Cryptanthus bromelioides ‘Tricolor’

Cryptanthuses are rather small, terrestrial plants native to eastern Brazil. Because they readily put forth tillers, they often form spreading carpets in dry forests. The generic name comes from Greek origin (kryptos= hidden, anthos= flower) and accurately describes the short-stalked flowers concealed in the leaf rosette. The leaves have conspicuously crooked, spiny margins, and the under-surface is scaly. They are often strikingly coloured.

The lovely coloration of the foliage and its low-growing habit make the plant an ideal subject for a miniature conservatory, a plant-case or other glass containers. It does best in a light to partially shaded position, tolerating direct sun only in winter. It requires quite a high temperature, which even in winter must not fall below 18°C (64° F). A suitable growing medium is a loam and peat substrate with an admixture of sphagnum moss. Water liberally and maintain a high level of humidity. Allowing the compost to dry out occasionally will not harm the plant but it will slow its growth. Feed very occasionally with a weak solution of compound mineral fertilizer. Young plantlets are produced in large numbers in the leaf axils. These plantlets are an easy means of propagating the plant; simply cut or tear them off.

The type is about 20-40 cm (8-16 in) high. It produces large numbers of sideshoots which can be used for propagation. The leaves are faintly wavy, finely and densely toothed. They are green above and a whitish colour on the underside. The white flowers, which are about 4 cm (1.5in) long, are arranged in fairly thick clusters.

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