placed it in full sun and watered it daily, but it never bloomed. I put it back on a southern facing covered front porch with mainly afternoon sun from the west, and it blooms profusely. I only water it about 3 times a week from spring through summer, and practically forget about it in fall and winter. It lives on the porch year round unless we experience a hard freeze at which time I move it temporarily into the foyer. I used Miracle Gro Bloom Booster fertilizer weekly on it the year it was in full sun, but it still didn't bloom that year. I don't fertilize it now that it is in part shade, and it does just fine. The weird weather we're having this year prompte... read more


On Mar 31, 2012, putinpumpkin129 from Jersey City, NJ wrote:

I have had this plant in my kitchen for 3 years and a friend just gave me a smaller one. I must admit to being a bit mystifyed about it. It gets mostly shade or late afternoon sun and it is alive, but it looks nothing like the plants you are showing. It seems to grow at the slowest of paces and is the most boring collection of green leaves I have ever seen. Obviously I am doing something wrong. So I'm going to take a bit of all your advice, on top of putting the 2 plants outside this spring and summer and perhaps I'll get to see the beauty you are all enjoying. Wish me luck. I'm the first entry from NJ.


On Mar 24, 2012, cabngirl from Sonoma, CA wrote:

Plenty said already about these unique and magical looking plants but I just want to say, even a black-thumb should have no trouble! I've had mine (the "fat" variety and the narrow-leaf variety) growing for years (I was actually trying to find out if there are two different names but striking out so far). Been through many cold snaps every winter, never a sign of any kind of damage. Plenty of baking hot days into triple digits for short periods. Most I keep under a patio roof, some are in the ground and raised pots in full weather. The ones that get more exposure tend to acquire a bronzish-blush I find less attractive. Some of mine don't get any direct sun and perhaps don't quite bloom as much. Despite my many forms of neglect neglect they do well. I (hand) water regularly in summer but h... read more


On Mar 14, 2011, heathernz from Mount Maunganui,
New Zealand wrote:

I bought this plant from a garden shop in New Zealand about 5 years ago, nobody new what it was. I have had it in a pot on my deck and have had to keep repotting as it grows quite fast with not much care. I just love the flowers and have a small garden to fill that only gets late afternoon sun but in this country and where we are (coastal North Island, most beautiful beach in the country, Mount Maunganui, great spot!) it is still intense sun late aftenoon. After reading your blogs I have the confidence to break it up and try it in the new garden, I will keep some in the pot in case it fails as I have never seen it anywhere else in this country. I will be planting in quite sandy soil with some compost added, hope that will be enough.


On Feb 19, 2011, Gulfstream17 from Ormond Beach, FL wrote:

One tough plant. It survived multiple light freezes in my 9A zone this past winter and now (Feb 2011) is blooming profusely in a shady setting. More than that this plant has been salt-tolerant for me. Salt tolerance is something you can't know in advance because assuming a plant description even addresses the matter, it says only "yes" or "no." In fact salt tolerance comes in degrees. You have to try it where you live. So I live about 600 feet west of the Atlantic Ocean. Not on the beach, or across the road form the beach, but close enough to kill, say, the beautiful Osmanthus fragrans (at least I think that's the problem; I've tried 4 of 'em). This Billbergia nutans has done well outside in my setting.


On Feb 2, 2011, anthos949 from Brea, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I saw this plant at a residence in Newport Coast, CA in 2007, and I never could forget it. It's the most unique little flower I've ever inflorescence of blue lines bordering yellow petals protruding out of pink needles. Very unique to say the least. I found it early 2011 at Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach, and I have it under a patio, receiving direct sun only in the afternoon. We'll see how it does. I'm not too worried.

Update 2013: plant is in pot. I got bored of it, and it looks dead, since I may not even have watered it once this year, and only a few times last year. I wouldn't be surprised if a splash of water would bring it back again. VERY resilient plant. My only problem with the plant is it looks ugly 11 months out of the year. BUT the one month... read more


On Jul 23, 2010, PammiePi from Green Cove Springs, FL wrote:

This plant was a mystery in my garden for a few years, until I recently identified it. I'm not sure where it came from, but it started blooming a couple of years ago, and is beautiful. The plant is very hardy and is starting to spread. It's in my East-facing garden close to the house where it gets morning-early afternoon sun, and not much water. It's apparently cold hardy since we get hard-freezes here. It also seems to be drought-tolerant. Now that I know what it is, I'll try to propegate the pups. Beautiful leaves when it's not in bloom, this plant makes a great accent.


On Jul 5, 2010, Timespinner from Beaufort, SC wrote:

I live in Beaufort S.C. I have had my Queens tears plant for many years now my Grandma gave me it ,She used to grow them on her front porch, i have had it in big planter near my front door in the shade the whole time does well with neglect ,i just let it grow it get water when it rains. It does well in the cold too it has been in temperature down to 14 degrees F. keep right on growing very hardy plant


On May 5, 2010, susanedw from Tracy, CA wrote:

Got this plant about 17 years ago. Left forgotton on a porch in nearly full shade. Moved to a hot climate 10 years ago and kept it on a patio with shade cloth over it.

Multiplied too many times to count, have it in many pots, most with no soil left. Basically from the time I took it, it has been neglected and has thived. From too much water, to not enough to cold winter (but no snow).

Just separated a pot and put the plants in clumps in the full sun in a new bed I just finished. Hoping it thrives with care!


On Jan 21, 2010, hope43 from Tulsa, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

the blooms are so sweet i love this its really taken off so good.


On Mar 1, 2009, HRMSanny from Beaufort, SC wrote:

This beauty is alive & well in beautiful Beaufort SC.
Truly is much hardier than indicated. Has been outside for years in heat & cold & is a continual performer.


On Dec 10, 2008, buggycrazy from spokane valley, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This plant has survived in pots over the winter with minimal protection for many years, an unheated, unsealed shadehouse. It is hardier than stated although it could die if planted out due to the cold, wet soil we have for 9 months of the year.


On Mar 28, 2007, subuch from Lafayette, CA wrote:

I received a small starter plant from a garden in Gilroy, California. In a couple of years in our Zone 9a garden, it has propagated into large mats which I divided and planted here and there in the garden as well as in a couple of terra cotta containers. They all survived unprotected for an unusually cold week where temperatures dropped to about 20 and stayed in the mid 30s. In March, they began to bloom with flower stalks appearing throughout the mounds. The plants receive moderate water and absolutely no feeding. They seem to enjoy neglect.


On May 10, 2006, Zanymuse from Scotia, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant has survived our wind, rain and frosts (28 degrees Fahrenheit ) For 3 years in a pot outside. The slugs and snails have not bothered it and the unusual blooms make it a favorite in the garden.

The humming birds like it too!


On Feb 16, 2006, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Most of the Billbergia species are native to Brazil; however, they also occur from Mexico south and down the Atlantic coast to Argentina. A few may also occur along the Pacific coast to Peru. The pink, blue and green flowers hang from the ends of this flower spike with each petal tightly recurved and edged in purple. It blooms at the end of January through February in the San Antonio area. The petal tips of the Billbergia nutans var. nutans blooms have hairs which are difficult to see because they are very small. The blooms exude a very sticky clear nectar which forms visible droplets. These droplets, plus the royal purple of the bloom edging, are the reasons that the plant is commonly called "queen's tears". It is also commonly called "friendship plant" because it readily produces o... read more


On Oct 30, 2005, vince1973 from SaintMalo,
France (Zone 9a) wrote:

Excellent plant here in sandy coastal garden (zone 9a)


On Dec 12, 2004, Opoetree from Oak View, CA wrote:

My aunt had this plant in Sunland, California. She gave me a shoot and I 've had plants multiplying for years. Some shoots have gone to Washington and Texas and done well in both places. I didn't even know what it was for years, but saw its picture in a Reader's Digest plant volume. My vast family (the plants reproduce really well) blooms around February here in Oak View (near Ventura -- south of Santa Barbara). I've given away dozens and dozens of the plants...and think maybe that's why it was called a friendship plant. So unusually beautiful!


On Jun 27, 2004, rrruble from Denison, TX wrote:

I hear that after the mother plant blooms,she dies?
I live in North Texas and my Plant gets exposure from the south window, with a flourescent light above. I have never seen it bloom. Am i doing something wrong?


On Mar 22, 2004, aking1a from Baton Rouge, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Queen's Tears also makes a very nice hanging container plant - They seem to be quite tough - I protect them from the wind in winter but they seem capable of handling temperatures down to about 25 F.


On Mar 20, 2004, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Love this plant!
Here's what I found about seeds from:

"Propagation is usually done by taking rooted offshoots or ‘Pups’ from the original plants. These offshoots occur from the rhizomes at the base of the leaves. Leave the pups on the plant until they reach at least one third of the height of the original urn, as very young pups rarely develop roots. Staking may be necessary until they have developed a stronger root system. Seed grown plants are also possible, but this method is usually used only for raising new hybrids. We have discovered that sowing the seed on finely chopped, moist sphagnum moss is the most successful. To keep the air perm... read more


On Feb 12, 2004, DOTIZY1942 wrote:

i have just recieved this plant from a friend that lives in Garden Grove,California. She told me that she has had this plant since the late 60's or early 70's and has moved the plant around from house to house in the general area of orange county and it has always done well for her / it is all across the North side of her home and is quite beautiful when it blooms


On Jan 23, 2004, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Edgewood, Washington
Had this great bromelaid years ago and just loved it. It would bloom every year around December. Think it was partly do to the amount of light it was recieving. It would bloom and then the mother plant would produce "pups" to grow and bloom the next year. Plant was bug free and problem free. Just wish I had a start of it again.


On Jan 22, 2004, soilsandup from Sacramento, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I also bought a 2" potted plant 5 years ago and have given away many offshoots of it over the years. (It is not invasive, sending out just enough for sharing). The blooms make a very interesting conversation piece in floral arrangements. I have it planted outdoors in my part of California (9b). It shows frost stress, but comes right back in the spring. It has bloomed every year and is a fairly maintenance free plant.


On Jan 15, 2004, Kachinagirl from Modesto, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

My Bilgergia lives at my office and bloomed in December! It likes "Eleanor's VF-11" added to it's water, and seems to bloom more readily when it is used.


On May 24, 2003, elp wrote:

my husband bought my queen's tears five years ago in a two inch pot. the longest leaf is 37"! it hasn't bloomed yet but it is a real unusual plant, kind of silvery on top side and striped on the back, and spines all down the whole length of the plant. going in ouch! coming out ok. it has put out pups that are as big as the original start. will have to see if can download photo later. It is one of my favorite plants!