Cryptanthus | Earth Star Bromeliad care & info

Cryptanthus Bromeliads are a rather funky looking houseplant with stiff, slightly coarse leaves. Also known as Earth star due to its interesting shape, the species is available in countless colorful and less colorful varieties. As an added bonus, they are not too difficult to care for at all when provided with the right conditions!

Keep reading to find out how to care for and grow Earth stars in your own home.

Name(s) (common, scientific) Earth star Bromeliad, Cryptanthus sp.
Difficulty level Moderate
Recommended lighting Indirect light
Water Keep moist
Soil type Moisture retaining

Cryptanthus habitat

Unlike most other Bromeliad types, these Earth stars (as the name suggests) are not epiphytic but terrestrial, meaning they grow in soil instead of attached to trees.

There are over 80 species of Cryptanthus, although not all of them are grown as houseplants. The most popular one for indoor growing looks to be Cryptanthus bivittatus. This one, as well as most other members of the genus, are naturally found on rainforest floors in Brazil. The Atlantic Rainforest in particular is home to a huge variety of these Bromeliads.

Pink Earth star Bromeliad (Cryptanthus bivittatus) with pups | Full Cryptanthus care guide

Cryptanthus light & temperature

Light

Because Earth stars naturally occur on rainforest floors, they will appreciate similar conditions in your home. Forest floors don’t naturally receive a lot of sunlight, as most of it is blocked out by larger trees, so strong direct sun is not needed to keep your Cryptanthus happy.

This doesn’t mean this is a “low-light” or “no light” plant either, though. In fact, many varieties will lose their beautiful coloration if light is lacking! This especially applies to Cryptanthus bivittatus, which can turn from a lovely pink to a dull green, so keep this species close to a window.

Temperature

Unless you live in a very moderate climate, Earth stars are strictly indoor plants for most of the year, as they do best at room temperature.

You can grow yours in a shaded spot outdoors during the summer months, but be sure to avoid any extremes.

Green Cryptanthus Bromeliad houseplant.

Planting Cryptanthus

Planting

As discussed above, Cryptanthus Bromeliads will thrive in humid environments reminiscent of their natural rainforest habitat. This thirst for humidity makes them the perfect choice for a plant terrarium. This can mean anything from an actual terrarium to a cookie jar, as long as it’s able to keep moisture inside without being completely closed off.

If you don’t want to grow your plant in a terrarium, you can also opt for any type of normal planter. Just avoid very small containers: Cryptanthus root systems can grow quite large, so a relatively wide planter is recommended. Make sure there’s a drainage hole in the bottom and you’re good to go!

Soil

When it comes to soil, it’s all about balance. Like many rainforest plants, Earth stars love soil that can maintain high moisture levels but don’t like standing in water all the time. Thus, you’ll need a mix that has both a water-retaining element to make sure it doesn’t dry out, as well as a gritty element to make sure the excess drains.

A regular potting soil with some Sphagnum moss or coco coir should work well. For drainage, add a handful of perlite or orchid bark.

Watering & humidity for Cryptanthus

Watering

As should probably be clear by now, Earth star Bromeliads prefer to be kept relatively moist. However, care should still be taken to avoid overwatering them. These plants do rot when water is allowed to stand in the container for too long, which can quickly result in fatalities!

There is no set watering schedule. Just water your Cryptanthus when you notice the soil starting to dry out.

If you’re using a regular pot with a drainage hole, you can help keep your Earth star’s moisture level up by placing it on a humidity tray with some pebbles and a layer of water. This allows the plant to slowly soak up the water during the course of the day.

Humidity

Unsurprisingly, a tropical water lover like this one will also really appreciate relatively high air humidity levels. If your home is on the dry side, it can start to suffer.

Provide your Cryptanthus with the humidity it craves by placing it in a more humid area in your home (like the kitchen or bathroom), running a humidifier, grouping houseplants together or by growing it in a plant terrarium as described in the section on potting.

Bright pink and green Earth Star Bromeliad houseplant (Cryptanthus sp.)
© hilmawan nurhatmadi on Shutterstock.

Fertilizing Cryptanthus

During the growing season, Earth stars will definitely appreciate some fertilizer. Any diluted, balanced houseplant fertilizer should work well. Feeding every two to four weeks while you water is a good place to start.

Avoid fertilizing plants during winter or whenever they’re not growing well.

Propagating Cryptanthus

If you notice your Earth star(s) blooming, they will unfortunately die soon. That’s how Bromeliads work: almost all species, including this one, are monocarpic. They only flower once and then perish.

No need to worry. After the plant has finished blooming, you should soon see small pups sprouting from the soil. Once these clones of the mother plant have some leaves of their own, you can remove and replant them.

This way you’ll never run out of Earth stars even when the original specimen dies off. For more information about propagating Cryptanthus and other Bromeliads, have a look at the guide to Bromeliad propagation.

Buying Cryptanthus

You should be able to find Earth stars in most normal garden and plant stores, though they might be a little difficult to spot because of the sheer amount of differently colored and shaped types available.

You can also buy Earth stars online!

Is Cryptanthus toxic to cats and dogs?

The ASPCA lists Cryptanthus as non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Yay!

Zebra striped Earth Star Bromeliad (Cryptanthus)
© Satab Gnana on Shutterstock.

If you have any more questions about Cryptanthus/Earth star Bromeliad care or want to share your own experiences with this interesting oddity, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Cover photo: © hilmawan nurhatmadi on Shutterstock.


10 thoughts on “Cryptanthus | Earth Star Bromeliad care & info”

  1. I ordered one online and came with what looks like a mold in the Center of the plant.
    what can I do for this plant?

    Reply
    • Oh no, that’s such a shame if it’s really mold! Have you tried wiping it away to see if it’s just a layer on top of the leaves or if it’s really in there? If it’s the latter, I don’t think there’s much you can do to be honest.

      If you’re not sure whether it’s actually mold, you’re always welcome to join the Houseplant Central Facebook group and post a picture so me and a bunch of other plant enthusiasts can have a look for you.

      Reply
  2. Hi there, you mentioned that after an earth star blooms it will die. I bought one that was blooming & i is now dying, but there is a small baby, I think, blooming from then center of the rosette, growing from under the bloom & coming out next to it. When or if should I remove this & how should I go about it? I’m so nervous to do anything! I don’t want to kill it.

    Reply
    • Hey! You don’t have to remove it ever, really, that’s what would happen in nature. But since it’s probably turning into a bit of an ugly display with mom dying, you can just gently twist it off (if it is not rooted) or pry it out of the soil (if it is). If it’s the former then you could root it in a shot glass with water or just put it directly into its own little container and keep it lightly moist so it can root. If it’s the latter then you can just pot it right up into its own planter 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
  3. hi, i just read this article and i needed some tips on how to save my cryptanthus. I didn’t know my plant was a cryptanthus until recently. so i’ve been caring for it in a wrong way. some of the leaves are dryed up and turning brown. i live in the philippines so it is tropical here. the plant i have is on a very loose soil in a 4inch pot. any tips on how to save it? hope you can get back to me soon.

    Reply
    • Hey! As long as you start following the instructions in this article I think your plant should be able to recover. If only some of the leaves are crisping up then saving it shouldn’t be much of a problem 🙂

      Reply
  4. I have heard that some “Crypts” can also be grown in an aquarium, can these? Or are those specialized “Crypts” for the aquarium?

    Reply
    • The “Crypts” used in the aquarium hobby are not from the genus Cryptanthus, they’re Cryptocoryne! So no, not the same plant. Aquarium Crypts are a great easy plant, though, I’ve got a care guide here. 🙂

      Reply

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