Photo by Tara Heibel
Part plant, part sea creature, part zombie?? The cryptanthus is the creepiest beauty in the genus of the plant family Bromeliaceae with the majority originating from tropical Central and South America. The Genus Cryptanthus is derived from the Greek meaning 'hidden flower.' Nothing having to do with an actual crypt but I digress.
There are many types of cryptanthus out there differentiating themselves by their colorations and banding that they display. They feature a tight leaf structure that is capable of holding water in a central pool. Leaves are strap-like, toothed, and somewhat succulent. They form a flat star shape with 5-20 leaves generally 4-24" across. Maybe in light of Halloween quickly approaching I am particularly fascinated with 'Black Mystic' which features banded coloring of silver-gray and deep black to chocolate brown.
Commonly called Earth Stars, perhaps more accurately, due to their shape. They are naturally found in shaded, humid rocky slopes so as a houseplant think about where it is grown naturally when contemplating the care of this plant. Keep generally moist but never over-watered. Can be fine with brief dryness but will suffer over an extended period of time. They prefer a soil mix that can retain moisture for a short period of time and will dry out sufficiently . Regular potting soil amended with a bit of peat moss is its optimum home. They have shallow roots and do well in a broad container with repotting every 2-3 years in the spring. They don't like getting too cold so avoid temperatures below 60 degrees. Reproduce by basal offsets which are often called 'babies' or 'pups'. The pups can be separated or just allowed to take over a parent plant, it's a natural process, just let its do its thing.
When you think about displaying your cryptanthus make sure that it is viewable from above since that is where most of its beauty can be enjoyed. Take advantage of a slightly shallow and broad container so that it does not overwhelm the cryptanthus. Trick or Treat? - definitely treat.