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Gorgeous Cryptanthus Leaves

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There are quite a few plants in the Bromeliad family with original leaf coloration. But few can boast such striking texture effects as the Cryptanthus. At first glance, the luxurious rosettes of leaves with their stripes and patterns resembling either jewels or animal skins captivate hearts. This plant has no equal as an expressive accent. Though not easy to grow, it deserves a special place in any collection. © Opini Varian

Lovely leaves and hidden talents of Cryptanthus

Like all bromeliads, Cryptanthus (cryptanthus) are stemless plants. They are Brazilian endemics that have spread around the world as greenhouse and room crops. The attractiveness of their leaves and outlandish colors have made cryptanthus a favorite in modern interior landscaping.

The height of these plants is usually limited to 5-15 cm. Cryptanthus produce rosettes-crowns of luxurious leaves. Sturdy, thick, scaly, they are most often lanceolate and honeycomb-shaped and are attractive both to the touch and to the eye. But the greatest pride of culture, of course, are the outlandish colors. Various patterns, stripes, transitions, ripples on the leaf plates surprise sometimes with the most unexpected effects - from "leopard" patterns to snakeskin. Green, pink, brown, white, purple in various shades mix on the leaves of Cryptanthus in the most striking combinations.

In the genus Cryptanthus there is a huge number of species with a variety of colors. The patterns on the leaves, then striped, then more watercolor, always contrast with the basic coloring of the plate. Green, purple, and brown leaves flash with lettuce, white, or pink patterns. The mother rosette dies off after flowering. But Cryptanthus always produces lateral shoots, which completely replace the old plant.

Flowering of this culture is almost unnoticeable, the white flowers are hidden deep inside the rosettes and other than inexpressive they cannot be called. And to see the miracle of flowering of Cryptanthus is rather difficult. It is for their tendency to "hide their flowers" that Cryptanthus got the popular nickname "Earth Star". Flowering periods vary from species to species and even from variety to variety (e.g. Cryptanthus Forster blooms from April to June).

Cryptanthus species

Cryptanthus stemless

Cryptanthus stemless (Cryptanthus acaulis) is one of the most graceful species. The thin, pointed leaves with a wavy, toothed edge reach 20 cm long and only 2-3 cm wide, gathered in a sprawling, ornate rosette. The leathery upper surface is green, and the leaves are covered with scales underneath. In addition to the basic green-colored species, there are ornamental forms - acaulis with scaly-covered silver leaves, argenteus with glossy green leaves and the chocolate-red form ruber.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus stemless (Cryptanthus acaulis). © mirandapierson

Cryptanthus fosterianus

In Cryptanthus fosterianus (Cryptanthus fosterianus) the bushes are adorned with white and creamy yellow zig-zag stripes across the leaves in the rosette. They give the plant a resemblance to animal skins. And the basic bronze-brown coloration only adds to the charm of the unusual patterns. The fleshy and dense leaves reach 40 cm in length, narrowed at the base, with a beautiful wavy edge.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus fosterianus (Cryptanthus fosterianus). © Evan Bean

Cryptanthus transverse-striped

Zebra resembles the original transverse-striped Cryptanthus (Cryptanthus zonatus), which has large leathery leaves up to 20 cm long gathered into sprawling rosettes. The thorny-veined edge is almost imperceptible, so striking is the pattern of transverse strips of whitish-yellow color, which stands out against the background of dark green leaf plates. In addition to the basic form, there are also three ornamental forms:

  • zebrina, a red-velvet, with a brown dark background and seemingly silver stripes beautiful;
  • viridis with almost uniformly green leaves;
  • fuscus with a reddish leaf color and gray-green stripes.
Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus zonatus (Cryptanthus zonatus). © Mokkie

Cryptanthus bivittatus

Bright stripes on unusually light leaves attract Cryptanthus bivittatus (Cryptanthus bivittatus). Broad, wavy-edged, pointed leaves up to 10 cm long are arranged in neat and very dense rosettes, showing light green, whitish coloration, longitudinal dark green stripes and a slight reddish patina in the center of the rosettes.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus bivittatus. © Karen715

Cryptanthus bromelioides

Cryptanthus bromelioides (Cryptanthus bromelioides) is one of the most graceful species. The stem is densely covered with stiff leaves with a finely serrated, wavy edge, pointed toward the top, with a beautifully elegant shape. The basic color of the leaf plates varies from copper to bronze, with contrasting stripes of varying widths running along the leaf. The most famous variety is "Tricolor", which appears to be a purple-green wonderland: its leaves are decorated with white, red and green stripes, giving a resemblance to luxurious graphics or pastels.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus bromelioides (Cryptanthus bromelioides). © BotBln

Cryptanthus care in the home

Cryptanthus is called the main competitor to sansevieria in modern interiors. These crops are indeed very similar in their ability to serve as expressive accents in landscaping. But unlike sansevieria, cryptanthus is much more demanding of light and does not put up with considerable shading. Cryptanthus care is simple, but requires constant maintenance of humidity. Humidity is particularly important for cryptanthus, so they are often recommended to grow in flower showcases and greenhouses, but you can also recreate the necessary conditions in traditional room conditions. And the choice of a large number of ornamental species makes it possible to find the perfect plant for the style and color scheme of every room, from greenhouses and bathrooms to living spaces and offices. Especially since cryptanthus blend well with most large-leaf plants.

Lighting for Cryptanthus

Lovely cryptanthus are quite plastic in their ability to adapt to different lighting, but not to the same extent as the best hardy houseplants. Cryptanthus will only grow comfortably in a sunny, bright or slightly semi-shady location. Direct sunlight, as well as strong shade, the plants can not stand, losing their characteristic color and suffering from various problems. Cryptanthus should be especially protected from the bright sun in summer. During cold seasons it's better to move them to more lightened sites, thus correcting the reduction of light and maintaining habitual conditions.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus 'Feuerzauber' and 'Old Lace'. © yuji67

Comfort temperature

Cryptanthus belong to the most heat-loving indoor plants. They need quite high temperature during the whole year, and even in winter they cannot tolerate cold snap to 18 degrees of heat. A temperature range of 20 to 22 degrees is considered optimal. Very well decorative forms of cryptanthus with a complex color respond to the content in the summer at 22 to 24 degrees and in winter 18 to 20 degrees, with a slight variation. Abrupt temperature fluctuations, sudden draughts and changes of more than 4-5 degrees should not be allowed.

Watering and humidity

An important condition for the beauty of cryptanthus is stable substrate moisture. This plant feels good only when the degree of moisture of the soil remains almost unchanged. Both drought and overwatering are equally dangerous for cryptanthus. The plant can withstand a short-term drying out of the soil, will not die from accidental skipping watering, but it is better not to let this happen. Procedures should be carried out after the top layer of soil has dried out. Winter watering mode should be more restrained: after the drying of the top layer of soil, you need to wait 1-2 days before the next procedure.

Unlike many other bromeliads, cryptanthus does not tolerate watering in the socket. And it makes no sense to do them, because the plant does not retain water. Water this culture as a normal indoor plant, around the perimeter of the pot. Water from the trays must be drained after 15-20 minutes of watering. Only soft water is used for Cryptanthus. Its temperature should correspond to the ambient temperature.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus. © espacepourlavie

Humidity in general can be called the most troublesome aspect of growing cryptanthus. After all, the plant is demanding both to the regime of watering, and to the indicators of humidity. Cryptanthus must grow in high humidity. And it must be maintained literally throughout the year. The plant needs not just daily spraying, but also procedures up to 3 times a day, as well as the installation of containers on trays with pebbles, wet moss or expanded clay (or the use of humidifiers). Excellent for growing in mini greenhouses (transparent glass vases, at the bottom of which Cryptanthus planted in special substrates).

The leaves of Cryptanthus should be constantly wiped of dust with a damp soft cloth. For this culture it is undesirable to use special waxes and means for polishing the leaves.

Fertilizers for Cryptanthus

Preferences to high nutrient content of soil make it necessary to introduce quite intensive fertilizers during active growth. However, fertilizers are applied only from the beginning of April to the end of August, adding nitrogen-reduced preparations to water every 2 weeks. Well suited for Kryptantus special fertilizers for bromeliads. The manufacturer's recommended dosage is better reduced by half.

Cryptanthus pruning

If your plant has noticeable dry leaf tips it is better to cut off the dead parts. Do this cleaning in the same way as on date palms or sansevierias: do not cut off the whole dry part, but leave a thin strip near the living tissues.

Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus. © danger garden

Transplanting and substrate

Cryptanthus transplanting can be done almost any time during the first half of the season, from March through August. But it is better to do it when the plant really gets cramped for space. The drainage for cryptanthus should be very strong, covering at least a third of the height of the container.

For cryptanthus you need a substrate with a pH characteristic of about 5.0. Texture must also be given attention: A coarse, peaty substrate with increased looseness is the best habitat for Cryptanthus. You can use a ready-made substrate for epiphytes. The air permeability of the substrate is more important for this plant, which is why it is so important to use earth mixes with rough texture.
Diseases and pests

Cryptanthus sometimes suffer from thrips and spider mites, but the plant is only threatened by infestation if the comfortable growing conditions with high air humidity are broken.

Common problems in cultivation:

  • drying of leaf tips when humidity is low;
  • appearance of pale and brown spots on leaves in direct sunlight;
  • preading of rot in cold, sudden changes in temperature or dampness;
  • wilting of leaves when soil moisture is insufficient.
Gorgeous Cryptanthus leaves
Cryptanthus bicolor. © plantsam

Propagation of Cryptanthus

The plant forms offspring that replace the mother bush, and numerous small rosettes can be used for active propagation. After flowering, when the mother rosette dies off, numerous shoots emerge from the renewal buds, which in 6-8 weeks already form up to 4 leaves. They can be carefully separated from each other and used as independent plants. For cryptanthus use quality, texture-appropriate soil, and plants that are set off from the mother rosette should be placed in hot conditions with a temperature of about 26-28 degrees, under a hood or foil before rooting and adapting. In a bright, protected from direct sunlight place and daily airing the plants will gradually become stronger and they can be transferred to the usual regime for adult cryptanthus.

For obtaining new cryptanthus from seeds, only freshly harvested seeds can be used. They are rooted under film in a mixture of sand and peat at the same high humidity and temperature as when rooting the seedlings.

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