Cryptanthus Care Guide – Growing Earth Star Plants

Red-Green Earth Star Plants
(Image credit: ivansmuk)

The Earth Star bromeliad is an unusual tropical houseplant, of the genus Cryptanthus. You’ve likely seen a few types during your years as a gardener and plant purchaser. There are more than 1200 types of the Earth Star plant, widely varying in colors. 

Some sources say there are as many as 3000 varieties of bromeliads in general, with new ones discovered regularly. Not all are readily available, but many of the favorite types can be found for online ordering.

Earth Star Info

The Cryptanthus Earth Star is commonly referred to as the Starfish plant. Foliage of these plants is usually strap-like and brilliantly colored, often with lateral stripes in bright pink to red and various greens. Colors may also be mottled, spotted, solid color or many other patterns. Foliage grows in a rosette form.

Even with these eye-catching leaves, sources say it is the hidden blooms for which they’re usually grown. Flowers are nestled among the colorful foliage, snuggled in tight atop the rosette. Cryptanthus Earth Star translates to hidden flower.

This type of bromeliad is monocarpic, as are many others. This means the plant flowers once and then dies. As with other monocarps, bromeliads produce several offsets before they die, allowing you to always have a living bromeliad. Remove the offsets (babies) when roots develop and plant them into soil.

The Starfish Plant 

Bromeliads of this genus are different from others in that they’re terrestrial, meaning they grow in rich, moist soil. Other bromeliads grow as epiphytes, on trees, using their small root system as an anchor. 

Native to the mountains and lowlands of southeastern Brazil, around 40 species produce these interesting types there. Often, they’re found growing on the floor of the rainforest. Replicate these conditions as much as possible at your home.

Cryptanthus Care

When growing Earth Star, remember it has a more substantial root system than other bromeliads. 

Grow them in pots that are wider than their depth to offer plenty of room. Keep the soil slightly moist. Differentiate between moist and wet soil. If you must, allow soil to dry out between watering’s to avoid wet soil. Plastic pots hold moisture more readily than terra cotta. 

Soil should be well-draining, while holding moisture to a slight degree. You may purchase soil especially for bromeliads or make your own using coarse sand, peat and perlite. You may fertilize this bromeliad with a weak houseplant mixture, ¼ strength every time you water. When transplanting offsets, work in a granular, time released fertilizer.

Lighting for each Cryptanthus variety differs, but most like a dappled sun area with diffused sunlight coming through for much of the day. Provide humidity to these plants by using a pebble tray, a humidifier, or by including it in a grouping of other plants.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.