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I’m not exactly sure why more people don’t grow this houseplant. It is one of the toughest indoors plants available, tolerates extreme conditions, and is very easy to grow! Keep reading to find out how I care for Cast Iron Plant, or Aspidistra elatior.
This plant holds a very dear place in my heart and I’d like to start off with a story to attest for how tough and easy to grow this plant is.
I’m the only person in my family to be born in the United States. Everyone else in my family was born in Italy and immigrated to the U.S. My grandmother, from my mother’s side of the family, came to the U.S. in 1968.
She brought with her to the U.S. a piece of a Cast Iron Plant that she took from the old church in the town where my family lived for probably hundreds of years.
At one point after I purchased my first home, my grandmother gave me a division of that original plant that she brought back from Italy. My grandmother has since passed away, but I will have her plant for as long as I live. They are very long-lived plants and easily divided. I think of her every time I see the plant!
For whatever reason, I don’t see many people growing this plant, which is a shame because they are super tough, are very low-maintenance, survive low-light, and make great houseplants!
CAST IRON PLANT CARE
The cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior, is one of the lowest light houseplants that you can grow.
I have mine growing several feet away from an Eastern window. It receives no direct sun. It is a slower growing plant indoors, but if you give it conditions that it likes, the growth may surprise you.
Over the summers, I started placing my plant outdoors, in complete shade, and it started putting out leaf after leaf from the rhizomes.
If you have slower growing plants like this, placing them outdoors during the summer months will greatly benefit your plant and speed up the growth.
If you want to move your cast iron plant outside, be sure not to miss my blog post on how to properly transition your houseplants to growing outdoors. The growth rate of your cast iron plant outdoors may shock you! As slow moving as this plant is indoors.
This is one houseplant that will tolerate pretty cool temperatures. In fact, this plant actually grows as a perennial groundcover in growing zones that stay above freezing year-round.
Depending on the sources, I’ve read that these plants can tolerate as low at 45F (about 7C) or even lower, but I would stay in the “warm” temperature range.
Just keep this minimum in mind in case you have your pot outside and you forget to bring your Aspidistra indoors! It will be one of the more forgiving houseplants with respect to temperature minimums.
These plants are not too fussy about watering. They can survive drought-like conditions, however it will look its best if you give it enough water.
I would follow my standard houseplant watering technique that applies to the majority of what I grow. I’ll allow the surface of the soil, maybe the top inch or so, to dry out.
Then I water thoroughly all around the pot and drain any excess away. Like any houseplant, always grow Aspidistra in a pot with drainage holes.
During the active growing season, I fertilize with any all-purpose fertilizer from late Winter through early Fall.
I do prefer to fertilize all my houseplants at every watering, but using a more dilute strength.
OTHER CULTURAL TIPS FOR CAST IRON PLANT
Because the leaves of this plant are so broad, they will tend to attract a lot of dust.
I regularly dust mine, either by wiping the leaves down with a damp sponge or paper towel, or placing it in the shower to give it a good rinse.
It is very important to make sure that you keep your plants free of dust for optimal health.
Your cast iron plant may get brown tips on the leaves. If this happens, I simply cut off the brown tips with scissors.
Brown tips can be an indication that your plant has been kept too dry. It can also mean that your plant is potentially very pot bound. If your cast iron plant, or any other houseplant, has been getting brown tips, be sure to read my blog post on the top 6 reasons why your leaves are getting brown and crispy.
CAST IRON PLANT PROBLEMS
Sometimes cast iron plants are prone to spider mites. This is another reason why you should regularly clean your plant’s leaves.
If you do have spider mites on your cast iron plants, there are a number of ways to deal with these pests. I prefer to use more natural methods in pest control. Lucky for you, I’ve written a blog post detailing 3 things that you can do to stop spider mites.
PROPAGATING CAST IRON PLANT
These plants can be easily propagated by division when you repot. When you take it out of the pot to repot it (preferably in Spring), you will see the underground rhizome that is spreading.
Simply take a sterilized knife or set of pruners and sever a piece of the rhizome that has at least one leaf growing off of it, and pot up each division in its own pot.