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Products > Billbergia nutans 'Santa Barbara'
Billbergia nutans 'Santa Barbara' - Variegated Queen's Tears

Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Bromeliaceae (Bromeliads)
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Green & Blue
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Billbergia nutans 'Variegata']
Height: 1-2 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Exposure: Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 30-32° F
Billbergia nutans 'Santa Barbara' (Variegated Queen's Tears) - A vigorous growing bromeliad that is easy to cultivate and will readily form clumps of narrow upright rosettes. The nearly tubular 2 feet tall rosettes hold foot long slender bronzy-green leaves that have bands of pale yellow along the leaf margin that blush a nice shade of pink. In spring the arching flower stalks hold at their tips pink bracts and pendant flowers that have chartreuse green petals edged with royal-blue.

Plant in bright shade in a well-drained organic rich soil and water occasionally. This plant is surprisingly drought tolerant and the species plants can often be found surviving planted in the ground in shaded coastal California gardens that have received little or no irrigation but certainly the plants look better with a bit more water. It is reliably hardy to 30-32 degrees F but able to tolerate short duration temperatures much lower - this plant sailed through our January 2007 freeze with 3 nights down to 25 degrees F and the species reportedly grows well in as cold of locations as Portland, Oregon and coastal Washington. A attractive specimen plant in a pot or planted out in the garden.

The genus Billbergia is a large genus that ranges from South America north into Mexico with majority of species in Brasil. The species Billbergia nutans is native to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina where it grows both as an epiphyte in low trees and as a terrestrial on the forest floor from 2,300 to 3,000 feet elevation. The name of the genus honors the Swedish Gustaf (Gustave) Johan Billberg (1772-1844) who was a lawyer by profession and a self-trained botanist, zoologist, and anatomist and authored the Flora of Sweden. The specific epithet is Latin for nodding, in reference to the way the flowers are held in pendant clusters.

The cultivar 'Santa Barbarba has long been a bit of a mystery. Some consider it a hybrid cross between Billbergia nutans and Billbergia pyramidalis while most point out its similarities to the former. The late Derek Buttler, fondly known as "Uncle Derek" and co-author of the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads, wrote in 2012 about this plant that "Some 55 years ago it was 'found' in Madame Ganna Walska’s garden [now Ganna Walska Lotusland Botanic Garden] in California. ... It was thought to be a sport of a hybrid of unknown parents [but] I can only see Billbergia nutans in the flower and we know how variable the plant can be in size. In other words, I link it to Billbergia nutans var striata Reitz that cropped up in the wild."

We received this plant in the 1990s from Mark Bartholmew of Hi Mark Nursery in Carpinteria and it long grew in our nursery garden before we finally decided to grow a crop for sale in 2023. For more information about this species see Billbergia nutans

This information about Billbergia nutans 'Santa Barbara' displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.