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Cryptanthus is a group of houseplants that have a peculiar appearance. They possess stiff, slightly coarse leaves. Owing to their shape, they are also known as Earth Stars. They are naturally found in Brazilian rainforests.
These plants are very easy to take care of, even though they have rather specific care requirements.
These are strictly indoor plants (if the climate outdoors isn't very moderate). They do best in room temperature. Extreme temperatures can ruin the plants.
They can be propagated by planting the clones that grow on the mother plant after the bloom.
They should be mulched in winter for protection, and if the temperatures drop below freezing point, the leaves are expected to get damaged.
Care should be taken to avoid overwatering them. If water is allowed to stand in the container for too long, rotting of the roots may take place, subsequently destroying the whole plant.
There is no specific watering schedule. They can be watered as the soil starts getting dry. Keeping a humidity tray with some pebbles and a layer of water can help the plant soak up the water during the course of the day.
Soil balance influences the growth of these plants heavily. Soils that can maintain high moisture levels are perfect for Cryptanthus plants. But they shouldn't be left to stand in water for long.
Regular potting soil, with high amounts of organic content, like Sphagnum moss, should help the plants grow properly. Mixing some sand, peat or perlite to moderate the draining capacity is also a good idea.
Direct sunlight is not an essential requirement for these plants. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause bleaching or burn damage. A spot with a lot of indirect sunlight would be perfect for these plants.
Cryptanthus only flowers once during their lifetime. These plants usually die after they finish blooming. They bear small, delicate flowers near their leaves.
These have bold reddish-purple stripes running along the leaves, hence earning the name Red star.
They require fertilizers especially, during the growing season. Any diluted, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 shall help them grow well. Feeding once a week or along with watering is a good enough frequency to start with.
Since Cryptanthus plants ideally grow in humidity and many species are lower growing, they are perfect for terrariums. They are also famous as air purifiers.
As they are adapted to rainforest climates, high humid conditions are preferred. Although this is the case, they are also known to survive in less humid and temperate conditions. Keeping them in a relatively moist environment can prove to be beneficial.
Since Cryptanthus root systems can grow quite large, a small container would be a bad idea. Always choose a relatively wider planter to accommodate these plants. Also, choose a pot with a proper drainage hole, so that water does not stagnate.
A five or six-inch pot should provide enough space for the plants to grow. Using plastic pots will be the best option to maintain moisture.
Cryptanthus don't experience a lot of pest problems, but they are susceptible to mealy bugs and scale.
Mealybugs resemble small cottony masses, which can be controlled by swabbing with rubbing alcohol or through manual removal. Ladybugs and parasitic wasps can help control such infestations while outdoors. If manual removal doesn't help, insecticides are the next best option.