Cast-iron plant aspidistra elatior

The Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) is an old-fashioned, tough, leathery foliage house plant. It is an ideal houseplant for cooler areas of your house bringing the tropics indoors.

In fact, Cast Iron plants were a favorite indoor plant along with the Howea Kentia palm during the Victorian era when houses were anything but bright and airy.

This plant with dark green leaves was used to decorate long before we heard of or discussed peace lily care, Aglaonema varieties or using the Snake plant as houseplants.

Today, in the Southern United States like Louisiana, you will find the cast iron plant growing completely carefree as a ground cover in dense, deep shade.

The Aspidistra genus (Asparagaceae) is made of up about 100 species with over 60 originating in China. Kew Gardens list 1823, as the year of the first recorded Aspidistra but the genus was named Aspidistra by John Ker Gawler in 1822.

The most popularly grown species is Aspidistra elatior, native to the Eastern Himalayas, Taiwan, China, and Japan and the plant we commonly call the “cast iron plant” or “iron plant”.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell. Penguin Edition, 1962. First published in 1936. – via Gwydion M. Williams

The cast iron plant is one of the few plants we can say helped inspire or carry the lead in a novel.

In 1936, George Orwell wrote his novel “Keep the Aspidistra Flying.”

In World War II, “Winston Churchill authorized the purchase of an extremely powerful radio transmitter from the United States under the codename “Aspidistra” borrowed from the popular song ‘The Biggest Aspidistra in the World’.”

Patience is the prime requirement needed by owners of small cast iron plants; it takes considerable time to grow an Aspidistra to specimen size.

Ironically, like many “folk” plants, it is not always available in nurseries. This is partly because of its slow growth and not properly appreciated.

Cast iron plants are usually grown in 6″, 8″; and 10″ inch azalea pots. As a bushy potted plant, 12 to 24 inches tall and wide, the Aspidistra simply has no equal and is a perfect plant for indoor use like in a bathroom.

Aspidistra is an ideal plant for that cooler area of your house to bring the tropics indoors.

Contents

Aspidistra Will Also…

  • Tolerate dust as well as heat, cold, wet soil, drought, neglect and dimly lighted places.
  • Tolerate temperatures as low as 28° degrees Fahrenheit without injury to the foliage. (more on cold tolerant houseplants)
  • Tolerate light levels as low as 10 foot candles
  • Make a great addition to cut flower arrangements; the foliage often lasts for weeks.
  • Generally Pest Free – if you have problems try these solutions!

Aspidistra elatior has cornlike, shiny, dark green leaves with blades that grow to 24″ inches long; it occasionally produces purple-brown small flowers near the base of the plant.

It also has a variegated form like the image below. The white markings help to light up a dark corner rather like sun filtering through a shade tree.

A dwarf form called Aspidistra minor or Aspidistra Milky Way has white-spotted black-green leaves. Try to acquire all three (there are many more species), then display them in attractive decorative pottery or containers.

Aspidistra is such a slow grower and is expensive to produce and purchase. But with all of its positive attributes, it is well be worth the price, offering long-term enjoyment and beauty.

Unusual Aspidistra Cast Iron Flower

Bell-shaped flower of the cast iron plant – Aspidistra elatior via Stewart Black / Flickr

Aspidistra elatior was popular as a foliage plant in Victorian times, their ability to survive under adverse conditions and their remarkable ability to withstand abuse and neglect.

It’s been said, “the Aspidistra was immune to the effects of gas used for lighting in the Victorian era (other plants and flowers withered or yellowed), which might account for its popularity.”

Today, their tough and resilient characteristics allow them to endure indoor conditions of today’s modern homes and offices. Although the aspidistra leaf is evergreen all year, this ovate glossy-leaved plant occasionally bears flowers and fruits just beneath the soil line.

Video: Aspidistra Care Instructions

In this video, Kevin talks about caring for variegated cast iron plants, watering, lighting, fertilizing and grooming.

Cast Iron Plant Care And Cultural Tips:

It gets its name Cast Iron from its ability to tolerate poor conditions both inside or out. It is easy to grow and requires little care.

Indoors, Aglaonemas, the durable “Zanzibar Gem” (ZZ plant), and snake plants are possibly the only other plants capable of handling these conditions. Low light, drafts and general neglect in watering and dust accumulation.

However, you can find many types of indoor houseplants to fit your conditions and environment.

Origin: Distribution China and Southern Japan
Family: Asparagaceae

The Aspidistra plant has long, dark green 15″ – 30” inch leaves, 3 – 4” inches wide producing an arching effect reaching a height of 3 feet tall.

The dark green leaves grow upward in clusters from thick, fleshy root stalks at the base.

The small globular aspidistra flowers with a violet-brown color (in a perianth) grow at soil level.

Lighting and Temperature

It is much more attractive with proper care and will tolerate a wide range of temperatures.

It prefers temperatures between 50°-55° degrees Fahrenheit at night and 70°-75° degrees Fahrenheit during the day with light levels between 50 and 500-foot candles.

In The Landscape: It is recommended for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 11. Does best when shaded from direct sun. The cast iron plant handles temperature extremes from 45° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit very well, and temperatures do not seem to affect plant growth.

As a House Plant: Bright light from a north window is best. If growing under artificial light, the plant will do well with 150-foot candles.

Soil and Potting Medium

In The Landscape: Outside, plant Aspidistra in a good quality well-drained garden soil with decayed manure and up to 1/3 part peat or humus added.

NOTE: I have personally seen beds of cast iron plants do very well in poor soil.

Cast iron Aspidistra plants growing as a ground cover in a landscape bed – Disney World, Animal Kingdom 2018

As a Potted Plant use a good quality well-drained soil mix like those made for African Violets or make your own with one part all-purpose loam, one part peat moss, one part perlite or vermiculite.

The plant does well when pot-bound and needs repotting every two to three years. Repot in early spring before new growth begins.

Watering

Do not allow the root system to stay wet and soggy. However, keep the soil moist at all times.

Evenly moist but not constantly wet is the ideal way to water this plant, although it will survive forgotten waterings. Aspidistra does handle dry air and low humidity but does best with some air moisture.

Fertilizer

As a slow grower, do not over feed. At high light levels fertilizing once per month at 1/2 strength with a liquid food or apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring before growth begins.

Under low light conditions, liquid feed every 3 to 4 months.

Stop feeding during the cold winter months.

Propagation

Propagate a new plant by root division. When dividing, cut each division into two to three leaves. Make new plants by planting multiple divisions together in a large growing pot.

Pest, Disease and Physical Issues

Check out these posts for spider mites and scale insects on plants.

  • Natural ways to get rid of spider mites

Cracked leaves from bruising: Usually caused by people brushing up against the plant. Move the plant to a new location where will not run into it.

Yellowing of leaves: Usually caused by exposure to strong lighting.
Move this deep shade loving plant to a location where it will receive filtered shade. Do not allow plants to sit in direct sun.

White variegation turns to solid green. Loss of variegation happens when:

  • Soil is too rich – stop feeding especially during winter
  • Soil does not properly drain – make sure water does not sit in the bottom of the pot, and the drainage holes are not covered.
  • The plant receives too little light – This deep shade lover does not like darkness. Move the plant to a brighter location or closer to an artificial light source.

Leaves become damp and blistered with yellow, white, black or brown spots. This condition comes from a bacterial or fungal disease commonly called leaf-spot disease. The cause is poor air circulation, overwatering, high humidity, low light or chilling.

In very severe cases the cast iron will lose all foliage. Increase ventilation, light, and temperature to help dry out the soil. Remove infected areas, spray with an approved fungicide and DO NOT water. Resume regular care after plant recovers.

The Family Of Aspidistra Species Grows

The genus has been ignored until about the 1980’s. Since then many new Aspidistra plant species have been recognized.

In March 2005, during a field trip to Shiwandashan Mountains in southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, the second author (Yan Liu) collected and brought back a sterile plant of Aspidistra for cultivation, which flowered in Guilin Botanical Garden next spring. We went on another trip to the same locality in Shiwandashan Mountains in January 2007 and were able to collect fruiting materials of this species. Compared with other species of Aspidistra, it was recognized as an undescribed species that differs from congeners in its peculiar adnate stamens with extended and upcurved connectives.

Full List Of Aspidistra Species

Below is a list of 169 Aspidistra species and varieties recognized by The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at Kew as of September 10, 2017.

  • Aspidistra (1823)
  • Aspidistra acetabuliformis (1987)
  • Aspidistra alata (2007)
  • Aspidistra albiflora (2011)
  • Aspidistra albopurpurea (2013)
  • Aspidistra alternativa (2002)
  • Aspidistra anomala (2016)
  • Aspidistra arnautovii (2005)
  • Aspidistra arnautovii var. angustifolia (2012)
  • Aspidistra arnautovii var. arnautovii
  • Aspidistra arnautovii var. catbaensis (2014)
  • Aspidistra australis (2013)
  • Aspidistra austrosinensis (1987)
  • Aspidistra averyanovii (2016)
  • Aspidistra bamaensis (2009)
  • Aspidistra basalis (2012)
  • Aspidistra bicolor (2005)
  • Aspidistra bogneri (2005)
  • Aspidistra brachystyla (2008)
  • Aspidistra caespitosa (1939)
  • Aspidistra campanulata (2007)
  • Aspidistra carinata (1989)
  • Aspidistra carnosa (2005)
  • Aspidistra cavicola (1993)
  • Aspidistra cerina (2002)
  • Aspidistra chishuiensis (2010)
  • Aspidistra chongzuoensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra chunxiuensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra clausa (2015)
  • Aspidistra claviformis (1984)
  • Aspidistra coccigera (2012)
  • Aspidistra columellaris (2012)
  • Aspidistra connata (2005)
  • Aspidistra connata var. connata
  • Aspidistra connata var. radiata (2014)
  • Aspidistra crassifila (2013)
  • Aspidistra cruciformis (1987)
  • Aspidistra cryptantha (2007)
  • Aspidistra cyathiflora (1989)
  • Aspidistra cylindrica (2016)
  • Aspidistra daibuensis (1920)
  • Aspidistra daxinensis (2009)
  • Aspidistra dodecandra (2005)
  • Aspidistra dolichanthera (1982)
  • Aspidistra ebianensis (1999)
  • Aspidistra elatior (1834)
  • Aspidistra elatior var. attenuata (2000)
  • Aspidistra elatior var. elatior
  • Aspidistra elatior var. vietnamensis (2012)
  • Aspidistra elegans (2016)
  • Aspidistra erecta (2011)
  • Aspidistra erythrocephala (2016)
  • Aspidistra fasciaria (1999)
  • Aspidistra fenghuangensis (1999)
  • Aspidistra fimbriata (1978)
  • Aspidistra flaviflora (1982)
  • Aspidistra foliosa (2005)
  • Aspidistra fungilliformis (1984)
  • Aspidistra fungilliformis subsp.formosa (2008)
  • Aspidistra fungilliformis subsp. fungilliformis
  • Aspidistra geastrum (2005)
  • Aspidistra glandulosa (2005)
  • Aspidistra globosa (2016)
  • Aspidistra gracilis (2012)
  • Aspidistra grandiflora (2007)
  • Aspidistra guangxiensis (2003)
  • Aspidistra guizhouensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra hekouensis (1998)
  • Aspidistra hezhouensis (2011)
  • Aspidistra huanjiangensis (2003)
  • Aspidistra jiewhoei (2013)
  • Aspidistra jingxiensis (2012)
  • Aspidistra khangii (2013)
  • Aspidistra laotica (2014)
  • Aspidistra lateralis (2005)
  • Aspidistra leshanensis (1984)
  • Aspidistra leyeensis (1987)
  • Aspidistra liboensis (2011)
  • Aspidistra linearifolia (1987)
  • Aspidistra lingchuanensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra lingyunensis (2013)
  • Aspidistra lobata (2006)
  • Aspidistra locii (2004)
  • Aspidistra longanensis (1985)
  • Aspidistra longgangensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra longifolia (1892)
  • Aspidistra longiloba (1988)
  • Aspidistra longipedunculata (1982)
  • Aspidistra longipetala (1986)
  • Aspidistra longituba (2011)
  • Aspidistra longshengensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra lubae (2013)
  • Aspidistra lubae var. lancifolia (2013)
  • Aspidistra lubae var. lubae
  • Aspidistra luodianensis (1992)
  • Aspidistra lurida (1822)
  • Aspidistra lutea (2005)
  • Aspidistra marasmioides (2005)
  • Aspidistra marginella (1993)
  • Aspidistra minutiflora (1903)
  • Aspidistra mirostigma (2014)
  • Aspidistra molendinacea (2002)
  • Aspidistra multiflora (2014)
  • Aspidistra muricata (1981)
  • Aspidistra mushaensis (1920)
  • Aspidistra nanchuanensis (2006)
  • Aspidistra nankunshanensis (2013)
  • Aspidistra nikolaii (2008)
  • Aspidistra obconica (2010)
  • Aspidistra oblanceifolia (1982)
  • Aspidistra obliquipeltata (2002)
  • Aspidistra oblongifolia (1999)
  • Aspidistra omeiensis (1981)
  • Aspidistra opaca (2005)
  • Aspidistra opaca var. opaca
  • Aspidistra opaca var. rugosa (2014)
  • Aspidistra ovatifolia (2014)
  • Aspidistra oviflora (2014)
  • Aspidistra papillata (2003)
  • Aspidistra parviflora (2016)
  • Aspidistra patentiloba (1989)
  • Aspidistra paucitepala (2014)
  • Aspidistra petiolata (2005)
  • Aspidistra phanluongii (2012)
  • Aspidistra pileata (2002)
  • Aspidistra pingfaensis (2014)
  • Aspidistra pingtangensis (2011)
  • Aspidistra punctata (1826)
  • Aspidistra punctatoides (2011)
  • Aspidistra quadripartita (2002)
  • Aspidistra recondita (2007)
  • Aspidistra renatae (2005)
  • Aspidistra retusa (1981)
  • Aspidistra revoluta (2016)
  • Aspidistra ronganensis (2016)
  • Aspidistra saxicola (1984)
  • Aspidistra semiaperta (2014)
  • Aspidistra sichuanensis (1984)
  • Aspidistra sinensis (2016)
  • Aspidistra spinula (2002)
  • Aspidistra stellata (2013)
  • Aspidistra stenophylla (2014)
  • Aspidistra stricta (2005)
  • Aspidistra subrotata (1987)
  • Aspidistra subrotata var. angustifolia (2010)
  • Aspidistra subrotata var. crassinervis (2010)
  • Aspidistra subrotata var. subrotata
  • Aspidistra superba (2005)
  • Aspidistra sutepensis (1961)
  • Aspidistra tenuifolia (2014)
  • Aspidistra tillichiana (2015)
  • Aspidistra tonkinensis (1978)
  • Aspidistra triloba (1981)
  • Aspidistra triradiata (2015)
  • Aspidistra truongii (2013)
  • Aspidistra tubiflora (2006)
  • Aspidistra typica (1894)
  • Aspidistra umbrosa (2007)
  • Aspidistra urceolata (1981)
  • Aspidistra ventricosa (2014)
  • Aspidistra wujiangensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra xilinensis (1987)
  • Aspidistra xuansonensis (2014)
  • Aspidistra xuansonensis var. violiflora (2014)
  • Aspidistra xuansonensis var. xuansonensis
  • Aspidistra yizhouensis (2016)
  • Aspidistra yunwuensis (2015)
  • Aspidistra zinaidae (2012)
  • Aspidistra zongbayi (1982)

Image: source

Scale insects

Indicators of an infestation with scale insects is sticky honey dew on the leaves and the small, brownish scales of the scale insects. The leaves cripple, grow brown and fall off. The causes of the infestation are very similar to those of an infestation with mealy bugs. Using ichneumon flies or ladybirds can be sensible, is difficult to realize indoors, however. Since its shell protects the insect, it i sensible to fight them with systematically acting chemicals.

Spider mites (red spider)

Spider mites create the typical webs which form mainly on the leaf axilis and on the pointed edges of the leaves. They, too, mainly show up due to dry air in combination with high temperatures. The leaves of affected plants shimmer silvery and grow yellow to dry out eventually. If you realize an infestation, shower the plant thoroughly in order to wash away the greater part of the vermin. Before that, however, one should cover the bale with foil. Also, using mesostigmata might be sensible.

Varieties

Aspidistra elatior “Ashahi”

  • the leaves of this variety from Japan are dark green in the beginning
  • growing older, the tips of the leaves take on a white colour

Aspidistra elatior “Variegata”

  • white and yellow vertical stripes on the otherwise green leaves are characteristic for this variety
  • some of the leaves can be completely green, however

Aspidistra elatior “Lennon’s Song”

  • here, the leaves show light green or yellowish vertical stripes on the middle in the middle
  • also, in this variety, lone dark green leaves can appear

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Originating from deep in the forests of Japan and China, Aspidistra Elatior or as it’s often referred to, the Cast Iron Plant, is ideal for anyone looking for a low maintenance houseplant. This elegant, hardy plant thrives where many other house plants struggle. This article will teach you all you need to know about cast iron plant care, and why they are growing in popularity once more.

Appearance

The plant itself comes from the Asparagacae family. As a slow growing perennial, it can grow upwards to 50 to 70 centimeters in height. It boasts dark green leaves, which erupt directly from an underground rhizome on long stalks. The leaves arch outwards from the center of the plant, elegantly curving, displaying the beautiful foliage.

Growing Your Aspidistra Elatior Or Cast Iron Plant

This is the ideal plant for anyone who has a “brown thumb”. It requires little care and is easy to tend to. The dark green leaves are healthy and robust and will tolerate low indoor lighting. If you’re like many indoor plant owners and forget to water it occasionally, this plant is very forgiving. It will reach a mature height of approximately 2 feet which makes it ideal as a floor plant or a table top plant.

The cast iron plant will develop a number of new leaves each year, and the plant will slowly extend outwards, reaching a maximum spread of about 3 feet. Even with careful nurturing, it is a slow growing plant, so should provide you with many years of enjoyment.

The cast iron plant is ideal for anyone who cannot always find the time, or remember to give their plants the attention they need. This plant will survive when other plants would shrivel up and die.

Cast Iron Plant Lighting Requirements

The cast iron plant tolerates low indoor lighting and thrives in shaded areas. It will also do well in filtered sunlight but it doesn’t like direct sunlight. It will do best in north or east facing rooms, but if placed out of direct sunlight, can be positioned in almost any room in the house.

How To Water A Cast Iron Plant

Preferring a soil that isn’t too dry or too moist, this plant seems to thrive on neglect. Water it approximately once per week and remember when watering that less is more.

Be guided by the moisture of the soil, rather than a strict watering schedule, as overwatering will cause the plant to suffer from root rot and may kill the entire plant.

It’s best to allow the top two-thirds of the soil to completely dry out in between waterings. Test the soil with a finger to see if there is any moisture in the soil, if the finger encounters moisture it’s likely that there is plenty of water for the plant.

What Soil Does A Cast Iron Plant Need?

The Cast Iron Plant does well with a well draining potting soil, ideally with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The pot should have drainage holes to reduce the risk of overwatering and to ensure healthy growth of your plant.

Fertilizing A Cast Iron Plant

A liquid or water soluble all purpose fertilizer will be ideal for this plant. Apply every four weeks during spring and summer using the manufacturers directions for best results. It is recommended that you not fertilize for up to one year after you’ve separated this plant or repotted it. Most plant owners only fertilize this plant once between April and October of any given year.

Temperature Requirements

Aspidistra Elatior thrives in a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t do well in temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit so if you have placed it near a drafty window or doorway during the cooler months you may wish to locate it in a warmer location such as a sunny window or warmer room in the house or office.

Do Cast Iron Plants Have Flowers?

The Cast Iron plant does flower, but it is really quite a rarity. The flowers aren’t very impressive, and actually form at soil level, often hidden from view behind the foliage. They are purple in color, have no scent, and last only a few weeks. So, don’t get a cast iron plant expecting a spectacular display of blooms. The main attraction here is the elegant foliage and low maintenance requirements.

Cast Iron Plant Propagation And Repotting

Propagation of this plant is done by parting. Gently remove the plant from the soil and shake loose soil from the roots. Gently part the rhizome into several parts using a pair of sharp gardening shears or a clean sharp knife. Separate the root cords so that each part has two leaves or a “sleeping eye”.

You can then replant the newly separated roots individually or as a group. If you’re going to replant them as a group, make sure that you have enough space between the two plants to ensure plenty of room for them to spread out and make the plant look fuller and more lush. When doing this you’ll want to be extra sure to use a soil that has proper drainage.

You can’t create a new plant by taking a cutting of this plant. Nor should you “cut” the plant back as this will cause excessive trauma and the plant will stop growing. Simply remove dead leaves as close to the base of the dead leaf as possible. Before removing the dead leaf, make sure that it’s completely dried out as this will facilitate the removal of the leaf more readily. Once the leaf is completely dried out you can use your pruning shears or sharp gardening shears to cut the leaf as close to the base of the plant as possible. Make sure that you’ve first disinfected the shears so that you’re not introducing any molds or viruses into the plant.

You’ll want to replant or repot your Aspidistra Elatior about every four to five years. When the roots or rhizomes of the plant have begun to overgrow the edges of the planter, it’s time to replant your plant. The best time of year to replant your Aspidistra Elatior is in the Spring.

Make sure that your new planter is larger than the previous planter. Put in a layer of rough gravel, old pot shards or something that will allow excellent drainage and prevent any water logging of your plant. The next layer should be the potting soil. Fill your planter about a third of the way with this new potting soil. Shake the old potting soil off of the roots before replanting. If it’s sticking too much, you may need to dip the roots into some water and rinse it off. Place the roots into the new planter and gently fill in around it with more of the potting soil.

You should fill the planter to within 2 centimeters of the top edge. Press the soil in gently to fill in any air holes. Finally, lightly water your newly potted plant and allow it to acclimatize to its new planter.

Varieties Of Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra Elatior)

There are quite a number of different cultivars of the Aspidistra Elatior, which provide interesting variations on the more widely known appearance of this plant. There are cultivars with variagated and striped leaves, those with white tips and with white spots of various patterns on the leaves. It’s important to note that the variegated plant tends to be less hardy than it’s darker green solid leafed cousin. For the most comprehensive range of Apidistra Elatior cultivars, here is a great resource. Here are a few of the more common cultivars of the cast iron plant and their particular characteristics.

Aspidistra Elatior Asahi

As this particular variety ages the tips of the upper third of each leaf begin to turn white in color, providing a very striking contrast to the dark green color of the rest of the leaf. One point to note is that if this cultivar does not receive sufficient light, or is planted in too small a container, it may not attain it’s characteristic change in color.

Aspidistra Elatior Variegata

This particular variety has yellow and white vertical stripes on the dark green leaves. There are a few of the leaves that will remain solid green in color.

Aspidistra Elatior “Lennon’s Song”

The leaves of this particular variety will have light green to yellow vertical stripes down the center of the leaves. There are also some leaves that remain dark green in color.

Cast Iron Plant Diseases And Pests

There are a few diseases and pests that you’ll want to be aware of in regards to your Aspidistra Elatior plant. We’ve listed the most common ones and given you some tips on how to deal with them below.

Leaf Blotch

Leaf blotch is identified by the brownish black spots that appear on the leaves. They will be various shapes and sizes and in the end, the leaves will fall off of the plant. These are caused by different types of fungi that infect the plants if they are weak. To combat this, you’ll need to remove the leaves that are infected so that it won’t spread to the rest of the plant. There are different types of fungi so if you’re battling this, you’ll want to use a broad spectrum fungicide.

Mealy Bugs

Mealy bugs attack the plant and suck the juice out of the leaves. This, in turn, retards the growth of the plant and will eventually cause the plant to die. They are white and have a wool type of web that can cover the entire plant if the infestation is severe. They are approximately five millimeters in length. Covered in a layer of wax that is cleverly designed to keep them from becoming prey to their enemies, the cause of this infestation is typically being exposed to air that is too dry or from a nearby heat vent or radiator. IT can also be introduced by another plant that may be infested.

To combat this infestation, first remove the plant from other nearby plants. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth that has been dampened in rubbing alcohol. Repeat this every day until you no longer see the bugs. You can also use neem oil if you don’t have access to any rubbing alcohol.

Scale Insects

These sticky scaly insects will appear as a sticky honey on the leaves of the plant. They are brownish in appearance. The leaves will begin to turn brown and fall off of the plant. These should be treated as above however, they have a stronger outer shell and may be even more challenging to get rid of. You may have to resort to stronger chemicals to rid your plant of these creatures.

Spider Mites Or Red Spider

If you see a web like formation on your plant near the pointy edges of the leaves, you may have red spider mites. These are often due to air that is too dry and the room being too warm for the plant. The leaves will have a shimmery silver appearance and they will eventually turn yellow and die. If you have an infestation, put the plant in a shower and wash away the spider mites, You may also have to resort to chemicals for this type of infestation.

Toxicity

The cast iron plant isn’t toxic to dogs, cats or horses.

Do I need to avoid direct sunlight when positioning cast iron plants?

While this plant requires plenty of light (the variegated species requiring more light than it’s green cousin), direct sunlight can cause damage to the plant so you’ll want to make sure that your plant is in indirect sunlight or has a more filtered light source.

Can I place my cast iron plant outdoors in warmer weather?

Yes, during the warmer spring months through the warm fall you can place your Aspidistra Elatior plant on a protected balcony, patio, or in a garden area. Take great care, however, to ensure that your plant is back indoors before the first frost which could be very damaging to your plant. Also ensure that your Cast Iron plant has plenty of protection from direct rainfall.

Does the Aspidistra Elatior ever grow outdoors exclusively?

Yes, in many regions of the Southern United States, the Aspidistra Elatior grows carefree and takes over as a ground cover, this is especially true if it’s planted in a shady location.

Does the Aspidistra Elatior require any specialized care?

Patience is the key for caring for this plant. It’s an ideal plant for those who have a “brown thumb” and tend to kill off their houseplants unintentionally. It tolerates many conditions including dust, neglect, dim lighting, and occasional over watering.

Can cast iron plants tolerate cold?

While it’s not recommended, there have been reports of the plant tolerating temperatures as cold as 28 degrees Fahrenheit without any serious damage.

Can I use this cast iron plant foliage in flower arrangements?

The Aspidistra Elatior makes an excellent addition to a flower arrangement. The foliage will last for several weeks.

Hibernation

These plants can also be put into hibernation. In order to do this you can take the plant indoors prior to the first frost. It will then rest from November through March. It may also go into hibernation during normal conditions in a cooler room of the house.

Cast Iron Plant

Cast iron plant is a tough perennial that’s great for shady spots.

Characteristics

Common names often say a lot about a plant, and cast iron plant is no exception. This tough-as-nails plant makes a reliable accent plant or groundcover in any shady corner of the landscape.

Cast iron plant can be grown outdoors in all regions of Florida and does equally well in filtered and deep shade—just don’t plant it in full sun.

The lance-shaped leaves of this evergreen perennial grow upright and reach 12 to 20 inches tall. They’re traditionally a rich, glossy green but a number of improved cultivars have variegated leaves that delight gardeners with cream- or yellow-colored stripes or spots. These variegated cultivars tend to be less vigorous than those with solid green leaves.

Over time, a single plant will spread via its rhizomatous roots to create a larger clump. This slow, spreading habit is what makes cast iron plant such an effective and easy-care groundcover.

This versatile plant can even be grown as a bulletproof houseplant, and it’s especially suited for homes and offices that don’t receive much light.

Cast iron plant is known scientifically as Aspidistra elatior and is hardy to USDA plant hardiness zones 7-11.

Planting and Care

Cast iron plant prefers a rich, fertile soil, but it will tolerate a range of soil conditions.

If you want to use cast iron plant as a groundcover, space the plants 12 to 18 inches apart to leave them room to grow. Water them initially to help them get established. After that they’ll be quite drought-tolerant, though they will perform better if watered periodically.

Likewise, your plants won’t require regular fertilization but will respond well to feeding in spring or summer.

For more information on cast iron plant, contact your county Extension office.

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  • Aspidistra elatior, Cast Iron Plant

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Cast Iron Plants: Information On How To Grow A Cast Iron Plant

The cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), also known as iron plant and ballroom plant, is an extremely hardy houseplant and a perennial favorite in some regions. Growing cast iron plants is especially favored by those who don’t have a lot of time for plant care, as this species can survive even the most extreme conditions where other plants would shrivel and die, which makes cast iron plant care a snap. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a cast iron plant indoors or using cast iron plants in the landscape.

How to Grow a Cast Iron Plant Indoors

Growing cast iron indoors is extremely easy and rewarding. This China native is a member of the lily family. The plant has small purple flowers that only appear near the soil surface and are hidden in its foliage. For what this plant may lack in glitz, however, it makes up for in robust, healthy dark green leaves.

The cast iron plant grows well in low light indoors and is not finicky about regular water either. Although a slow grower, this reliable performer will live for many years, reaching a mature height of around 2 feet.

Growing Cast Iron Plants Outdoors

Various cast iron cultivars succeed where other vegetation will not. Using cast iron plant in the landscape is common as a ground cover under trees where other plants fail to thrive and in other hard-to-grow areas. You can also use is as a background plant in your flower bed or along with azaleas for a nice in-between filler plant.

Cast Iron Plant Care

Although the cast iron plant will tolerate extreme conditions, it’s always a good idea to provide plenty of water, especially during very dry periods.

This plant also responds well to organic soil and an annual dose of all-purpose fertilizer.

Propagate cast iron plants by division. Although new plants are slow to grow, with some patience and time, the new plant will thrive.

This hardy plant thrives in very hot, dry summers and isn’t easily damaged by cold winters. Insects seem to leave it alone, and it very rarely is bothered by disease of any kind.

When you want a plant with such ease of care and flexibility or when all else fails, give this easy-care plant a try. Grow cast iron indoors or try your hand at using cast iron plant in the landscape for a unique look.

Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra Elatior – Beautiful Live 6 Inch Pot

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  • Grown, packaged and shipped exclusively by Wekiva Foliage. This plant is as tough as its name! Excellent for those difficult-to-fill areas in deep shade, spreading gently by underground stems. A nearly fuss-free, lush, leafy evergreen that will tolerate a range of growing conditions including heat, aridity and dry shade.
  • Unfortunately we’re unable to ship to California and Arizona. For a gardener with a brown thumb, this sturdy, long lasting plant can be used in areas where all else fails; it is always green, and can handle deep shade under deck stairs or along foundations that receive almost no sunlight.
  • Thrives in organically rich, well-drained soil, sited in bright shade; tolerates deep shade well. In containers, use a high quality, organic potting mix. Water deeply, regularly in first growing season to establish root system; once established, reduce frequency. Feed with a general-purpose fertilizer in spring.
  • Native to the Osumi Islands of Japan, it inhabits forest floors and receives its common name of Cast Iron Plant due to its ability to survive under dark and neglectful conditions. New species of this plant are currently being discovered throughout East Asia.
  • No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for mites and scale. Overwatering may cause root rot. Direct sun will bleach leaves.

Two cast iron plants in captivity. Credit:Nino Barbieri Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

The cast iron plant, unusually for its kind, is named for its personality.

As a houseplant and groundcover, it is virtually indestructible. It can get by on the barest of illumination, tolerates over- and under-watering, and has few pests. Its one drawback — that it is a sluggish grower — is probably an asset when grown outdoors, since that renders it non-invasive .

As popular and commonly cultivated as it is, as a botanical specimen, it is somewhat unusual. In the wild, it exists on only a few small islands in the entire world. And for over 100 years, it was thought to be the world’s only flower pollinated by a slug. Yes, you read that right. A mollusk.

It turns out that might not have been 100% accurate.

Some Japanese scientists decided to test this hypothesis by actually staking out some cast iron plants in their homeland in southern Japan. Because, as it turns out, no one had actually done that before throwing around their land-gastropod-pollination ideas. That hypothesis was formulated in 1889 by watching plants imported to Europe. And for another 100 years, no one else performed that most basic of natural history experiments: watch the organism in nature.

It should be said that idea that a slug could pollinate its flowers was not quite as crazy as it seems. The genus to which the plant belongs, Aspidistra, is known for having a variety of oddball, unassuming flowers with a forest floor zip code. This suite of characteristics makes for some unusual pollinators, many of whom remain unknown.

A typical flower has both male and female parts. The male parts are the stamens, which contain sacs of pollen called anthers, while the female part is the carpel, surmounted by the stigma, the surface upon which pollen must land in order to fertilize the flower.

In the flower of a cast iron plant, the stamens are tucked under a fat stigma that nearly fills the floral cup. This configuration renders wind pollination or self-pollination impossible and means that only a very determined or very tiny pollinator can gain entry. It hints at something sinister — a trap

Like its kin, cast iron flowers grow partially buried in soil and covered by leaf litter (another reason wind pollination is out of the question). In captivity, they often make these flowers right in the pot they’re growing in, so if you own one, take a peek from time to time to see if your plant might be in cryptobloom.

For about 30 hours, the scientists surrounded and patiently watched wild cast iron flowers on Kuroshima Island, using red light at night to disturb pollinators as little as possible. They also tagged 253 of the flowers to identify which later set fruit.

The flowers were visited not by slugs, but by the considerably smaller and less sexy fungus gnat. A fungus gnat is a tiny and, should your houseplants be infested with any, extremely irritating insect. They like to find ways to land in your tea, get accidentally inhaled, or insinuate to your guests you are a poor housekeeper. When they’re not busy doing that, their other hobbies include mating and flying around like they’ve recently spent time in a stale puddle of Natty Light.

I’m being unreasonably harsh here; fungus gnats are mosquito relatives, so in the plus column, they aren’t blood-sucking parasites. However, fungus gnat larvae (a.k.a. maggots) spend their days peristalsing through the soil eating rotting plant parts, fungi, and roots. Although that’s technically called “nutrient cycling” and it’s important, that last menu item is why it’s even more irritating when they’ve turned your ficus into their own personal Club Med, because what they’re actually doing is chewing on your beloved houseplant.

To return to the cast iron plant. Over the 30 hours the scientists spent scrutinizing their flowers, five fungus gnats landed, crawled through the gap between the stigma and the petals, and emerged looking bewildered but covered in pollen.

It’s so embarrassing when this happens. Credit: Suetsugu and Sueyoshi 2018

None were female, which means they cannot have been there to lay eggs. When they landed on the flowers, they inevitably landed on that stigma helipad first, ensuring that any pollen grains stuck to them from previous visits would immediately find their target.

There was one other clue to what might be going on in the flowers of Aspidistra eliator. Unlike other species of Aspidistra whose flowers are generally odorless, the scientists noticed the cast iron flower emitted a “musty” odor.

Connecting the dots, they surmised the cast iron plant flower has a dirty little secret: it has evolved to look and smell like a fungus, the chosen food of the aptly-named fungus gnat. In my opinion, it strongly resembles an earthstar.

The earthstar Geastrum saccatum. Credit: Bernard Spragg NZ Flickr

An earthstar would no doubt provide a delicious meal. A cast iron plant flower, on the other hand, though full of pollen a fungus gnat cannot digest, provides nothing. The fungus gnat, on the other hand, has just provided the flower with advanced reproductive services free of charge.

Interestingly, fungus gnats were not the flowers’ only visitors. Little soil invertebrates called springtails and sand fleas also ducked inside occasionally. But they were so tiny that they could carry no more than a few pollen grains at a time, the scientists said, making them unlikely to be important pollinators.

There were two more visitors of note: diaprid wasps. These parasitoids attack the larvae of fungus gnats, infesting them with their own parasitic offspring. What that means is that these flowers are such convincing fakes that they attract not only fungus-eating insects but also the insects that prey on them. Unlike the fungus gnats, however, they at least sometimes find a decent meal inside.

As a reproductive strategy, deception’s not perfect. Out of those 253 flowers, only 12 got lucky and ended up setting fruit. A low fertilization rate is probably the price of a deceptive pollination strategy, since smart insects quickly learn to avoid such traps, and smart insects leave more offspring. But of the five flowers visited by fungus gnats, two set fruit. The goods are odd and the odds aren’t good, but they get much better when a fungus gnat gets involved.

Reference

Suetsugu, Kenji, and Masahiro Sueyoshi. “Subterranean flowers of Aspidistra elatior are mainly pollinated by not terrestrial amphipods but fungus gnats.” Ecology 99, no. 1 (2018): 244-246.

Cast Iron Plant Excels in Shady Landscapes

Cast iron plant can be found gracing the grounds underneath Spanish-moss draped live oaks and in the deep shade of spreading magnolias throughout the South. Glossy, dark-green leaves two to three feet long and six to eight inches wide adorn shady spots in many Southern gardens.

Many people have never seen the flowers of the Aspidistra. Maroon flowers about one inch wide bloom at or just below ground level. The flowers are pollinated by ground-dwelling insects such as snails and slugs.

Culture

Plant Aspidistra in deep shade in organic, moisture-retentive soil. Although it tolerates drought and survives in spite of all we and nature can dish out, it thrives in moist soil and responds favorably to an occasional light fertilization or top-dressing of compost. Do not overdo, especially with the variegated types, for they tend to lose their variegation if the soil is too rich.

Once a year or so, old or tattered leaves may be removed. As a matter of fact, if the planting really starts looking ratty, cut it all back to the ground in spring before the new leaves appear. New growth will soon emerge, and it will be as attractive as ever.

Occasionally such pests as caterpillars, scale, mites, and sometimes slugs and snails may need to be controlled. Though diseases are not prevalent, leaf spots and various root rots can become problematic if foliage remains wet or if soil is not well-drained.

Propagate Aspidistra by dividing established clumps. A section can be cut away from a clump, or the entire clump can be dug and divided by cutting with a sharp knife or pulling apart. The divisions rarely miss a beat when planted in a freshly prepared bed.

The nomenclature of the Aspidistras needs much work. According to some references, over 100 species exist, and of each species, there are many cultivars. A list of species and cultivars reveals the diversity of this group of plants.

Cultivars of Interest

  • ‘Variegata’ or ‘Okame’ – variegated with varied widths of white and green stripes running down the length of the stem.
  • ‘Asahi’ – lime striped cast iron plant
  • ‘Stars and Stripes’ – combines white spots and yellow-green stripes.
  • ‘Sei Ryu Ho’ – has elongated yellowish spots and a brushing of white streaks on the top of each leaf

Other Species

  • A. lurida, which includes the cultivar ‘Milky Way’
  • A. caespitosa, ‘Jade Ribbons’, very narrow leaves
  • A. minutiflora, small-flowered Aspidistra
  • A. typica
  • A. linearifolia, sometimes confused with A. minutiflora

Aspidistra is a favorite container plant, and is often displayed on porches and shady patios. Tolerance to low light levels makes it suitable for interior spaces where little light is available. It makes a great accent or edging plant for a shady area and is a superb background for low-growing flowering annuals. Florists and floral designers have long favored it as foliage material in their designs. Cut leaves are very long lasting and can be wired, cut, bent, or twisted in a variety of ways.

All of these attributes make Aspidistra a highly desirable addition to the garden. It may be time to take another look at the indomitable cast iron plant.

At a Glance

Aspidistra elatior

Say: ass-pi-DISS-truh ee-LAY-tee-or

Family: Ruscaceae; also sometimes placed in Convallariaceae and Liliaceae

Other names: Cast-iron plant, barroom plant, iron plant

Origin: Eastern Asia, China

Zones: 7-11

Light: Shade

Water Use Zone: Moderate to Low

Size: 2-3 feet tall

Soil: Organic preferred, but also grows well in poor soil. Must be well-drained.

Salt tolerance: Moderate

Thanks to Kniphofia for the image of ‘Milky Way.’ Thanks to Kell for the image of variegated Aspidistra.

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