These pineapple relatives are native to Brazil and other parts of the tropics, where they grow as epiphytes on trees. Basal rosettes of stiff, spiny-toothed evergreen leaves produce drooping clusters of showy bracts and tubular flowers. Usually grown in contain- ers for display indoors or on patios. In south Florida, however, they are often planted under trees as an easy ground cover, used in borders, or grown on limbs of trees or bark slabs, with roots wrapped in sphagnum moss and leaf mold. They make excellent cut flowers. Specialists in bromeliads list dozens of selections.
B. nutans. QUEEN'S TEARS. Most commonly grown. Narrow (12-in.-wide), spiny, green leaves to 112 ft. long. Rosy red bracts in 6- to 12-in. spikes; drooping flowers with green petals edged deep blue. Vigorous. Makes offsets freely; easy to grow and propagate.
B. pyramidalis. Leaves to 3 ft. long, 212 in. wide, with spiny-toothed margins. Dense flower spikes to 4 in. long; bright red bracts, red petals tipped in violet.
B. sanderiana. Leathery, spiny-toothed, white-dotted leaves grow to 1 ft. long, 212 in. wide. Produces loose, nodding, 10-in.-long flower clusters with rose-colored bracts, blue-tipped sepals, and blue petals that are yellowish green at the base.
Need regular moisture during active growth in warm weather; reduce water as weather cools and growth slows. Plants usually hold water in the funnel-like center of the leaf rosette, which acts as a reservoir. Grow in well-drained soil; or pot in a light, porous mixture of sand, ground bark, and leaf mold. Give houseplants warmth and lots of light; mist foliage frequently. To get more plants, cut off suckers from base of plant and pot them up.