Cast Iron Plant: A Lush Houseplant That Can Last For Decades

Ed Wike
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Cast Iron Plant Overview

Most people think that the Cast Iron Plant is a succulent, and wouldn’t wish to keep another one of those plaguing houseplants in the home. But this is their big mistake, as the Cast Iron plant is by far one of the most effortless, lush looking, and simple plants you could ever have in your home.

Growing the Cast Iron Plant is fairly easy, and its maintenance is not high at all. The Cast Iron plant does need its soil to be kept moist, but it should be kept on the dry side, for the most part. During its growing seasons, further watering will be required, as it tends to grow faster during the warmer weather, and it does need some fertilizing to maintain its health. This plant will give you joy for decades, as it is generally thought that the plant can last as long as a couple of centuries.

Origins of the Cast Iron Plant

One of the most beautiful houseplants available today originated in a city near the Pacific ocean. Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) originated in the city of Yokohama, Japan. Yokohama has a climate very similar to that of the western U.S., and the plant has grown in many yards and homes in the surrounding area since it was first introduced in the late 1800s.

In Japan, it's common to see large cast iron plants growing outdoors in homes. These plants can even grow to a height of seven feet and tolerate temperatures below freezing. If you live in a cold winter climate or have a drafty home, cast iron plant can be a prime candidate for grown in an indoor winter garden. Cast iron plant is a distinct member of the rhubarb family and was once known as beefsteak plant. Drought tolerant, it is one of the few plants that can thrive during a long, hot summer with little water.

Types of Cast Iron Plants

Are you looking for a plant that’s easy to care for, re-blooms each year, and can last for decades? If so, don’t leave it up to chance; it’s time to invest in a cast iron plant.

Ornamental plants are often confused with herbs and spices. It’s understandable since the combination of their names sometimes leads to puns that accompany the plant in the name. The cast iron plant exudes a green color, but don’t confuse that with the herb. Used to cook fish and different kinds of meat, the herb has an intense flavor.

Planting Aspidistra Elatior

The cast iron plant is a common houseplant that is also known as, “Aspidistra elatior”. It is of the Asparagus family, along with other members of the family, such as the Lady Palm, bamboo palm, and beginner’s palm. They thrive in low light and prefer a soil rich in organic materials.

The cast iron plant is so called because it is capable of surviving in unfavorable conditions, such as low light, no direct sun, and improper watering procedures. The plant can be sensitive to light fluctuations, which may result in brown leaf tips and damage to the leaves.

The cast iron plant should be kept outdoors in spots that receive partial sun, but it can also be kept indoors. It does best in home environments with bright indirect light, but can grow well in rooms with low light. When grown indoors, the cast iron plant should be kept at a temperature between the 60-75°F range. The plant also requires irregular watering, that is to say it has to be watered less often than other houseplants that are more accustomed to moderate watering. However, when watering cast iron plants, only give them enough to moisten the soil, unlike other houseplants that are regularly watered.

Caring For and Cultivating

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is one of the most appealing houseplants around. It is an evergreen, slow-growing vine that thrives indoors. This dark green plant has glossy, oval-shaped leaves and produces a small bright red flower on long stems from July to September.

Cast iron plant is generally low-maintenance plant, but it will benefit from some basic care. Aside from regular watering, cast iron plant needs to be fertilized every 4-6 months. It is also essential to keep it in an area that gets plenty of sunlight. Cast iron plant is not a good choice for dark areas and no natural light.

When grow cast iron houseplant as indoor plant, be sure to always provide them the right amount of water. The best way to water them is to let the top 1 in. or so of the soil become dry before watering the plant.

A healthy houseplant will grow quickly, in about two years or so, the vines may grow to 10-12 ft. Remember while keeping cast iron plant as houseplant, it should be pruned back in early spring, before it becomes dormant.

Sunlight & Temperature

Cast iron plant is a houseplant that doesn’t need constant care and attention, making it a top choice for many home gardeners. The most spectacular feature of this beautiful plant is its long, sword-shaped leaves. The leaves may reach up to three feet in length and are usually emerald green in color, although some plants have dark green leaves. Stiff white hairs cover the midribs, giving the leaves a frosted appearance.

Cast iron plants need considerable direct sunlight to grow their best. Though the plant will survive in sunlight that’s filtered by a shade tree or another houseplant, the irregular form that the cast iron plant takes on is not a beauty to behold.

These plants are also indoor versions of the popular outdoor gardening choice, the Chinese windmill palm. Cast iron plants prefer tropical conditions. They can be grown in low-light areas such as a north window or under the shade of a small tree. However, in these conditions, the cast iron plant will not look its best. It will have a droopy, messy leaf form.

Cast iron plants thrive in temperatures between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will not cause the leaves to drop from the plant, but they will cause the leaves to droop. Outdoor plants are accustomed to cooler temperatures, so bringing an outdoor plant inside for the winter is not a problem.

Water & Humidity

Cast iron plants prefer slightly higher humidity than most houseplants. In winter, raise the humidity around it by grouping it with other plants in decorative containers and placing these on trays of wet pebbles instead of purely dry ones. Use large, shallow pans of water filled with rocks and arranged so that water drips audibly, keeping it humid but not wet.

In summer, you can help your cast iron plant to maintain a more constant level of humidity by bathing it frequently but infrequently in tepid water (that is, water that feels lukewarm to the touch) until the surface soil is moist but not sodden wet.

Using a spray bottle misted with water or even an automatic misters are ways to lightly spray the foliage once a day, every day.

Also, this is the time of year when you can help your plant to grow. Allowing the soil to dry between waterings will force your plant to grow. Watering once or twice a week is the ideal frequency. However, watering it once a week for five minutes is more practical for most people.

Soil

Cast iron plants, also known as aspidistra, can be grown indoors or outdoors, provided you have the right conditions. They need indirect sunlight, regularly moist soil, warm temperatures, and supportive care. Together these make up a recipe for a very long-lasting plant.

Indoor versus Outdoor

You can put a cast iron plant in your porch without spending too much money, so it makes a great gift plant! Outdoor plants need a bit of extra care.

Potted plants require wind protection and a deeper pot. This plant tolerates some amount of shade but the more sunlight it gets, the more colorful the leaves.

Soil

Cast iron plants need fast-draining soil. This can be provided by adding gritty sand or perlite to well-draining potting soil. But be careful not to add too much.

Fallen purple foliage is an indication that the soil is too rich. Overwatering is also a common cause of dieback. It can also signal that the pot is too small for the plant.

Water

Plants grown inside need regular water. Keep the soil evenly moist during their growing season. Giving them water will keep your cast iron plant alive for many, many years. It is most important to water them while the leaves are uncovered; otherwise, they will shrivel up.

Excess or improper watering is the number one killer of cast iron plants.

Fertilizer

Plants are some of the easiest creatures to take care of on planet earth. They will do just fine if we leave them alone, give them water and light and soil to keep them rooted.

One of the plants that thrives in sun, water, and low tech is the Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior).

It's a deep green, attractive plant that is beautiful and tough.

It makes an interesting houseplant and if it dies you can propagate by the new plant being formed inside of the dead one.

The best climate for this plant is: high light, high humidity, and moderate temperatures.

It prefers high humidity and lots of light but it's pretty tough.

It can survive a range of conditions and is very forgiving.

Acasta, also known as the cast iron plant, is a tall and delicate plant, but can be kept small by regular pruning.

This plant needs lots of bright light, like an east window.

The ideal temperature range for this plant is cool to moderate, around 65 degrees F.

Water when the plant is dry, no more than once every 2 weeks.

Never let it sit in water. Overwatering can kill it.

Use filtered or distilled water for watering, let the water sit out for a while to get the chlorine evaporated.

Transplanting

If you decided to repot, prepare a pot with several drainage holes, no bottom or use a tray. Remove the soil from around the roots and place the entire plant in the new pot. Add new potting soil and water well.

Since cast iron plants are so large, it’s best to move them into larger pots as soon as they outgrow their pots. This will prevent the roots from growing into a spiraling ball.

Changing the pot size is an effective way to increase the width and health of the stems and leaves. If you have an old cast iron plant that has been in the same pot for years, it may have the tendency to be top heavy and might need a bit of a haircut.

It is always best to cut the plant and re-pot at the base (or use a re-potting mix) instead of cutting the top. This will encourage the plant to keep putting out new growth.

To get your plant into a larger pot, remove the current soil and move a few inches of soil around the outside of the plant. Remove the plant and place it in the center of the new pot. Fill the pot with potting soil and water well.

After this operation, most cast iron plants will have a new lease on life and will begin to thrive again. Be sure to repot every two years, or as needed.

Propagation

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is a popular, though challenging, houseplant. It’s native to China and Japan and is a semi-evergreen perennial that thrives in indirect light and requires consistently moist soil. While cast iron plant does require some tender loving care, keeping it alive is within virtually any homeowner’s reach. This plant can last for decades with the right care.

To get one started, begin with a two- or three-inch stem cutting from a stable plant purchased at a nursery or florist. Use a clean, sharp knife to make a straight cut into the tip of the stem. Place the cutting into a container filled with a mixture of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse sand and 1/3 potting soil.

Place the container in indirect sunlight to promote budding. If growth doesn’t occur within three to four weeks, move the container to full sunlight.

Pruning

If the cast iron plant doesn’t bloom, it’s because it hasn’t been pruned. If it blooms, pruning the mother plant back will often cause it to bloom again, so you can get a lot more enjoyment out of this delightful houseplant.

You will need to learn to prune. There are a few different ways, so we’ll discuss them below. You may want to prune out buds that appear on the stem of the mother plant, that don’t seem to be coming from the stem of a daughter plant. Or you may want to prune the daughter plant. The stages of pruning will be listed, first for removing the daughter plant, then for trimming the mother plant.

Companion Planting

The first thing companion planting is to take away pests. If you plant a lot of one thing, it only invites pests. When I look at my garden, I appreciate my companion planting. My rose plant is my favorite one. I have a Rosa Glauca, which means I have a sharp-pointed and thorny rose. The thorns help keep rabbits away. Some people don’t like roses because they are always pruning them. But I find it therapeutic to care for it. My rose plant is a climbing rose that will cover a fence in a few years. It is beautiful all year long.

One thing you can do in your garden is to interplant things like radishes: radishes will help pull out the soil for you so you don’t have to dig, and you interplant it with corn: corn grows taller than the radishes. The radishes keep the soil loose for the corn. In effect, you have dug your garden without even having to dig it.

Pests and Diseases

Plants have a tougher time in colder climates, because it's colder and there is less humidity in the air. Plants in a room with poor air circulation can also have a hard time. The biggest killer is already described as moving the potted plant to a place that doesn't suit it.

Although this sounds like an easy mistake to fix, it is very much a challenge for a lot of homeowners. In the winter, when it is colder, the source of heat will most likely be around the fireplace and in front of it. So that is the place where a lot of people will decide to put the cast iron plant.

Over time, heat from radiators, heaters, fireplaces, and even smaller heaters will start to kill the plant, as that heat is not healthy for it.

One of the next reasons is not enough sunlight. In the summer I let the plant go outside, as the plant would probably "burn" from the warmth.

Growing a cast iron plant in a non-suitable environment is one of the main reasons the plant can't flourish or die.

If the plant has next to no light then it is missing out.

You can tell if you are missing out on something, because the leaves would be smaller and would be yellowing.

Another thing that occurs with the plant is the delicate leaves that start to fall off.

Pests

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra) is an old-fashioned houseplant with glossy green foliage that’s attractive and tough. The plant gets its name from its ability to flourish even in poor soil and adverse conditions. It’s also low maintenance and tolerates a range of indoor conditions. It’s often found in older homes and on windowsills.

That is all thanks to its durable, thick, glossy leaves, and its general disregard for conditions. Unlike many other plants, cast iron plant doesn’t require much light or a lot of fresh air. It also doesn’t require frequent watering, fertilization, or pruning to keep its appearance.

But even though it’s easy to care for, it’s still a plant and you’re going to have to take care of it one way or another. If you pay attention to a few rules for growing cast iron plants, you should have a lush green houseplant for years to come.

In this article, we’ll discuss the pest issues cast iron plant is susceptible to, as well as the symptoms. Plus, tips on how to get rid of them and how to help the plant grow even better.

Diseases

While most of the attention on diseases in plants has been given to the big agricultural crops that supply our food, houseplants are just as susceptible to infestations, infections, and diseases. Unfortunately, unlike commercial crops, plant diseases which affect houseplants go under-reported. Even then, it is a good idea to be aware of the problems that can quickly become a serious issue on your plants and act accordingly to prevent serious damage.

One of the most common diseases that affect houseplants is a fungal disease called leaf spot. This is caused by microscopic fungi that enter through wounds on the leaves. The disease then causes the leaves to turn brown, dry, and crack. As the leaves fall off, the fungus spreads to the new growth and the plant is damaged further.

If you have a leaf spot on your plant, the best way to treat the infection is with a fungicide containing the active ingredient Maneb. This should be applied with watering instructions to prevent burning the plant. You should also remove all the diseased leaves from your plant and dispose of them in the garbage.

With some species of plants, you may also treat the leaves with a combination of baking soda and liquid soap. This destroys any leaf spot organisms that are on the leaf surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

{1}. Where is the best place to purchase a cast iron plant?
{2}. Can I grow a cast iron plant in full sun?
{3}. How do I water my cast iron plant?
{4}. Can I grow a cast iron plant indoors?
{5}. What fertilizer should I use on my cast iron plant?
{6}. What plant pest can harm my cast iron plant?
{7}. When do I need to prune my cast iron plant?
{8}. How do I take care of my cast iron plant?
{9}. How do I propagate my cast iron plant?
{10}. What is the size of a cast iron plant?
{11}. How do I care for a cast iron plant?
{12}. Are there other common names for the cast iron plant?

Q. My cast iron plant leaves are turning yellow one at a time. What’s happening?

It’s perfectly normal for a plant to shed leaves as the seasons change, but often that’s not the case with cast iron plants. In this case, the leaf may be suffering from a minor problem with the roots. When putting a plant in a new space, it’s always a good idea to test the soil first. If it’s dry, soak it before placing your plant in the pot.

Kyle Barker, owner of Plants Of The Southwest in Mesa, Arizona, said, “It is very common with cast iron and ridge plants to have new growth start from the stem. The older, stronger growth will be at the base of the plant, but new growth will continue to thrive from the stem. This will help the plant produce new leaves which will be pointing towards the base (where the older growth is). Old growth should be trimmed off occasionally, while the new growth is trimmed as it grows into mature leaves.”

Your cast iron plant can easily outlive you when cared for properly. Depending on the quality and care of the original plant, a cast iron plant can last 20 to 80 years, and sometimes longer.

Cast iron plants can make a beautiful and lush centerpiece in your home, and with a few tips they can live a long, love-filled life.

Q. How often should I cut back my Aspidistra to keep it under control?

A. Aspidistra elatior has been used in Japan and Europe for decades. In the 1940s aspidistra’s were widely used in home interiors and it was then in the 1960s that the Japanese let them invade the city streets. They were known as the “Shogun’s Lonely Plant” and used as a symbol of respect and a symbol of a person’s highest rank in the Japan army. The Japanese also believe of aspidistra’s that they are a symbol of perseverance.

Aspidistra will do best if pruned in early spring when the plant is dormant as it is in this state that it responds the best to pruning. It is important to cut the stems as low to the pot as possible. Plants that have suffered from over-pruning can easily be rejuvenated by removing the lower leaves and allowing the plant to regenerate itself. Aspidistra’s tend to grow very tall and need to be cut back badly in order to control its height. It should be kept close to the ground if you want it to develop into a dense, leafy plant.

Q: My cast iron plant leaves have brown tips. Help?

A: Likely, your cast iron plant is underwatered.

Overwatering is a much more common problem with potted houseplants than under watering. Lest we forget, the plant, not the pot, holds the water that feeds the plant. And the leaves of your cast iron plant naturally "sweat" — meaning they pull away moisture from the plant to evaporate. So it's likely that cast iron plant leaves turning brown at the tips is a sign that the plant needs to be watered.

Here are some tips to help you minimize this problem:

When you do water your cast iron plant, keep the water level low in the pot, so that root growth stays concentrated in the center of the pot. Some experts recommend setting the plant in a sink half filled with water for about 5 minutes. Another unconfirmed benefit of this method is that the leaves become slightly thorny, which discourages cats and other critters.

Try not to overwater the plant (rinsing off the dust on the leaves with water will not count as water to the plant).

If you are having trouble keeping the plant healthy you can take cuttings to grow a new plant. Just make sure you keep the plant in a well-draining pot that has been treated or painted for plant health.

More info / photo credit: Houseplants Made Easy