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Cryptanthus bromelioides 'Tricolor'
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)
Cryptanthus bromelioides 'Tricolor'



Origin and description

Cryptanthus are small plants, native to Brazil, in the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae). These terrestrial bromeliads live on organic litter that accumulates on tree stumps and between rocks. They are grown for their star-shaped rosette of brightly coloured, straight, toothed leaves. Cryptanthus bivittatus has pink-striped green leaves. The small, inconspicuous, white flowers appear on mature plants, which bloom only once, because the rosette of leaves gradually declines afterward and is replaced by offsets growing at the base of the plant. These plants adapt well to a terrarium.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Cryptanthus bivittatus 'Starlite' has leaves with green edges and bright pink centres. Cryptanthus bivittatus 'Pink Starlite' has leaves with bright pink edges and green centres. Cryptanthus bromelioides 'It' is larger and taller, with numerous green leaves with bright pink centres. It is harder to grow. Cryptanthus zonatus 'Zebrinus' has brown-green leaves with green, silver and brown cross-banding.


Careful! The toothed leaves of some species can cause injuries. As a precaution, keep this plant out of the reach of children.

Common name

Cryptanthus / Earth star

Latin name (genus)

Cryptanthus bivittatus

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Bromeliaceae

Growing conditions

While these plants tolerate indirect light, they should be given bright light in summer and direct sunlight in winter to keep their leaves colourful. A south-west facing window is best. They like warm, humid conditions. The ideal temperature is between 18 and 24ºC, never below 15°C. Keep the air humid.

Easy to grow?

Cryptanthus is relatively easy to grow. It adapts well to a variety of conditions, but is sensitive to over-watering.

Watering and fertilizer

Water sparingly, just barely wetting the soil mixture, and allow it to dry out between waterings. Fertilize three or four times per year during the growing period with balanced indoor plant food or all-purpose fertilizer like 20-20-20, at half strength.

Pruning and maintenance

Cryptanthus does not require any special care other than pruning dry leaf tips and repotting offsets when they form.


Cryptanthus does not need to be repotted very often, since its roots grow very slowly and serve primarily as support. When it becomes potbound or offsets have formed, repot it into very porous, well-drained potting soil. When grown in a container, it likes a potting mixture containing two-thirds potting soil for seedlings and one-third perlite. It can also be planted in a mixture of long sphagnum moss and perlite.


See also

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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