Friday, February 10, 2012

Cryptanthus Bivittatus

The first time I saw this charming terrestrial with its rosette of stiff, finely-toothed leaves, I did not know that it was a bromeliad. For whatever reason, I believed that it was some type of succulent. Not that it would have made much of a difference because I hadn’t quite discovered bromeliads in general.

One of the most wonderful things about this pretty little plant with a star-like form is that it’s very easy to grow. Also, because it grows no more than 15 centimeters (6 inches) wide and 15 centimeters (6 inches) high, this compact bromeliad is the perfect choice where space is limited. And it’s an ideal plant for dish gardens.

The succulent leaves will turn bright pink or even red when grown in intensely lit locations, so provide plenty of bright light and even full sun if you can. Like most of its cousins, Cryptanthus bivittatus can tolerate a wide range of light levels but it does best in brightly lit spots. Although the plant will survive for quite some time in low light areas, it will not thrive or be as colourful.

Earth Star has a very small root system and must be watered very carefully to avoid rot. Keep the soil evenly moist during the summer; do not allow it to dry out completely. During the fall and winter season, water moderately, keeping the medium slightly moist. This is a prime candidate for the hydroculture system; consider switching to this alternative growing style if you want to eliminate water problems.

Above average humidity levels are the preference. Place the plant on top of a pebble tray filled with water or near a humidifier. The Earth Star is perfectly suited to a terrarium. Average indoor temperatures between 15°C (60°F) to 24°C (75°F) are fine.

Feed an actively-growing Cryptanthus bivittatus about once a month during the summer season (about three times). Do not fertilize during the winter or if the plant is placed in a low light area. You can also fill a spray bottle with a very weak fertilizer solution and mist the leaves lightly.

The more research you do on this lovely plant, the more diversity of information you will come across. For example, some sources will recommend that you allow an Earth Star to dry out completely before watering again, and then water only slightly. Depending on the conditions of your home, you may need to follow this advice. If humidity is high, temperatures are cool and the plant is growing in shade, you will need to be more frugal with the watering can or your plant will rot. But if humidity is low, the room is very warm and the plant is sitting in the direct path of sun, you will need to water more often.

As always, any and all sources of information regarding a Cryptanthus bivittatus – or any plant for that matter - should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly when it relates to watering. In the end, the type of care you provide is determined by your indoor environment, so use your judgment.

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