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Billbergia


Ground covers, Flowers

These exotic-looking South American pineapple relatives grow in rosettes of stiff, spiny-toothed evergreen leaves and produce drooping clusters of showy bracts and tubular flowers that are excellent for cutting. In the wild, they grow as epiphytes on trees, but wherever they’re hardy, they’re often planted under trees as an easy groundcover, or used in borders. Elsewhere, grow them in containers for display indoors or on patios. To grow them on limbs of trees or bark slabs, first wrap roots in sphagnum moss and leaf mold.

Grow in well-drained soil; or pot in a light, porous mixture of sand, ground bark, and leaf mold. Need regular moisture during active growth in warm weather; reduce water as weather cools and growth slows. Plants usually hold water in the funnel-like center of the leaf rosette, which acts as a reservoir. Houseplants need warmth and lots of light. Increase by cutting suckers from base of plant. Bromeliad specialists list dozens of varieties.

Billbergia nutans (photo courtesy of San Marcos Growers)
Billbergia nutans (photo courtesy of San Marcos Growers)

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Billbergia nutans

Common and easily grown. Narrow, spiny green leaves are 1 1/2 ft. long. Spikes of rosy red bracts; drooping flowers with green petals edged deep blue. Vigorous. Easily propagated from offsets.

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