Aspidistra elatior is the scientific name for what is more colloquially known as the cast-iron plant. This aptly named flower is known for its extraordinary durability. It can survive and withstand tremendously unpleasant conditions that would leave weaker plants dead within hours.
The Aspidistra genus is native to Asia and has built a reputation for itself as being the father figure to one of the hardiest plants in existence. The plant was very popular during Victorian times on account of its unique biochemical properties.
The gas lamps that were used to light up Victorian homes. These were known to cause great harm to plants due to the ethylene they emit. One of the reasons why the cast-iron plant was favored by the populace is because it is virtually impervious to ethylene. This is compared to almost any other plant, which quickly wilts if exposed to it.
A cast-iron plant can not only survive but even prosper in environments that have high levels of ethylene. This is a far cry from the way most flowers function. This little-known fact is the reason for why Victorian homes predominantly featured cast-iron plants instead of the traditional ferns you would expect.
The plant is also popular in eastern Asia. Although the plant is said to have originated in China, the truth is that it is native to Taiwan and Japan. The Japanese in particular love it! They consider it to be a perfect training plant for those who want to get into ikebana. There are very few mistakes an amateur botanist could make that would ruin the plant, so it is considered to be a great entry point into the hobby.
The Aspidistra elatior is not only resistant but is also known to stay alive for a very long time. A single well-kept cast-iron plant is likely to survive for several decades. Some families even consider them to be treasured family heirlooms, passing them on from generation to generation.
Why Is It Called a Cast-Iron Plant?
This resilient plant has gained its name due to its extraordinary durability. There are many who compare its hardiness to that of modern cast-iron. This is certainly an exaggeration, though a very fitting one given its unmatched endurance.
Another name for the cast-iron plant is parlor palm, although this name is usually reserved for the Chamaedorea elegans, which is a different plant that belongs to a different genus. You’re unlikely to meet people who can draw back to the time when this alternate name was in use. It’s recommended you stick to calling it cast-iron for convenience.
How Do You Take Care of a Cast-Iron Plant?
The same way you would take care of any other plant. While the cast-iron plant does not require half as much maintenance as others, the conscientious plant parent will be well aware of its needs. Make sure to keep it watered and at a good temperature in order to reap the benefits of watching it grow and come into its own.
That’s just as easy as it sounds, by the way. Most gardeners, for example, are terrified of dry shade. If you’re considering becoming the proud parent of a cast-iron, then you’ll rejoice at the thought of removing the shade from your list of worries. That’s one of the primary reasons why the Aspidistra elatior is considered to be the perfect training plant for budding gardeners.
What is the Best Temperature for the Cast-Iron Plant?
The Aspidistra elatior is hardy enough to survive outdoor growth in harsh conditions, although you should take care not to mistreat it either. Keeping the plant in extreme cold or extreme heat can very quickly lead it to an early death.
The general consensus is that the plant thrives in temperatures between 7°C (45°F) – 29°C (85°F). It might be evergreen, but even a plant as hardy as the cast-iron can struggle to survive in certain conditions. If you’re planning on keeping it outdoors during the summer then make sure to remember to give it shelter once winter comes for fear of damage.
How Often Do You Water a Cast-Iron Plant?
The cast-iron plant does not require much water and is extremely drought-resistant. The recommended amount is to water it about once a week. With that being said, the Aspidistra elatior prospers in humid environments. If you have the possibility of keeping it in an area with high humidity, then you should, as it’s bound to flourish.
Overwatering is very harmful to the plant, however. Make sure to feed it only a moderate amount of water. Remember: keep the soil moist, not waterlogged! A fast-draining plant pot is perfect for this.
There are some who say the best time to water your cast-iron plant is when the soil is visibly starting to look and feel dry. Stick a finger in it! If it’s dry, then it’s high time to give your buddy a dose of liquid nutrition.
What Fertilizers are Best for the Cast-Iron Plant?
This plant is anything but picky. It does not require any sort of fertilizer to grow, although you’ll find its growth rate to be tremendously slow when compared to other plants. The best fertilizer to feed your plant child with is a simple, all-purpose fertilizer.
Most growers say that the best time for fertilizing your cast-iron plant is from late Winter to about early Fall.
Do Cast-Iron Plants Need Sun?
Light is also a non-issue for the cast-iron plant. It can thrive in low-light conditions and is a great plant to pick if you’re looking for a spectacular botanical companion that doesn’t require a ton of upkeep. This plant is perfect for those who jokingly (or accurately) describe themselves as being black thumbs.
Despite being able to survive without light, the cast-iron plant is certainly no enemy of the sun. Try placing it next to a sunlit window or outdoors. The cast-iron is generally considered to be a slow-growing plant. You’ll find its rate of growth is much higher than you would expect when exposed to sunlight, however, acquiring a unique glow that is suggestive of plant happiness.
You should be careful not to put it in powerful, direct sunlight, however, as it can do no small amount of damage. Conversely, even though the plant can survive without much light, keeping it in pitch darkness is not the best of ideas., either.
Keep your plant well-fed and bathe it in natural light whenever you can. Your bedroom is unlikely to feel cold and unwelcoming when you have such a tremendous botanical buddy by your side.
The cast-iron is generally seen as being an indoor plant. It can be kept inside your house without needing to be maintained as much as other plants. This does not mean that they do not enjoy the sun. They do! All plants need a bit of sunshine in their lives. Shine the spotlight on yours and watch it prosper!
How Often Does the Cast-Iron Plant Require Repotting?
The Aspidistra elatior does not require frequent repotting unlike other types of plants. Transplanting the plant from one place to another can be done without any worries, though repotting requires a bit of thought.
Experienced gardeners claim you should consider repotting your cast-iron plant once every three to four years. The cast-iron is powerful and usually expresses its need to be repotted by surprising you with roots bursting out of the pot it’s been settled in. That’s a sure sign the plant needs to be repotted.
Repotting itself is a simple process. It might seem complicated at first, but it is anything but. Tip the pot to the side and start sliding out the plant to the best of your ability. Make sure not to damage it! The roots of the cast-iron plant are quite sensitive, so you should massage them, not manhandle them.
Why Does My Cast-Iron Plant Have Brown Tips?
The cast-iron plant might be impressively resilient, though even it requires food and water to be kept in its prime. If the leaves of your plant are starting to brown, then it’s very likely that your plant is thirsting for some water. Make sure to water it moderately about once a week in order to save your green friend from dying of thirst.
In some particular situations, the issue at hand is not underwatering, but the extreme accumulation of minerals. While minerals are generally good for plants, too many minerals can be a net negative to your plant’s life. Consider snipping off any brown tips you notice with a pair of fine scissors.
Why Are the Leaves of My Cast-Iron Plant Yellow?
Yellow or brown leaves usually mean the plant might have been exposed to too much sunlight. This tends to damage the plant more than it helps. The cast-iron plant likes humidity. However, too much of it cand be harmful. Make sure to always check and see if its soil has been waterlogged. That is often one of the reasons for yellowing leaves.
You should remove heavily damaged leaves by cutting them at the base of the stem in order to avoid any further damage. Keep your plant beautiful! We all know plants love looking good.
Why is My Cast-Iron Plant Featuring Discolored Leaves?
The problem most likely stems from spider mites. These nasty little critters feed off your plant’s nutrients and will surely lead it to ruin if you don’t intervene. There’s, fortunately, a lot of ways in which you could eliminate a spider mite infestation, so don’t despair.
You must first very thoroughly clean your plant with cold water. Make sure to cover both the tops and bottoms of its leaves and stems. The more meticulous you are, the better, as spider mites are so tiny they’re often overlooked by the untrained eye.
To make matters worse, spider mites tend to lay eggs all over their floral prey. You should make sure to cull them with extreme care and prejudice. Otherwise, you might find your evergreen companion draw close to expiring.
Removing any and all spider mites is good and all, but you should also establish some boundaries so those critters won’t ever think about invading your cast-iron collection. The best way to do that is with liberal amounts of pesticide.
Our recommendation is to use neem oil, which is a natural pesticide that does not harm the plant in any way, shape, or form. Neem oil also gives a beautiful shine to its leaves, so you’ll not only be vaccinating your plant but also giving it a well-deserved manicure and pedicure.
Does the Cast-Iron Plant Purify Air?
A study done by NASA suggests that certain plants are able to absorb any noxious chemicals lying about. One of the plants detailed in their list was none other than the cast-iron, cementing it as not only a good choice for novice growers, but also as a natural purifier. This attribute is particularly effective when applied in an office environment or an area in which health is a primary concern.
Is the Cast-Iron Plant Toxic to Pets?
Absolutely not! The cast-iron plant is not toxic to most pets. If you have cats or dogs, then you can breathe freely, as you’re not likely to damage them by maintaining this beautiful gift from Mother Nature. If anything, they’re probably going to like it. The cast-iron plant might be hardy, but it’s also decidedly beautiful.
The Perfect Companion to a Busy Parent
The cast-iron houseplant is perfect for amateur growers who are looking to get into the hobby. It is very resistant, does not require intensive maintenance, and is beautiful to boot. If the glossy charm of its leaves is not your main selling point, then you’re bound to appreciate it on account of its fierce independence.
Keep in mind that even a plant as strong as the cast-iron requires a bit of love and affection. While you certainly don’t need to dedicate love poems to the Aspidistra elatior, a couple of affectionate words is sure to go a long way. It can hear your love – and trust us – it will reciprocate it as well!