The Cast-iron plant, or Aspidistra elatior, is a houseplant native to China, Japan, and Taiwan. Another name for this plant is the Common aspidistra.
It is a member of the family Asparagaceae (Asparagus family) and is the only member in the genus Aspidistra that can be cultivated indoors.
Aspidistra elatior photograph by rrei320.
It is a long-lived herbaceous perennial that is easy to grow and maintain, making it a good choice for those who have limited experience tending to plants.
Outdoors it does well in USDA Zones 8 to 10 (UK zone H3, can be grown in areas with mild weather with a minimum temperature of 23°F (–5°C).
Aspidistra elatior cv. Variegata: the Striped Cast Iron Plant, photograph by cultivar413; CC.
Plants are stem-less and reach about three feet (90 cm) in height.
Leaves are lance shaped and a glossy dark green in colour. These leaves can often reach two feet (60 cm) in length with a width of about four inches (10 cm).
Leaf blade close up of Aspidistra elatior, photograph by NC State Extension Gardener; CC.
When grown outdoors, the plant will produce underwhelming purplish flowers that appear towards the base of the plant in the springtime.
The plant’s colloquial name is a reference to its use as a houseplant and how it can withstand highly unfavourable light, temperature, humidity, and watering conditions without much of an issue.
While Aspidistra elatior is simple to take care of and low maintenance, taking a little time for proper maintenance will result in a much larger, healthier plant.
Plants spread through their rhizomes.
Temperature-wise, Common aspidistra can withstand substantial variations, which means it can be left outdoors unattended. However, it doesn’t do too well in the extreme cold, so it should be relocated indoors when freezing temperatures become more frequent.
Since the plant also has problems with direct sunlight, it is best to place it in a shady or semi-shady spot.
If you are growing Aspidistra elatior as an houseplant then you may wish to wash the leaves on occasion to enhance their display. Do not overwater plants as soggy soil can lead to root rot.
Ideal soil conditions include a neutral or slightly acidic base that has a good system for water drainage.
As the plant can grow considerably bigger as time goes on, it is a good idea to re-pot it every couple of years to accommodate the expanded root system, and increases leaf structure. Also be on the look out for mites and scale.
For fertilization, a liquid solution should be used sometime between April and October, and should never be used in a dry soil as it can cause the roots to experience chemical burns.
Cast-iron plant should be watered with a degree of moderation; the soil should never be too wet or too dry, with plants located in shady spots requiring less watering than plants that receive more sun.
Cast Iron Plant photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC.