Monday, January 16, 2012

Foliage Follow-up, Cryptanthus


When the glow of the holidays fades and the prospect of the long, dark, month of January stretches out ahead I usually brighten up the house with flowers. Often this means taking advantage of clearance sales on Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs. This year it meant Cryptanthus.
These small Bromeliads come from Brazil and are often referred to as ‘earth stars’ because of “their flat star-shaped appearance and terrestrial habit” (from the book Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden by Andrew Steens).
Their leaves are thick and fairly stiff with tiny teeth along the margins. A big part of the appeal is their coloring…pinks, greens, purples and almost black. They are fairly inexpensive and it’s easy to find yourself accumulating a small collection in no time (or maybe that’s just me!).
When I bought a couple at Portland Nursery the fellow behind the counter was so excited that someone was “finally” purchasing them, evidently they are a little under-appreciated. He did warn me they love humidity so I’ve been misting them regularly. In fact they’re on the same schedule as the Tillandsia, when the air plants take a bath then it’s time to mist the Cryptanthus. Some people’s lives revolve around their children’s soccer practice and dance recitals; mine revolves around care of my plants.

When I purchased the first one, on a whim one day during a nursery visit, I thought it was practically an epiphyte, but I was wrong. These terrestrial plants need nutrient, hummus rich soil around their roots, roots that tend to grow out rather than down. They don’t put up with cold temperatures and direct frost will kill them. Mine won’t venture outdoors until late spring when I think I’ll plant them all up in one large container.



Foliage Follow-up is celebrated on the 16th of every month, the day after the very popular Bloomday fĂȘte. Pam Penick started the tradition as a way to appreciate the ever present backbone of our gardens, the foliage. Visit her blog Digging for a round up of all the many Foliage Follow-up posts. Thanks Pam!

33 comments:

  1. Wow, beautiful and fascinating variety of foliage!

    I try to pass these by in the stores now because I don't need another collection, but here they are and so amazing that I may just have to stop and look next time!

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    1. You should, I don't think you'll regret it!

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  2. I've found, after quite a bit of experimentation, that my Cryptanthus do best in a soil mix that's about half bagged mix (I use one that's mostly composted bark, with about 1/3 peat moss) and half unchopped sphagnum peat. They're terrestrial, but tend to rot out on me if I put them in anything heavier than the bagged mix / unchopped sphagnum combo.

    Of course, I also soak them every couple weeks, instead of misting every few days, so the differences in soil may counterbalance the differences in watering.

    They may also need more light than what the picture shows; they'll survive in pretty low light, but the colors will change. (In particular, watch for the red one turning green.) The color change will reverse itself if they're moved somewhere brighter; it's not permanent.

    They'll also flower, eventually. The flowers are short-lived white things and aren't particularly decorative, but once the plant has flowered, it will, in the bromeliad fashion, begin to die while producing pups. Pups can be removed from the parent plant pretty easily once they're about an inch and a half in diameter, by rocking them back and forth gently with a finger until they fall out. If you remove the pups as the parent produces them, it'll keep making more: I think one of my plants produced about a dozen before it died.

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    1. And you're not writing that book why? Seriously it's this sort of knowledge that is so valuable. Thank you!

      Oh and re: the light I know. They actually do get direct sunlight for about an hour in the morning...if the sun is shining that is. Next to being downstairs under the lights this is the brightest spot. Hopefully they won't fade too fast and will color up nicely when they (and I) can move outside.

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  3. Great looking plants Loree, perfect for those pots! I'll have to explore Cryptanthus this year, might use some of them for a summer display :)

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    1. I bet you guys could work them into your jungle quite nicely!

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  4. Loree, your blog with larger photos is FANTASTIC!!!

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  5. I love, love, love the one in the first two photos. Looks like an arrangement of feathers! Do you know the species or variety?

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    1. Nope. It's one of those lovely situations where they are doing good to even get a label with a price on it. I started to research it online for you and thought I'd come up with Cryptanthus zonatus but upon further research it doesn't look quite right. Sorry! I wish I could for you, me and Gerhard!

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    2. My guess would be C. fosterianus. There's also a variegated cv. with bright pink margins called 'Elaine.'

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    3. Oh yes! I do believe that's it.

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  6. Another great new obsession! And love the big photo format.

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    1. I do have a few obsessions don't I? Thanks Denise!

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  7. What Alan said! What species is it? I must have one I must have one I must have one :-)

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    1. Oh you should have at least one Gerhard...but unfortunately (see my reply to Alan) I am not going to be able to help with an accurate name.

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  8. It looks like the blog ate my comment. Anyways, I just thought I'd poke my head back in around here and love the new layout! Those bromeliad planters are superb as well... time to take a look around and see what else I missed. :)

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    1. Hello RFG! The blog didn't eat your comment I still have it set for me to approve all comments before they show up. I am still not happy with Bloggers ability to catch the bad stuff so I remain a bit of a control freak. Plus that way if someone comments on a really old post I still get to read it rather than not seeing it. Glad you like the new look!

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  9. Leave it to you to show me plants I had not heard of, plus go inside even tho Cascadia is dripping with moisture and nice foliage outside! Very cool.

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    1. It's been COLD out there the last few days, this was a nice excuse to stay inside where it's warm!

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  10. The Cryptanthus are as fascinating and lovely as your collection of ceramics they're growing in. I love seeing how you've arranged this "Still Life with Cryptanthus and Tillandsias."

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    1. And now I know what I should have titled this post! Nice work.

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  11. What a fabulous collection of vases. The plants look so good on that white shelf. I have the Hawaiian woman too. Time to take the glittery faux poinsettia out of her hat and find a suitable tillandsia. Great idea!

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    1. I love that "head vase" so much! I had become obsessed with them but couldn't find one that was just right...then she came along, and at 1/2 off (the shop was closing). Then my husband gave me that tall Tillandsia for Christmas and it just all came together.

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  12. I really love all your planters!~ (and the plants of course).

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  13. That first one is just stunning...reminds me so very much of Pheasant's feathers!

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  14. Showing inside plants isn't cheating for Foliage Follow-Up, and you picked some real stunners to show off today. I didn't know anything about Cryptanthus until reading this post, so thanks for the education. You have the most sophisticated mantel display of anyone I know. I love catching glimpses of it through the year in your posts.

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  15. I love Cryptanthus! Currently only in the possession of one but more will surely follow.I loved the comment 'Some people’s lives revolve around their children’s soccer practice and dance recitals; mine revolves around care of my plants.' I can relate. . .

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    1. Plus the plants are a lot cheaper than the kids!

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  16. Very inspiring! Love how you use the cryptanthuses to decorate the house.

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  17. These are truly fabulous Loree, and that 'hula girl' planter !!! Insanely jealous.

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    1. Don't be! You can start your own collection! And look here's a planter for you too: http://www.rubylane.com/item/370999-3340/Shawnee-Polynesian-Hawaiian-Island-Girl (uhm....a little more expensive than mine).

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  18. Loree, I just checked back in on your blog after a bit of a media hiatus and first thing I saw was this wonderful Cryptanthus post... very inspiring! And your photos work well as larger images and I really like the new look. I especially like the new font...

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