Cryptanthus are easy to grow and make attractive houseplants. Also called the Earth Star plant, for its white star-shaped blooms, these members of the bromeliad family are native to the forests of Brazil. There is one striking difference between Cryptanthus Earth Star and their bromeliad brethren. The Earth Star plant likes to sink its roots into soil while many bromeliads prefer growing on trees, rocks, and cliff faces.
How to Grow Cryptanthus
Cryptanthus plants prefer a well-draining, but moist growing medium. A rich, organic soil works well for most varieties, but gardeners can also use a mix of sand, peat, and perlite. Most varieties remain small and only require a 4- to 6-inch (10-15 cm.) pot. Planter size for larger types of Cryptanthus bromeliads can be determined by matching foliage size to pot width.
Place your potted Earth Star where it can receive levels of light and humidity similar to its native environment on the Brazilian rainforest floor – bright but not direct. They prefer temps around 60 to 85 degrees F. (15-30 C.). A bright spot in the bathroom or kitchen works well for most varieties. Although these bromeliads are tolerant of dry conditions, it's best to keep the soil evenly moist.
Few problems plague Cryptanthus plants. They are susceptible to root and crown rot issues, especially when kept too wet. Scale, mealybugs, and spider mite populations can quickly escalate on indoor plants due to lack of natural predators. Small numbers can be picked off by hand. Care should be used when applying insecticidal soaps or chemical pesticides on bromeliads.
Propagating Cryptanthus Earth Star
During its lifespan, the Earth Star plant will only flower once. The flowers are sunken in the center of the leaf rosettes and are easily overlooked. Cryptanthus bromeliads can be grown from seed but are more easily propagated from off-set shoots called “pups.”
These small clones of the parent plant can be detached and gently pressed into a potting soil mix. It's best to wait until the pups have developed roots before removing. After planting, be sure to keep the pups moist as their root systems develop fully.
With over 1,200 varieties of Cryptanthus bromeliads, it's easy to find beautiful specimens for use as houseplants and in terrariums. Many varieties have colorful leaf striping, but others can have crossbanding, spotted, or solid colored foliage. Variegated colors can range from bright reds to silver. The leaves grow in a rosette and often have wavy edges and small teeth.
When looking for Earth Star plants to cultivate, consider these attractive varieties:
- Black Mystic – Dark greenish black leaves with cream colored banding
- Monty B – Reddish coloration in the center of the leaf rosette with dark green leaf tips
- Pink Star Earth Star – Striped leaves with pink edges and two-toned green centers
- Rainbow Star – Dark green leaves with bright pink edges and zigzag cream banding
- Red Star Earth Star – Green and red striped leaves
- Tricolor – Striped leaves with alternating colors of cream, light green, and pink
- Zebrinus – Zigzag cream colored bands on dark green leaves
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Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.
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