Plant Description

Billbergia vittata

Billbergia species, likely to be B. vittata, in bloom

This is a very easily grown member of the Bromeliaceae family of plants; unfortunately, I am not too sure of its correct name as it was one handed on to me from my mother's garden and had been given to her by a friend many years before. There are many hybrid forms of the species so it is hard to be totally sure! Billbergia on the whole prefer a shaded site. Their leaves are adapted to extracting water and food for the plant, and are formed into a vase shape with a central cup that holds water, organic debris and insects. The roots of the plant are mainly to provide anchorage, so they do not need a rich soil. Mass planted under trees, they can form an excellent groundcover and associate well with other warm-climate foliage plants for shade, such as ferns and aroids. Being epiphytic, these bromeliads can grow in the forks of trees or on tree ferns.

This bromeliad has relatively large leaves with silver banding, that can take on purple hues when grown in full sun. I grow one clump nearby a silver birch tree, the bark of which nicely echoes the bromeliad foliage. The inflorescence has a pendulous form and has bright pink bracts and purple flowers. It generally blooms in late summer, but flowers can also appear sporadically through the year.They are not long lasting but are striking whilst they are there, and a large clump can be quite striking in bloom.

In general, these plants need minimal care - an occasional watering in very dry times and some slow-release fertiliser applied around the base of the plants in spring. If you have time, foliar feeding with a diluted liquid fertiliser is beneficial every so often. If grown in trees, a bit more watering and foliar feeding will be required. As with most bromeliads, however, don't overwater them as this can lead to rotting of the roots. There are basically no pests that attack bromeliads. Remove excess leaf litter from the central 'vase' occasionally - long tongs can be used! Propagation is by dividing off the young 'pups' of the plants in spring or autumn and potting these on in a shady spot until they develop a root system.


Billbergia vittata
Out now in my Sydney garden.
Flowers from February to May.
Plant Family: Bromeliaceae

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