Cold Hardy Bromeliads: Billbergia

If you're looking for a tough bromeliad that can handle freezes, frost, and flood (yes flood), one of the cold tolerant billbergia hybrids may be just the ticket for a "not so tropical garden".  Billbergia pyramidalis, the most commonly grown billbergia in my area is so easy that its common name is "foolproof plant"!

There are so many hybrids that even the experts have a hard time telling them apart!  The one pictured below was found in an old abandoned lot in the sand and rescued before everything was demolished for a new house.  It has been left in a soggy flooded window box, subjected to lawnmowers, record cold, a totally epiphytic lifestyle and even the floods of the rainy season.  When I pruned off some vases that had already flowered, I simply threw them in the swamp last spring.  Just the other day I found a pretty healthy pup growing out of the muck from the old plant! 

This is one of the many hybrids that shows a lot of color and variation in bright sun.  Since the flowers are so short lived, I think the foliage is my favorite part.  These first two photos feature a clump growing on a sweet bay magnolia against the swamp behind the garden.

Below is the flowering procession of a similar hybrid that I found in an ancient clump of thousands in Middleburg.  The flowering takes only a couple of weeks, but I know I'll always have lots of pups in no time.  From what I can tell this one is "birdsong".  Any ideas?

Of course there are many other varieties to choose from such as this billbergia pyramidalis "striata", with variegated leaves and even more impressive flowers.  The species is actually a topic for debate, but its usually categorized as a pyramidalis. 

And here you can see the drastically different billbergia pyramidalis aka foolproof plant.  Now do you see why they couldn't possibly be the same species?

Of course the best known billbergia to temperate gardeners is billbergia nutans, also known as queen's tears or friendship plant.  It has dark green, glossy foliage that graceful and arching, often with a bit of waviness to it.  The coolest part (to me at least) is it's cold hardiness, reportedly hardy in zone 8a with temps in the low teens!  I would love to see these growing in a tree in temperate South Carolina.

You can see many of these at kanapaha botanical gardens in Gainesville (zone 8b) and at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Of course not all billbergias are cold hardy, but then again most books will tell you that all of the aforementioned bromeliads aren't cold hardy either.    Your best bet is to experiment and if you find one that works for you, stick with it!  I'll include posts on other cold hardy bromeliads in the future.


  1. Ooh, I like those variegated billbergias...'birdsong' and striata. Very nice! I'm used to seeing the solid green in this genus, but I too am a big fan of variegation on any broms. It's so cool to see broms climbing a tree!

  2. Apparently there are some varieties hardy to zone 8b! I love bromeliads but trying them in Vancouver may be pushing it...

    1. please try! I would love to hear if it works out.

  3. Nice pictures.I like cute flowers.

  4. Hello RG, I think I have this exact same bromeliad - the flower is hot pink and lime green, but it only lasted a couple of days. I got a bunch of them from my neighbour, and they have put out lots of pups. Gosh I thought I was being clever, and now you tell me they are just very easy to grow!

  5. Hi Steve
    My father used grow Billbergia nutans, in Canberra (Australia). Temps regularly dropped to -8 degrees Celsius (approx 17.5 F).
    Poor thing was in a concrete pot, at the back door, and never got any special attention, and it flowered regularly.
    Tough plants all right.
    Always made me smile when I saw it in flower.

  6. I really like that variegated bilbergia. I'm going to have to try putting some of my broms up in the trees. I like the way yours look. Of the different broms I have, the aechmeas were the only ones damaged by the cold. Even they are putting out new pups but the mama plants didn't make it.

  7. You always have some cool broms to show! I noticed that broms bloomings often have blue and pink combination, blue bracts with pink flower, or pink bracts with blue flowers. Wondering why.... You are the expert, do you know why?

  8. The “Striata” bromeliad is fantastic; I must have one.

  9. This plant look so beautiful.
    Soon I might just venture into bromeliad...

  10. The blooms look as wonderful as the plant. After seeing these pictures, I can't wait for mine to blossom. Enjoyed this post very much. Thanks rainforestgardener :-D

  11. Floridagirl: I mounted them in the tree myself... I'm definitely mounting more as I decide which are the toughest!

    Aerelonian: I've heard of hobbyists growing them in Vancouver, and many enthusiasts in England grow them. Click the link on my page to see the cold hardy types.

    AfricanAussie: Hey, some supposedly easy broms die on me too, so maybe its just luck.

    Denis: Glad you got to see them in those conditions! They are very tough.

    NanaK: What type of Aechmeas were they? SOme of my hardiest are also aechmeas...

    Ami: I'm not an expert! Those colors possibly just appeal to specific pollinators well. There are lots of other color combos too but I think blue and pink appeal to people a lot too.

    Thanks Everyone for the kind comments!

  12. How many varieties of Billbergias there in the world?


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!