Friday, November 7, 2014

Stars on Earth

Cryptanthus bivittatus
Cryptanthus or earth stars are having a resurgence in popularity. These bromeliads are related to pineapples and Tillandsias or air plants. Unlike the Tillandsias (I talk more about those here) which are epiphytes, Cryptanthus are terrestrial bromeliads, meaning they grow on the ground. They are native to Brazil, growing on the rain forest floor. They receive diffused sunlight and would like bright indirect sunlight in your home. Too much light will cause their leaves to bleach, but too little light will make the leaves less colorful. These rosette-forming plants need to grow in a well drained soil. Keep them moist, but not sitting in water. They also have shallow root systems, so grow them in containers that are wider than they are deep. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer at 1/4 strength every time you water from March-September or while the plant is actively growing. (I always say that, as here in Michigan March-September is the active growing season for houseplants. That may or may not be true where you live.)
Cryptanthus 'Elaine' leaf up close

Cryptanthus 'Elaine'
Cryptanthus bivittatus

The popularity of these plants comes from their versatility. On the right, they are being used in wall planters. I saw these at a trade show last summer.

Can you see why they are called earth stars?  They do look like stars growing on the ground.


Above, a small Cryptanthus is planted in a hanging shell. Below, it is a focal point in a terrarium setting. As these plants really love the extra humidity that a terrarium affords, they are perfect candidates for them.


The name Cryptanthus comes from the Greek words, krypto meaning to hide, and anthos, a flower, referring to the flowers  being concealed in the center of the plant. As you can see in the picture below, the flower isn't really hidden, but just "tucked in". 

Cryptanthus 'Ruby'


As you can see in the picture above, there are many varieties of Cryptanthus. These easy, versatile, beautiful plants are a bromeliad that you need to add to your collection!

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