The Star Fish Plant is an admirable common name choice for the Cryptanthus plants. Cryptanthus are members of the bromeliad family but whereas most of the bromeliads are associated with rain forest habitats, this group is more at home on rocky slopes or dry forests in Brazil.
If you are one who forgets to water your indoor plants, these could well suit you, providing you can give it the other aspects is desires.
The Plant: Unusual, low-growing terrestrial bromeliads. Cryptanthus form alien-like compact stars of foliage - their striped, broad, wavy edged leaves growing from a central rosette at ground level without a visible stem. Occasionally they produce cream coloured flowers borne on short stubby stems. You would not normally buy this plant for its flowering attractions – far better to look no further than the foliage.
Its needs: No direct sun, partial shade best. For potting, use a ‘Desert mix’ potting substrate, including stony soil, pine chippings or vermiculite for free drainage. Warmth and humidity essential - regular misting is very beneficial for Cryptanthus, but do not be tempted to flood with water - not needed and can be fatal if overdone.
Care: Cryptanthus enjoy warm, draught-free growing conditions, high humidity, (place pots in or near saucers of wet pebbles). The central rosette of leaves forms a ‘reservoir’ which should be regularly topped up with water at room temperature. Apply foliar feed every two weeks.
Cryptanthus as indoor plant - little watering. Feeding is rarely required - and only sparingly if after a set back.
Good for: The Earth Star is an unusual plant, attractive on its own or several grouped together. A talking point!
If grown in a shallow earthenware pot, can make a stunning display by simply allowing them to spread naturally. Add a few pebbles or grit on the surface for a realistic effect.
Seed – if you can save it – should be soon as ripe. It can also be bought for a wide range of foliage colours, and is normally well cared for by the seed house to ensure good germination.
Star fish plants can also be easily grown from the offsets which are normally produced at the base of the plant. These can be removed and potted individually with perhaps a clear plastic bag over the pot until re-established.