Cryptanthus Earth Stars

These little plants (Cryptanthus species) are the stars of the Bromeliaceae family. Commonly known as Earth Stars, their name truly describes the shape. With an array of wavy striped leaf colours ranging from bright green, pink and fire red, they are the exotic shade champions, hailing from Brazil.

Cryptanthus grow in a flattened rosette and can get quite wide if planted outdoors in ideal conditions, reaching around 60cm. It may take several years for the plants to flower and then they are barely noticeable, but after flowering they will begin to die off. This is not really a problem if you propagate the pups they produce between the leaves of the mother plants.

They will happily grow in a terrarium or in the cavities of driftwood, making them great display plants, adding a tropical feel to your space.

Best Care

  • Keep them in a brightly lit area in the home or on the stoep and avoid direct sunlight on the leaves.
  • Mist regularly on hot days and keep the soil moist. Reduce watering in winter. When watering, try and water the soil and not the leaves where water droplets can get trapped and cause fungal diseases.
  • Feed once a month with a water-soluble plant food.
  • Propagate from the pups when they are big enough and plant in fresh soil with a mix of equal parts potting soil and leaf mould or coco peat. The soil must be well draining.


Although these little plants are not prone to pests and diseases, they will suffer root rot and fungal diseases if overwatered. Cut off any damaged leaves and change the watering schedule.

Tip: Leave the pups on the mother plants and only remove when you are ready to plant them in fresh soil.

READ MORE: Also in the Bromeliaceae family, take a look at these beauties!

Earth Stars Display

Cryptanthus are perfect little colourful stars to add to a piece of driftwood for an indoor display with tropical flair.

What You Need For The Display:

Cryptanthus varieties of your choice
• Piece of driftwood with large cavities
• Fine orchid growing medium
• Moss or decorative bark as decoration
• Chopstick or thin bamboo stick
• Small clean paintbrush

How To Do the display:

  1. Scoop the orchid growing medium into the cavities. 
  2. Use a chopstick to create a little cavity in the soil and plant each Earth Star, firming down the soil around it.
  3. Decorate with moss or bark chips. This will also help retain the moisture in the soil.
  4. Dust off unwanted soil and mist well.
  5. Place in a shaded position.
The Gardener