Houseplant Care for Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)

Updated on November 7, 2016

Cast Iron? How Did a Green Leafy Plant Obtain Such a Coarse Handle?

The Cast Iron or Aspidistra is a plant used in interior spaces typically as a floor plant, with best results in situations, and under care, that most other plants would find intolerable.

It is never recommended to put any plant in a situation where it is receiving no light, but hypothetically if it was necessary, Aspidistra would be the plant that that might survive that, and would fare best overtime in such an environment. It is also never recommended to neglect interior foliar plants, but hypothetically if there was a need to pay no attention to your plant for months, Aspidistra is also the plant that you would be looking for. It is not uncommon to find an abandoned Aspidistra that looks as if time has stood still for it, while other plant types that were left alongside are nearly dust.

This incredible ability to survive on nearly nothing, with little to no care, is what has earned this plant the common name Cast Iron. It really could be the plant that would survive the nuclear holocaust. As an interior plant it is generally more pricey than some of the others, like the Sansevieria or Aglonema, but that cost is based on slow growth, and the long lasting value of this green juggernaut.

Cast Iron is certainly very hearty in some rather foreboding conditions, from the perspective of the plant world, but it is not indestructible. This superhouseplant can be destroyed by its own form of Cryptonite—there are some critical environmental conditions to avoid, basic care to adhere to, and pests to be on the lookout for.

Natural Habitat of Aspidistra Japan

The Ideal Interior Space for Aspidistra

One of the things that it can tolerate much better that many other plant is low light conditions (not the same as no light). Conversely, these plants may struggle in hot, high light conditions. They have a tendency to become chlorotic quickly in such conditions and have trouble finding a good moisture balance in high light.

Cast Iron & Spider Mite

Cast Iron are highly susceptible to Spider Mite, and Spider Mite absolutely love dry heat. Heat and AC vents are especially good at spreading mites to plants nearby. Spider Mite is one of the main issues for a Cast Iron—if it is kept in a lower light area, this problem can be avoided, but put it in high light and you will have an Spider Mite colony explosion. Moderate conditions can go either way, in both high and moderate light, heat, and airflow conditions Aspidistra should be checked regularly for Spider Mite.

Spider Mite live on the backside of the the leaves of Cast Iron, they easily spin their webbing in between the slight ridges on the foliage. Spider Mite can be a bit more difficult to see on an Aspidistra than some other plants they infest as they nestle in nicely to the back of the leaves.

Wipe the back of the leaf with a paper towel or baby wipe. If the the cloth is green, there are mites. You may also notice that your plant begins to look dull may have little yellow and brown stippling all over the leaf, this is another indicator that mites may be present.

Aside from checking for mites it is a good idea to regularly clean most plants, and Aspidistra are no exception. It is best to hand wipe the leaves as opposed to using a duster. This will avoid transmitting the mites to other plants.

See Cast Iron in Its Natural Habitat

Water & Aspidistra

Another very typical issue for Aspidistra is water. This plant can happily go much longer periods between waterings than most other foliar interior plants. It is very common to see Aspidistra with overwatering damage: brown tips and yellow and green modeled leaves. It is very easy to overwater one, especially if you treat it like any other houseplant—it requires far less attention than most other foliar plants and will react badly if it receives too much.

Make sure it is has an ample drying period between waterings. In most interior situations it is not recommended to water the Cast Iron through to the liner, because it has rhizomal roots that travel horizontally across the soil surface and tap roots that go down from there. Watering until the soil surface area is consistently moist should be enough. When it comes to water, less is more.

If your it has developed some brown tips, don't be too hard on yourself. Even experienced horticulturalists have been known to cause brown tips. Fortunately the Aspidistra is one plant that affords the luxury of trimming back that brown tips to restore the vibrant green look.


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