Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow and Care for Queen’s Tears

updated Jun 6, 2020
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queen's tears

The queen’s tears plant (Billbergia nutans) looks exactly as you think it would—if all queens cried tears of beautiful, delicate rainbows. This truly stunning pink-tinged plant has also garnered the name the “friendship plant” because of the ease at which it shoots off new blooms throughout the year, making it a gift that keeps on giving.

About the queen’s tears plant

The queen’s tears bromeliad originally hails from Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. It’s a bromeliad that can be traced back to the pineapple family. Its pink stems boast clusters of tear-like blooms in pink, blue, and green, giving it a colorful, yet delicate look that is unique to this type of plant (cue the rainbow tears).

“The soft gray-green foliage has small spines on their edges and will make large vigorous clumps in a short time,” says Marc Hachadourian, Director of Glasshouse Horticulture and Senior Curator of Orchids at the New York Botanical Garden. The contrast of the gray-green foliage with the pink stems and multi-colored flowers make this plant extraordinary.

Bromeliads are generally pet-friendly, although it’s never a good idea to allow your furry ones to chew on your plants. You can always check ASPCA for plant toxicity information for your specific variety, as well as signs and symptoms that your animal may have ingested a plant.

Credit: Jana Milin/Shutterstock

How to care for the queen’s tears plant

“Like many bromeliads, it prefers bright light and sunny conditions to grow and bloom well,” says Hachadourian. They would be great near a window or another light-filled spot in your home, just make sure they are not in the way of direct sunlight. 

For its soil, queen’s tears plants enjoy a mix of one part gardening soil to two parts perlite. “The plants prefer to be kept pot bound with even moisture, and moderate fertilizer throughout the year,” adds Hachadourian.

Since these are tropical plants, they do appreciate some humidity. For this reason, queen’s tears love a good misting; they also have pretty shallow roots and can absorb water through their flowers, so don’t be shy to give yours a spray.

Credit: Jana Milin/Shutterstock

Potential problems with queen’s tears plants

If their leaves start to turn brown, the air may be too dry for them, so they might need to be supplemented with a humidifier or extra misting. Queen’s tears plants usually only thrive for about three years, so propagate them while you can.

How to propagate queen’s tears

You’ll want to try your hand at propagating queen’s tears after the flowering has ended. Carefully cut away a new shoot as close to the base of the plant as possible, and place it in potting soil. It should take root in a few weeks.

Perhaps after successful propagation, you can share your new queen’s tears bromeliad with someone special, keeping the friendship plant tradition alive and blooming.