The genus Cryptanthus includes about 20 species of evergreen plants originating from the dry forests of Brazil, all the species are terricolous, some are succulent; there are many hybrids on the market.
Bromeliad plants, a common name for this kind of plant, are mainly cultivated for very showy and decorative leaves; they are flattened rosettes of 5-15 leaves, long and narrow, thick, with wavy and serrated edges, of green, pink, red or brown color, often striped, both vertically and horizontally, of white, gray or bronze.
The underside of the leaves is usually covered with small scales. In the appropriate growth conditions they tend to produce numerous shoots at the base of the leaves and sometimes produce small inflorescences consisting of small white flowers, hidden in the center of the leaves.
Cryptanthus plants love very bright locations but far from direct sunlight, especially in the hottest periods of the year; the color of the leaves of the bromelia tends to fade if the plants are grown in excessively dark places. They fear the cold, the ideal temperature of growth is around 15-20 ° C, therefore in winter they must be grown at home or in a temperate greenhouse. As far as summer temperatures are concerned, they have no problems if they reach 30 ° C, if the environment in which they are installed guarantees the correct degree of humidity. To understand if the brightness is adequate, just look at the leaves; if they lighten they are placed in a too bright place, while if it is too dark, the leaves will tend to lose their mottling.
THE Cryptanthus they need constant and regular watering, so that the soil is kept constantly humid, without exceeding and avoiding water stagnation.
From March to October, provide fertilizer for green plants dissolved in the water of the waterings every week.
Increase the environmental humidity often vaporizing the leaves with distilled water especially in summer or when the plants are placed in environments with a high temperature, as can happen when the radiators are turned on.
Bromelia prefers loose, well-drained soils, rich in organic matter; for a correct development of the root system it is good to repot the plant at least every two years, and to provide containers of not too small dimensions.
For repotting it is not necessary to wait for a particular period, the important thing is that the temperature is rather constant, around 20 ° C, so that the plant can adapt better to the new soil.
A mixture of peat, soil and sand may be the ideal solution for having a well-drained soil.
To multiply the plants of Cryptanthus, in spring or summer the axillary buds are detached, taking care to remove the first 2-3 leaves and to immerse them in the rooting hormone; they are rooted directly in a single container, often watering the substrate, which must consist of balanced soil of good quality. Keep the new plants in a warm and partially shaded place, avoiding exposure to sunlight; sometimes it takes months to develop the root system.
It may also be possible to multiply Bromelia by seed, although it is a more difficult technique that does not guarantee to obtain plants that have the same characteristics as that mother.
Bromelia - Cryptanthus: Pests and diseases
The specimens can sometimes be attacked by aphids or mites, even if the cryptanthus are definitely more resistant to the attack of insects and diseases than the other bromeliaceae. The cochineal can make its appearance on the leaves of these plants; in this case, it is possible to intervene to eliminate them by using a cloth with alcohol, or by washing the leaves with water and neutral soap, which must then be carefully removed.