Houseplant: Billbergia x windii, or Angel’s Tears

One of my little birthday purchases was a Bilbergia x windii “Angel’s Tears”. You can see it here keeping company with Ficus elastica var Robusta “Tineke” and a peace lily:


Plus an obligatory birthday pot rose, which my parents always buy, and I always love to bits, and always dies on me. (But hasn’t that wall been improved by a coat of paint since the Ficus arrived? Don’t the plants look much nicer in front of the white background?)

Each little blue-mauve-green flower dart bursts open in turn, a bit like a Geranium seed-pod, until the flower spike is spent. But these darts don’t look much like angel’s tears, do they?

It turns out that the name comes from the nectar, which you can see in little drops here:


Unlike Bob Flowerdew with his Kniphofia‘s nectar, I don’t plan to drink this any time soon, as I’ve not been able to find out whether it’s toxic (or at least irritant). But it has led me to learn a bit more about the plant itself.

It turns out that it’s monocarpic, which I didn’t realise when I bought it. In theory that means that the plant dies off after flowering! At first I was a bit annoyed, as I’d only just bought it. Luckily, though, like other bromeliads Billbergia pups, each pup forming a rosette or “vase” of flowers that you water into. Only the particular “vase” that the flower spike has come out of, will die off along with the flower spike.

This plant already has at least a couple of other pups, including one that’s practically “mother-sized”. So when the flowered vase starts to look unwell, I’ll have a go at separating them all out!


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