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 fête. 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!