Virtues: Earth stars, a type of bromeliad, are easy-to-grow houseplants with few demands. With their range of colors, compact habit and slow growth, they are the perfect botanical element to add to any interior. With their color and shape, they’re fun to mix into December's holiday decor and centerpieces.
Common name: Earth star bromeliad
Botanical name: Cryptanthus bivittatus and cultivars
Exposure: Bright but indirect light
Season: All year, for foliage
Foliage: The earth star gets its common name from its overall shape. It grows as a rosette of stiff, pointed, overlapping leaves. These can range in color through reds and pinks to various shades of green, with or without white or colorful stripes.
Habit: Exact size can vary by species, but earth stars typically grow three to six inches tall and wide. While many bromeliads lack a complex root system, this type develops strong roots that function just like those of most familiar garden or indoor plants.
Origins: Cryptanthus species come from the rain forests of Brazil, where they inhabit the forest floor.
How to grow earth star bromeliads: Pot these plants as you would most other tropical houseplants, using a fertile, moisture-retentive potting mix. Bromeliads enjoy humid conditions. An easy way to increase humidity around houseplants is to cluster a bunch together.
Place an earth star where it will receive bright light, but not direct sun, which could scorch the leaves. Keep in mind that in nature it grows on the floor of the rain forest.
These plants cannot withstand cold temperatures. They are used as a houseplant in many regions, but they can be grown year-round in the garden in frost-free areas. Where winters are cold they can be kept inside and then moved to a shaded spot in the garden for the summer.
Image credit: smtng else/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0