Cryptanthus bivittatus (Earth Star, Starfish Plant)
Their unique star-like shape that resembles a starfish and the fabulous stripy colors of their variegated foliage fascinated and captivated us so that morning 3 years ago and still does! Looking so adoringly cute and pretty as they waited to be adopted, it was an instant attraction both ways as our hearts warm towards this impressive pair. Cost us almost nothing for these jewels, just RM3.00 and dirt cheap!
To date, they have never flowered but had rewarded us with 2 pups since. Hooray, we now have 4 plants! :D
You’re sure to fall in love with this stunning beauty that grows easily and is relatively fuss-free.
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name: Cryptanthus bivittatus
- Common Name: Earth Star, Starfish Plant
- Family name: Bromeliaceae
- Etymology: The genus name, Cryptanthus, is derived from the Latin word, ‘krypte’, meaning ‘hidden’ and the Greek word ‘anthos’, meaning ‘flowers’.
- Origin: Native to Brazil
- Plant type: Ornamental bromeliad that is popularly grown for its striking foliage.
- Features: Cryptanthus bivittatus is one of the most popularly grown species of the genus Cryptanthus that has over 50 species and more than 400 cultivars and hybrids as listed by the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies. C. bivittatus is a terrestrial bromeliad that is low-spreading and slow-growing, reaching 6 inches (15 cm) in height. A smaller and petite species of the genus Cryptanthus with beautiful variegated leaves that are spirally-arranged in a flattish rosette that ranges from 6-12 inches (15-30cm) in diameter.
The rosette formed by the colorful slender leaves with pointed tips, takes on a star-like shape that resembles a fallen star or starfish, hence attributing to its common names, Earth Star and Starfish Plant.
An evergreen perennial that bears stiff and strong leaves which are elongated and lanceolate in shape, with undulated and serrated margins and bending backwards at the tips.The leaves measure between 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) long.
They are attractively variegated with longitudinal stripes in a combination of 2 or more colors, ranging from various tones of pink, red to crimson or maroon, white to cream and light green to dark olive-green.
That too, color changes according to the intensity of light the plant receives during growth, vibrant in strong light and dull in shade or low light. Leaves undersides are colored light ash-grey.
A mature plant will produce a cluster of tiny 3-petaled flowers in white, which is nestled in the center of the rosette. Simply beautiful and showy against the coloured foliage.
It will also produce offsets or pups (baby plants) readily from the leaf axils or from the base of the of the parent plant, to continue its generation and increase your collection.
- Culture (Care): Cryptanthus bivittatus grows easily with minimum care. Given the right conditions, it will reward you handsomely with its stunning variegated foliage in fabulous colors.
Light: Bright light indoors or full sun outdoors for best foliage color. However, extreme sunlight that causes bleaching or sunburn should be avoided and a filtered sunny location is much preferred. It tolerates low to medium light or shade, but colors will be less vibrant, dull or change altogether.
Moisture: Medium water requirement and moderately drought tolerant. It loves humid conditions.
Soil: Any kind of loose and porous potting medium, such as soil mixture of peat, sand and perlite that can hold moisture yet well-drained. Keep soil evenly moist but not soggy and never allow to totally dry out.
Others: Foliage colors change according to the amount of light received. So, if their colors fade, relocate to a sunny or brightly lit site and move to a shadier spot with diffused light if foliage gets bleached. Grow them in plastic pots to better conserve moisture. Try not to overcrowd Starfish Plants in small pots that will either hinder the proper development of the root system which is their vital source of water supply or may prevent water from reaching the soil by its spreading foliage forming a tent above. It loves a humid condition which can be increased indoors by standing the pot on a tray of pebbles half-filled with water. Feed once fortnightly with a diluted strength of a balanced liquid fertilizer. Earth Stars are relatively free from pests or diseases, and very rarely bothered by scales and mealy bugs.
For temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 10-11. More info at Dave’s Garden with flower photos. Best to grow them in containers that can be overwintered inside if necessary. Feed with a liquid fertilizer for flowering houseplants at every third watering from spring to fall.
- Propagation: From offsets or pups that appear from the leaf axils or at the base of the parent plant. To propagate new plants, remove the pups from the mother plant with a slight tug when they are at least one-third the size of the mother plant. Then insert the pup’s bottom stem tip into potting soil and firm the soil around it. It should root easily in moist soil and warm conditions.
- Usage: C. bivittatus will be excellent for container gardening, terrariums or grown direct on ground. Being an easy-care plant that is very attractive and tolerant of indoor lightings, it is ideal as a houseplant or ornamental plant for interiorscape in offices, commercial complex and others. Suitable too for greenhouses and conservatories, or use as an accent on window sills, patio tables and decks. Ideal for outdoors too in mixed planters, and as groundcovers in garden beds and borders with other low-growing plants for color contrast.
Some of the named cultivars of C. bivittatus are:
- ‘Ruby’ (synonym: C. bivittatus var. atropurpereus) – 5 stripes: stripes at the edges and center are colored dark maroon (fading to green in poor light or dark olive green in high light), with the 2 stripes on either side of the central stripe in rich ruby red to rose pink (changes to cream or creamy green in low light);
- ‘Ruby Star’ – nearly identical to ‘Ruby’ but without dark edgings;
- ‘Pink Starlite – 3 large stripes but sometimes has thin bands centrally: stripes at the edges are candy pink and the central stripe is olive green or paler;
- ‘Starlite’ – a sport of ‘Pink Starlite’ that is nearly identical to it but has 2 additional olive green stripe at the edges;
Cyptanthus ‘Le Rey’, a cultivar of acaulis ‘Roseus’ is another exceptional beauty that fascinates us. Truly captivating with a broad central stripe in yellowish-green that sometimes has thin striations and bordered by baby-pink edgings. View its lovely features at the FCBS link provided below.
Other external links:
- Bromeliad Society of Australia – Club News 09/06, highlighting identity of C. bivittatus cultivars
- Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies (FCBS), with a list of Cryptanthus species and cultivars, including photos. (Click on the name Cryptanthus, listed under GENERA on the left column to proceed)
- Cryptanthus Society Home Page, with lots to explore. Especially, click on the Cryptanthus Cultural Information link to download the pdf file for in-depth culture info, and scroll downwards to select the Color Photos from Past Journals link to enjoy the delightful pictures
- Bromeliad Society/Houston on Cryptanthus
More photos of C. bivittatus, grown in our garden and elsewhere :
Cryptanthus bivittatus ‘Ruby’
Cryptanthus bivittatus ‘Ruby’
Cryptanthus bivittatus ‘Pink Starlite’, erroneously named ‘Pink Starlight’
Cryptanthus ‘Le Rey’
Cryptanthus bivittatus var. bivittatus
Cryptanthus bivittatus var. bivittatus
NOTE OF THANKS AND APPRECIATION :
- April 12 2013: We would like to offer our grateful thanks to Ms. C. Mae of Southeastern USA for her generosity in permitting the usage of her photos of Cryptanthus ‘Le Rey’ in this article. God bless you, C. Mae!
- June 3 2013: Our grateful thanks to Ms. Roxanne of USA for her generosity in allowing the usage of her photos of Cryptanthus bivittatus var. bivittatus in this article. God bless you, Roxanne!