Bromeliads are unusual plants from the get-go: some look like they should belong on another planet, and their care needs can be wildly different from the tropical leafy houseplants you’re used to caring for.
One of the most interesting-looking bromeliad species is Cryptanthus, also known as the Earth Star Bromeliad.
But it can be fussy when it comes to its growing conditions, and its care is not like most of the bromeliads you’re used to.
Interested in growing your own Earth Star Bromeliad? Here’s everything you need to know.
The Key To Cryptanthus Care
Cryptanthus looks more like a succulent than a traditional bromeliad, with its elongated, thick leaves and ruffled edges, forming a starry rosette.
It’s also unusual in that most bromeliads grow on the surface of other plants as epiphytes, but Cryptanthus bromeliads are terrestrial, so you’ll find them in the ground, which is where the common name Earth Star Bromeliad comes from.
The key to understanding what any plant needs is to look at how it grows in its native habitat.
Most Cryptanthus types hail from the rainforests of Brazil, specifically the forest floor.
If you can give this plant warm temperatures, the right soil, and the higher humidity this plant would get in its native environment, it will thrive.
Where To Grow Cryptanthus
Ideal Light Levels
As this plant species doesn’t get a lot of sunlight in its native habitat, you might assume that it doesn’t need a lot of light in your home.
But this isn’t the case. Cryptanthus plants need bright and indirect sunlight indoors, which gives the plant similar light levels to what it would get in its natural habitat.
The good news is that you don’t need a sunny windowsill, and it’s better if you don’t have this plant in sunlight, as direct sunlight can be too strong for it if it’s more than an hour or two.
Try a Northern-facing or even an Eastern-facing windowsill, making sure that you’re putting your Earth Star Bromeliad as close to the window as possible, and this will ensure the plant gets as much energy from the light as it can.
Temperature And Humidity
When it comes to temperature, the Earth Star Bromeliad needs stable temperatures between 60°F and 80°F (or 15°C to 26°C), which is fairly easy to achieve indoors, making it a good houseplant.
Keep this plant well out of the way of drafts or sources of heat, as this can damage your plant. You want to avoid fluctuating temperatures as much as possible, though it is less prone to temperature swings than other plants.
Earth Star Bromeliads do need higher levels of humidity, so consider putting this plant in a kitchen, or bathroom, investing in a humidifier, or making use of an enclosed environment such as a miniature greenhouse or terrarium.
Ideal Soil For Earth Star Bromeliads
Unlike most Bromeliads, Earth Star Bromeliads need compost, as they are terrestrial plants rather than epiphytes.
Avoid traditional houseplant compost, as this does not give the plant what it needs.
Earth Star Bromeliads need compost that’s high in acidity and can drain well but also holds onto a lot of moisture.
The best way to achieve this is to buy a bromeliad-specific compost, one designed for terrestrial bromeliads.
If you prefer, you could experiment with growing this plant in equal parts compost and horticultural sand, but the first option is less messy!
Consider Growing Cryptanthus In A Terrarium
Terrariums are a shortcut to easy care when it comes to keeping your Earth Star Bromeliad happy.
This plant requires high humidity and constantly damp compost, both of which you can achieve very easily by keeping this plant in a terrarium.
It also means you’ll have to check on this plant much less often than you would if you kept it on a windowsill, as the closed environment will mean it will need watering less often.
It’s still a good idea to air out your terrarium or miniature greenhouse at least once a week for an hour or two, as this will help keep things fresh, and there is less of a chance of mold developing in higher humidity.
When To Water Earth Star Bromeliads
Earth Star Bromeliads need to be damp at all times, though they should never sit in water.
One thing that may surprise you is that bromeliad plants can take very short periods of dry spells.
Similar to Urn Plants, Earth Star Bromeliads can be kept hydrated by watering the ‘cup’ or urn in the center of the plant at the base, replacing the water every week with distilled water or rainwater.
It’s worth noting that standing water can attract houseplant pests, however. Check your plant regularly, and scale back watering in fall and winter, though don’t allow the plant to dry out!
Should You Feed Cryptanthus Plants?
Yes. Earth Star Bromeliads need regular fertilizer to grow properly, and using a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half strength will do the trick.
Only fertilize your Earth Star Bromeliad during the growing season, around once a month or so.
A Note On Toxicity
It’s worth knowing that this plant is considered non-toxic to humans and pets. Still, it’s a good idea to keep this plant well out of reach to avoid any damage, as the unique appearance of the leaves attracts plenty of curiosity!
How To Propagate Cryptanthus Plants
It’s worth knowing that, as true of all Bromeliads, this plant will decline after flowering. Luckily, the Earth Star Bromeliad will produce plantlets at the base, provided that you’ve given the plant plenty of light, nutrients, and water.
This is the only way to propagate an Earth Star Bromeliad, and as it has a short lifespan, you don’t need to repot it, either.
Once the main plant blooms and produces plantlets at the base, keep an eye on the baby plants.
Keep caring for the plant as normal, and once the plantlets develop their urns at the center, they will survive on their own.
It’s worth knowing that the roots will grow as big as the leaves, so you may want to divide them into separate pots.
It’s important not to let the plantlets dry out completely at any point, as this will lead to a quick death.
The Earth Star Bromeliad is a fantastic plant that’s not that difficult to care for, once you know what it needs. It can be somewhat tricky though if your home is on the cooler and drier side, so you may want to keep this plant in a terrarium to make the care much easier.