Earth Star Plant (Cryptanthus bivittatus)

If you’re looking for an air plant that adds a unique look to your terrarium while also adding a little extra life to the space, then look no further than Cryptanthus bivittatus, also known as Earth Star Plants!

These spiky, brightly colored plants look spectacular in any terrarium and offer an easy, low-maintenance way to spruce up the atmosphere.

In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of including a Cryptanthus bivittatus in your terrarium, what they need in order to thrive, and how you can enjoy these amazing plants without the hassle.

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Cryptanthus bivittatus
Common Name Earth Star Plants, Cryptanthus Bromeliad
Family Name Bromeliaceae
Habitat Rainforest, forest floors
Temperature 70°F to 75°F
Height Up to 8 feet
pH 5.0 to 6.0
Lighting Bright, indirect

What are Earth Star Plants?

Cryptanthus bivittatus is a genus of terrestrial, evergreen bromeliads most known for their star-shaped leaves with stripes of contrasting colors that resemble a matador’s cape.

The leaves are ‘furry’ on their undersides, making them very distinct. The base of the plant carries a cluster of small pinkish-purple flowers.

Cryptanthus bivittatus "Earth Star Plant" | Bromeliad Care

Earth Star Plant Facts

Cryptanthus Bromeliads can be extremely easy or tricky to care for depending on the species type and conditions it is kept in.

All species need a high amount of humidity and the proper drainage soil in order to grow properly.

Earth star Plants, unlike most Bromeliads, propagate more easily when dividing the mother plant, as they do not produce offsets.


Earth star Plants are characterized by their small, rosette form and uniquely star-shaped leaves.

Their leaves can range anywhere from 3”-6”, and come in an array of colors ranging from purples and grays to greens and reds.

They also have a ‘hairy’ underside that helps to retain moisture in the humid environment of their native habitats. 


Cryptanthus bivittatus is native to the tropical regions of South America, found in rainforests, cloud forests, and river valleys.

They are often found growing directly on the forest floor or near rocks and logs.

Their native habitats have temperatures ranging from 70-75°F, and higher than average humidity levels. 

pH Preference

Cryptanthus bromeliads prefer to be on the more acidic side of the potential hydrogen scale. The pH range for this species is 5-6.

Vivarium Type

The Earth Star Plant is quite an easy-going species.

With that in mind, it will not be too complicated when it comes to choosing the type of enclosure it is grown in.

It is best to try and replicate the plant’s natural habitat as much as possible.

Doing so will make it easier to provide this bromeliad with its basic needs.

The proper setup and theme of the enclosure will make a big difference to the overall look and health of the plant.

Be sure to choose setups that are moist and high in humidity.

Here are recommended vivariums it will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Due to their need for a bit warmer temperature, these plants do best when placed in the background of the vivarium.

They are typically the first plant to die in consistently cooler temperatures.

Graphite or granite stones added to the substrate will help to keep the roots well-aerated and cool. 


Earth Star Plants do best when planted in soil with the proper amount of drainage.

Preferably a sandy, fast-draining terrarium soil or a combination of orchid bark and peat moss.

As these plants are quite susceptible to root rot, it’s very important to ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering.


Cryptanthus bivittatus need bright but indirect light in order to thrive.

Place them near a window or use LED terrarium lights that simulate the color spectrum of natural sunlight.

It’s important not to expose them to any direct sunlight, as the direct rays will scorch and burn the leaves.

Buy Earth Star Plants

When it comes to buying Earth Star Plants, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Making sure the plant is healthy when purchased is essential for its success in a vivarium.

Vegetation that is already in poor conditions will have a very hard time adjusting to new environments.

Always make sure to buy from a reliable and honest establishment.

Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info about this plant.

Earth Star Plant Care and Propagation

The key to the successful propagation of earth star plants is soil and humidity.

When grown in their native habitats, they are typically found near the ground, beneath leaf litter.

The soil they are grown in needs to be well-drained, low in nutrients, and not too compact.

As with most plants, overwatering is the biggest killer of Earth Star Plants.

Water your plant when the soil begins to feel dry and always aim for high levels of humidity.

How to Grow

Cryptanthus bivittatus can be easily propagated from leaf cuttings and the mother plant can be divided into several smaller plants.

For propagation from the mother plant, gently pull the plants apart and divide them into separate clumps of about 3-4 plants.

Be sure to keep the root systems intact and make sure each clump has enough roots and soil to maintain it.


As mentioned, Cryptanthus is very susceptible to root rot and other fungal infections.

Only water when the soil begins to feel dry and maintain high levels of humidity; preferably around 80%.

Use warm to room temperature water and avoid direct contact with the leaves.

Plants Similar to Earth Star Plants

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing setup.

Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you find the Earth Star Plant hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant…

Here are other terrarium plants you might find will do well with or in the place of Cryptanthus bivittatus:

Tank Bromeliad "Neoregelia spp" Plant Care Guide
Queen's Tears "Billbergia spp." Plant Care Guide
Vriesea spp. "Flaming Sword" Care Guide | Terrarium Air Plants


The Earth Star Plant is the perfect plant to add to a vivarium if you are looking for something to add a bit of contrast and variety.

These easy-to-care-for bromeliads add a lot of character and fluff to an enclosure.

Though they don’t require too much maintenance, it’s important to make sure you give them proper soil, adequate drainage, and moderate amounts of light.

With the right conditions, you can have a happy, healthy earth star bromeliad in your vivarium in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions

Cryptanthus spp. generally require indirect light, but need some natural sunlight to thrive. Optimal lighting conditions vary depending on the species, but in general they should be protected from direct sunlight.

No, Cryptanthus is not toxic.

The average lifespan of a Cryptanthus, also known as the Earth Star, is 45 years.

Water your earth star bromeliad once every 23 weeks, making sure the soil is completely dry before each watering.

To keep Cryptanthus plants red, position them in an area with moderate to bright light and keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Provide frequent misting to help increase the humidity, and avoid cold drafts and temperatures.

Some types of Cryptanthus can reach up to three feet in height, although most species typically only grow up to three inches.

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