The Cast Iron Plant or Aspidistra elatior according to the Valdosta State University is known for its large and glossy leaves.
It’s the perfect plant for anyone who wants to try out their green thumb. But you don’t always have the time to care for a plant.
It might be because you travel for your career or you take care of a full family.
Originating from both Japan and Taiwan, you can neglect this beautiful houseplant. It’ll still thrive and it’ll still shine.
The Cast Iron Plant can take some of the worst of conditions with no sweat off its’ back.
This is where the nickname of the “Cast Iron Plant” comes in. It’s tough and hardcore.
Heck, the Cast Iron Plant can live up to 50 years!
And since it grows so slow, you won’t have to worry about it outgrowing its’ pot before you get a chance to re-pot it.
Besides succulents, the Cast Iron Plant is one of the easiest plants you can try to care for.
Despite the plant’s easy demeanor, there are still important factors when caring for one.
So, we took everything we know about the Cast Iron Plant and created this care guide just for you.
- 1 Cast Iron Plant Care
- 2 Varieties of the Cast Iron Plant
- 3 Common Problems with the Cast Iron Plant
- 4 Tips for an Unhappy Cast Iron Plant
- 5 Cast Iron Plant Frequently Asked Questions
- 6 Conclusion
Cast Iron Plant Care
Even though most other conditions don’t matter when growing a Cast Iron Plant, the soil does matter.
It doesn’t take much to over-water one of these plants. Well-draining soil and a self-draining pot can prevent that.
The well-draining soil allows excess water to head to the bottom of your plant’s pot.
And the drainage holes in the pot allow the water to escape so it doesn’t sit in the bottom of the soil.
But it doesn’t drain so fast the Cast Iron Plant loses all its’ moisture.
You can buy well-draining soil but you can also make your own at a cheaper cost.
A great well-draining soil recipe for a Cast Iron Plant includes both clay and sand.
The soil’s pH level should be between 5.5 and 6.5 for optimal care.
Read more in our complete soil mix guide.
The Cast Iron Plant can take every lighting situation except for direct sunlight. Too much sun will burn those big beautiful leaves on your plant.
Your best bet is to avoid direct sunlight and to place your Cast Iron Plant in a north or west-facing window. Indirect sunlight is the best for it.
Shade works fine with too. If it’s easier to have a shady or dim environment, you don’t have to worry about your plant dying.
Well, it might slow down the rate at which your plant grows. But since it already grows so slow, it won’t make much of a difference.
Learn everything about light levels for plants.
You’re not required to water a Cast Iron Plant on the regular but it’s in the plant’s best interest down the road.
When it’s possible, have a regular watering schedule. You’ll thank us later for the tip.
You need to let the soil dry before you water your plant. Never completely soak the soil. It should be only moist.
The less light your plant is receiving, the less water it’s going to need.
On the same note, you’ll find yourself watering the plant a lot less during the colder months.
Be mindful. It’s easy to kill a Cast Iron Plant from over-watering. You’ll cause wet feet in your plant which can lead to rotting roots fast.
A Cast Iron Plant can take a wide range of temperatures, from 45°F to 80°F (7°C-27°C).
It can take temperatures as low as 30°F (-1°C). without any damage to the plant. It’ll keep growing. The leaves won’t get ruined. Your plant will be aces.
In reality, the Cast Iron Plant can take temperatures as low as 15F. The plant will lose leaves in temperatures so low. But it can recover from this low temperature.
The plant will survive. But it might not thrive the way you want it to.
The Cast Iron Plant prefers high humidity.
But humidity doesn’t have to factor for one of these plants. It’s whatever works best for you and your environment.
If you do decide you want to turn up the humidity for a healthier plant, you can try the pebble method.
We discuss this method with every plant that needs high humidity. When a plant is inside, it’s hard for it to get enough moisture in the air.
And the pebble method is the best way to create humidity. Not to mention, it’s so simple it’s ridiculous.
Spraying your planet with water works too. But it doesn’t work as well as the pebble method.
You only need to fertilize your Cast Iron Plant from April to October. And you should fertilize it about every three weeks.
However, you shouldn’t fertilize the plant for a year after you’ve re-potted it.
Almost any type of fertilizer will work for a Cast Iron Plant. We prefer a liquid all-purpose fertilizer. It’s going to help your plant thrive the most.
Never add fertilizer on dry soil. The soil should be moist when you go to fertilize the plant.
When the soil is dry, the fertilizer will burn the plant’s roots.
Don’t stress when your plant doesn’t seem to grow. It has nothing to do with the fertilizer you’re doing.
Cast Iron Plants grow very, very slow. It takes years for the plant to mature.
Here is our fertilizer guide that tells you everything you need to know about fertilizer.
You propagate a Cast Iron Plant by using a stem and root mass. It’s an easy process.
Keep reading for important information on propagating your Cast Iron Plant.
A Cast Iron Plant can grow up to three feet in height (90cm). And it can grow to about three feet (90cm). in width too.
If given the chance, this plant’s leaves can grow to be two feet in width.
But it’ll take years for your plant to get that big.
Since the Cast Iron Plant grows so slow, re-potting isn’t going to be a big factor in your life.
You’ll only need to re-pot the plant every three or four years once it’s matured. When the plant hasn’t matured yet, you should re-pot it every two years.
If you re-pot a Cast Iron Plant too often, you will kill it. The roots are picky and don’t like you to handle them all the time.
As you would with most plants, only move your plant up to a pot that’s one size bigger. When you do go to re-pot the plant, be very careful with the roots.
If there’s too much space, this can stress the roots out. As we said, a Cast Iron Plant’s roots are fickle creatures.
Cast Iron Plant Propagation Steps
The best time to propagate a Cast Iron Plant is while you’re re-potting it. It makes it easier to gather a stem with a root mass.
You should do this during springtime, in either March or April. You’re starting at the beginning of the growing season.
- Get two pots ready with well-draining soil. The pots should have drainage holes at the bottom. One pot is for your original Cast Iron Plant. This one should be a little larger. And the second pot is for your new plant.
- Start by removing the Cast Iron Plant from its’ pot. Be careful with the roots as you’re handling it. It helps to lift the plant from under the roots.
- Remove as much soil from the roots as you can. You need to tug apart the roots. Again, you have to be very careful during this process. Use your hands. Using a tool can tear or stress out the roots.
- You want to get a clump out of the root mass. It needs to have at least two stems attached. And the stems should have at least two healthy leaves.
- Take the original plant and re-pot it into the larger pot you prepared.
- Now you can start your new plant. You’re going to plant your clump in the second pot. Make sure the root mass is under the soil and the stem sits straight up.
- It’s time to care for the new plant like you do your original Cast Iron Plant. This is such a slow-growing plant, it’s going to take at least a year to see any progress.
Varieties of the Cast Iron Plant
There are several sub-types of the Cast Iron Plant. But each one has its’ own unique features.
Aspidistra elatior Asahi
The name “Asahi” translates from Japanese to “morning sun”. As the plant ages, brilliant white streaks show up on the leaves.
Aspidistra elatior Variegata
As the name suggests, the Variegata sub-type has variegata leaves. They have white or yellow vertical stripes.
Aspidistra elatior Lennon’s Song
This gorgeous plant produces long bright white vertical streaks on large leaves. It’s one of our favourite sub-types.
Aspidistra elatior Hoshi Zora
The Hoshi Zora is nicknamed “Milky Way”. This is because of the pretty white speckled dots all over the plant’s leaves. Everyone loves the Hoshi Zora.
Aspidistra elatior Okame
This plant is rare and you have to search hard for it. Like many of the other Cast Iron Plants, it has white streaks across large leaves.
Aspidistra elatior Goldfeather
The Goldfeather differs from the other Cast Iron Plants because it grows quickly. And it enjoys colder weather.
Common Problems with the Cast Iron Plant
Another great aspect of the Cast Iron Plant is that they’re not prone to pests. They’re not even prone to diseases.
For the most part, your plant should remain safe and pest-free. But once in a while, you might run into a few issues with it.
Mealybugs have been known to be an issue for some Cast Iron Plant owners. These bugs are almost impossible to see unless you’re looking for them.
They’re tiny and soft-bodied bugs. And they look almost waxy.
Mealybugs feed off the sap in a plant. When it’s only a few bugs, it won’t do much damage.
But they breed fast. And with enough mealy bugs sucking the sap out of your plant, it can stop growing. They can even cause the death of the plant.
One sign that your plant has a mealybug infestation is yellow and curling leaves.
To get rid of these pests, you’ll need rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth. Dip the cloth into the rubbing alcohol. Wash your entire plant with it.
Don’t forget the nooks and crannies of the plant because that is a mealy bug’s favourite place to hide.
You’ll have to repeat this process twice a week. And you should clean your plant for about two or three weeks.
Spider mites are another pest that can invade a Cast Iron Plant. These arachnids are creepy when you can actually see them.
You find spider mites under the leaves of your plant, feeding away. As they’re feeding on a plant, they’re taking all the nutrients. These are the nutrients that are keeping the planet alive and thriving.
Since they feed in large packs, they can kill your Cast Iron Plant quickly. Imagine thousands of little mouths feeding on the plant. Because that’s exactly what’s happening.
Your first step is to trim any infected areas that there’s no chance of fixing. Get rid of these trimmings as soon as possible.
Now, you can take insecticidal soap or even mild dish detergent to wash your plant. This will kill and remove the majority of the spider mites on it.
To make sure more spider mites aren’t coming, you need to wash the plant at least twice a week. You’ll do this for about two or three weeks.
Or until you know all the spider mites are all gone.
Tips for an Unhappy Cast Iron Plant
A happy plant is important, no matter what plant you’re caring for. We have everything you need to know if you’re worried about your Cast Iron Plant.
Your Cast Iron Plant Has Scorched Leaves
Somehow, someway, your Cast Iron Plant is getting direct sunlight. And it’s getting direct sunlight for too long.
While your plant sits in the sun, the sun is blaring it’s UV rays down on it. The heat and the rays will scorch those poor leaves.
Your Cast Iron Plant Has Yellow Leaves
Remember when we said it’s easy to over-water a Cast Iron Plant? This is the one sign that will tell you your plant is waterlogged.
If your plant’s roots aren’t rotting away yet, you can still save your plant. You need to let it dry out before you even consider watering it.
Always pay attention to the soil. It’ll tell you the Cast Iron Plant’s needs.
Your Cast Iron Plant Has Leaves with Brown Tips
Cast Iron Plants can take a lot but hydration is necessary. When the tips of your plant’s leaves are turning brown, you’re dealing with an under-watered plant.
Your plant just isn’t receiving enough water to thrive.
Check the soil and if it’s dry, water your plant right away. Keep up with a watering schedule so you know it’s getting the hydration it needs.
Cast Iron Plant Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to prune my Cast Iron Plant?
Pruning a Cast Iron Plant isn’t necessary since they grow so slow. Unless you’re decorating the plant, the only time you need to prune is to remove diseased leaves.
What are these weird things growing at the base of my Cast Iron Plant?
Those strange looking things at the base of your Cast Iron Plant are flowers. It doesn’t happen with every plant but some Cast Iron Plants produce these awkward flowers.
Can I plant other plants with my Cast Iron Plant?
Yes, you sure can! You can’t use any plant though. Some great plants that pair well with a Cast Iron Plant include a Columbine or a Fuchsia.
What is causing watery brown spots on my Cast Iron Plant’s leaves?
Water-soaked brown spots on the leaves of your Cast Iron Plant are a big sign that it’s battling fungus. Those spots you’re seeing are fungal spores.
You have to cut off the contaminated leaves and dispose of them. Then you can treat the plant with a baking soda and water spray.
It will be hard to find another houseplant that is able to grow in different light levels, thrives in a whole range of temperatures and will not deteriorate even if neglected. Sounds like the perfect houseplant for someone who is constantly on the go and has limited time to care for his indoor plant. Though as nails.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.