How To Grow and Care For Aspidistra Cast Iron Plant Indoors

The Asparagaceae family has a lot of famous plants, but many are underappreciated.

Such is the case of Aspidistra elatior (ass-pih-DIS-trah eh-LAY-tee-or), best known as the cast iron plant.

dark green leaves of Aspidistra elatior  - Cast Iron plantPin

This perennial foliage plant native to southern Japan and Taiwan is one of approximately 100 known species of aspidistra. Cast iron was a popular plant in the Victorian era but was largely ignored until the 1970s houseplant craze.

The cast iron plant gets its name for its ability to withstand heavy neglect. It is sometimes also referred to as the bar room plant because of its ability to grow in normally terrible low light conditions.

Of course, Aspidistra elatior and its cultivars aren’t the only aspidistra plants to bear the name, as Aspidistra lurida ‘Milky Way’ and Aspidistra yingjiangensis ‘Singapore Sling’ are also counted as cast-iron plants.

Often the brunt of jokes, the cast iron plant, much like its kin, is a lot more common than one might think, as its high tolerance for shade makes it a staple in hard-to-reach parts of southern gardens.

But did you know this plant can make an attractive and safe option for some indoor greenery?

Cast Iron Aspidistra Plant Care

Size & Growth

It’s hard to tell how long the cast iron plant can live.

While this slow grower is most commonly said to last about 25 years. But, several documented claims that a single cast iron plant has been passed down for several generations.

They generally reach a height of about 2’ feet and width of up to 3.2’ feet when grown indoors.

Unlike some of its relatives, cast iron plants grow their leaves directly from the rhizome and lack any stem.

The lanceolate dark green leaves are coarse and shiny and can grow up to 18” inches long and 5” inches wide.

Several cultivars are known for having variegations or stripes, such as ‘Asahi’ and ‘Okame’ (aka ‘Variegata’).

Aspidistra is recommended from USDA Hardiness Zones 8–10.

Flowering and Fragrance

Sadly, the chances of you seeing this plant bloom – even if it does – is pretty slim.

The fleshy flowers sprout from the rhizome and are usually hidden by leaves.

It’s also sporadic for the plant to bloom in captivity.

However, if you manage to get the brownish-purple flowers, you may not wish to let them bear fruit as the primary pollinators of this plant are a common pest: fungus gnats.

Indirect Lighting & Temperature

Just about any light level will do for the cast iron plant, even a north-facing window, although direct sunlight can scorch the leaves.

Variegated cultivars will need more light, but the main species and non-variegated cultivars will grow just fine in bright indirect light if a little smaller.

While cast-iron plants prefer higher humidity, they can also tolerate low humidity.

Aspidistra handles a wide range of temperatures. It’s almost impossible for it to get too cold for a cast iron plant indoors, as it’s cold hardy down to 23° degrees Fahrenheit before it begins suffering damage.

However, if your home gets this cold, houseplants should be the least of your worries.

You may wish to keep it clear of the AC unit, as cold drafts may shock it a little (but only a little), and try not to let it get hotter than 104° degrees Fahrenheit for your own sake (chances are, the cast iron plant will still be fine if not sitting in sunlight).

Watering and Feeding

As a drought-tolerant plant, watering is a simple matter for this plant.

A good rule of thumb is to water using the soak-and-dry method when the soil is dry by about half the pot depth. Always plant in a pot with drainage holes.

It’s highly drought-tolerant, but you don’t want to let the soil dry out completely, especially if the humidity is low.

The cast iron plant is a very light feeder, and too much fertilizer can cause the leaves to tear along their length.

A balanced all-purpose liquid fertilizer applied monthly during the growing season and paused for fall and winter is best.

Soil & Transplanting

Just about any well-draining potting mix will do, but an organic mix with some added coarse sand works best.

It will also tolerate a soil pH from 5.5 to 7.5, but something more in the slightly acidic range of 6.0 to 7.0 is best.

If there’s one thing that does affect the cast iron plant, it’s being disturbed too often.

Repot to a larger pot as needed for young plants, but not more often than once per year.

Mature plants will only need repotting every 3 to 4 years.

Grooming And Maintenance

Using a sharp knife or hand shears prune away damaged or yellow leaves and trim brown leaf tips. Very little maintenance is necessary beyond wiping down the dark green leaves to remove the dust.

How To Propagate Aspidistra Plant

Due to how rare it is for a cast iron plant to bloom in captivity, the primary propagation method to start a new plant is through division in the spring.

Cast Iron Aspidistra Pests or Diseases

As the nickname implies, these small plants can take a lot of abuse, such as drought conditions and even frost.

They’re also deer resistant and have a degree of salt tolerance.

Pests generally don’t damage this plant, but they can still be attacked by caterpillars, scale, slugs and snails, spider mites, mealy bugs, and thrip insects. Control these pests with Neem oil.

Strangely enough, the fungus gnat serves as the main pollinator, but don’t invite an infestation if you haven’t got flowers blooming.

Cast-iron plants are also resistant to most diseases, with fungal infections (especially fusarium root rot) being the main problems.

This plant is also completely non-toxic to humans and pets and is not known to cause irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive people.

Aspidistra Cast Iron Plant Uses

As a potted specimen indoors, the cast iron plant can bring greenery into areas most other plants couldn’t survive.

They’re perfect for offices, dorms, bedrooms, and other areas that don’t get as much light.

Their non-toxic nature makes them a safe alternative around kids and pats for more popular shade plants like hostas.