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Cryptanthus acaulis

Cryptanthus Acaulis: How to Grow the Earth Star Plant

Grow the unique Earth Star (Cryptanthus acaulis) with ease! Get acquainted with its exotic charm and learn expert care tips and more.

Cryptanthus Acaulis
  • Earth Star plant
  • Cryptanthus Acaulis

Other names for this plant...

Earth Star Starfish Plant

Cryptanthus acaulis offers plant enthusiasts a unique blend of simplicity and exotic charm. With its distinctive shape, texture, and colors, it's a fun and unique addition to your plant collection.

About The Cryptanthus Acaulis

The Cryptanthus acaulis, also known as the Earth Star plant, is a charming terrestrial bromeliad. Put simply, this plant looks somewhat similar to a succulent.

Experienced greenthumbs and newbie plant owners alike love this little tropical plant for its exotic charm and low-maintenance nature. It happily thrives in cozy homes and won't hold a grudge if you forget its care needs once in a while.

Botanical Name

The common name for any Cryptanthus is "Earth Star". In this case, the botanical name is Cryptanthus acaulis. Interesting tidbit: The botanical name originates from the Greek words "cryptos" (hidden) and "anthos" (flower).

Earth Star plant
The Earth Star has a pretty shallow root system, so it doesn't require much water.


The Cryptanthus acaulis belongs to the Bromeliaceae family, under the subfamily Bromelioideae. The family is quite fascinating, with a diverse group of over 1,200 species of bromeliads.

What really catches the eye with these plants is their foliage. Their leaves can sport a wide range of patterns, including solid colors, bands, spots, and more.


Cryptanthus acaulis originates from the lush tropical forests of Brazil. In its native habitat, the Earth Star has evolved to thrive in humid environments and under the light of canopy trees.


With common names like Earth Star and Starfish Plant, you can clearly see it got these monikers from its unique look! Its distinctive sharp-tipped wavy leaves gracefully arch backward to create a flat rosette of light green, strikingly reminiscent of both a star and a starfish.

Mature plants reach around 5 inches in height and span around 6 inches across. The Earth Star tends to flatten out before eventually blooming, showing off its intriguing textures and colors.

Cryptanthus Acaulis
The Cryptanthus acaulis, also known as the Earth Star plant, is a charming terrestrial bromeliad.


Earth Star plants are captivating indoor additions, perfect for infusing texture and color into your living spaces. They serve as splendid living centerpieces for special gatherings and their compact size makes them thrive on well-lit tabletops indoors.

Their slow growth rate is a bonus, making them an excellent choice for terrariums and tabletop decor. Plus, their unique texture can add surprising drama when paired with ferns and other foliage plants, creating a dynamic indoor garden.


Now, let's talk about giving your Cryptanthus acaulis the light it craves. Think of it as finding the perfect balance - not too much, not too little.

These plants love their sunshine, but not too much of it. Aim for about half a day of sunlight. If you can, put it by an east- or north-facing window where it can enjoy some gentle morning natural light or bright, indirect light - not direct sun!


The Earth Star has a pretty shallow root system, so it doesn't require much water. During the active growing season, in spring and summer, water the potting soil as needed to keep those shallow roots lightly moist but not soggy. When fall and winter roll around, reduce how often you water it but be sure not to let their soil dry out.

The key to this plant's care is to avoid overwatering as too much water will lead to root rot.


If you're comfortable with the temperature in your home, then your indoor plants will be too.

Cryptanthus acaulis thrives in temperatures around 75-85°F and can tolerate temperatures around 60°F. As a general rule of thumb, keep Earth Stars away from chilly drafts, air conditioning units, and heating vents.


Being tropical plants originally from lush rainforest climates, Earth Stars love their humidity. Maintaining a humid environment for these plants is essential. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways you can achieve this.

One way to boost your Earth Star's humidity levels is by giving it a regular misting or placing the container on a shallow pebble tray filled with water just above the pebbles. Other great methods include using a humidifier or placing your Earth Star plant in a terrarium - creating its own little rainforest at home. You can even DIY a terrarium by covering the plant with a loose plastic bag if it appears to be struggling.


Regular potting soil won't cut it for terrestrial-grown bromeliads like Earth Stars. Instead, it prefers a well-balanced potting soil blend that's both porous and well-draining.

To create these ideal soil conditions, you can either use orchid potting soil or take regular potting soil amended with one-third coco coir, perlite, or peat moss. This way, you get that optimal balance of moisture and drainage for your Cryptanthus acaulis to thrive.


Cryptanthus acaulis plants are quite low-maintenance, and when it comes to pruning or grooming, there's not much to worry about. In fact, you can keep it pretty simple.

The only task you'll really need to do is to snip away any dead flowers or leaves as they appear close to the base with clean and sterilized shears or scissors. This helps keep your plant looking tidy and encourages healthy growth.


Fertilizing your Earth Star plant is great for promoting optimal growth. During the spring and summer months, grab a balanced houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half of its recommended strength. Feed the plant monthly by spraying this mixture directly onto its leaves.

Come winter and fall, the Earth Star won't require much fertilizer. So, ease up on the feeding - every other month will do the trick.

Height & Growth

Earth Star plants are slow growers so don't expect an extravagant and full size with these little plants. Earth Stars usually remain quite compact, reaching a height of about 5 inches and a width of around 6 inches. However, if you can mimic their natural habitat conditions effectively, you may be lucky enough to see it grow 2 feet in width.


Cryptanthus acaulis plants are non-toxic to humans. However, it's always good practice to keep any plant out of the reach of curious children.


Just like it is for us, the Earth Star is non-toxic to your furry friends. But, don't let those curious noses nibble on the plant, as ingesting any plant material can lead to mild digestive discomfort.

Common Problems

As you delve into the world of Earth Stars, you may encounter a few common hurdles with these plants, including:

  1. Crown rot: This is a clear sign of overwatering. It's important to remember that a plant's roots need access to oxygen too, so keep those shallow roots lightly moist, not soggy!

  2. Yellowing leaves: This is another common sign that you've been a bit too generous with the watering can. This can also happen if your plant isn't getting enough light. Be sure you give your Earth Star ample bright light and avoid flooding its central cup (the little well in the center of the rosette).

  3. Brown and curling leaves: When the Earth Star's leaves are looking crispy and brown at the edges, it's probably thirsty and/or sunburned. These plants don't do well with direct sunlight, so keep them out of this kind of light, especially during the summer months.

  4. Pests: Earth Stars are usually pretty tough, but pests can still be a problem, particularly scale insects. You can typically find these tucked into the plant's leaves, especially on the undersides of the leaves. Wiping them off with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab does the trick, or you can use neem oil or plant insecticidal soap.


Can you propagate Cryptanthus acaulis plants?

Absolutely! Propagating Earth Star plants is quite straightforward. Here's how:

Earth Stars produce "pups" – essentially miniature versions of the parent plant. These pups sprout at the nodes of the outermost leaves. When they reach about one-third the size of the parent plant, carefully cut them away and plant them gently in the same mix you use for the parent plant.

To help these young ones thrive, cover them with a loose plastic bag to keep the humidity levels up. Place them in a warm spot and leave them there for about 4 to 6 weeks until they're well-established.

What type of plant is Cryptanthus acaulis?

Often mistaken for a succulent, the Crytanthus acaulis is a terrestrial bromeliad (a bromeliad that grows on the ground). In its natural habitat, you'll find the Cryptanthus acaulis sinking their roots into the forest floor.

What's cool about bromeliads, including this one, is how they quench their thirst. They're like nature's sponges, soaking up moisture and nutrients from the air through their tiny leaf scales, called trichomes.

Do Cryptanthus acaulis produce flowers?

Earth Stars can indeed bloom, even as houseplants. However, their flowers are small and somewhat concealed within the plant's foliage. Earth Star plants tend to start flowering when they reach the age of about 3 to 5 years. After they flower, these plants die, just like all bromeliads.