Mr. D’s Plant of the Week Series: Aspidistra aka The Cast Iron Plant

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When you want an attractive, ornamental houseplant that is indestructible and tolerates shade and cold conditions and will survive a high level of neglect, drafts, droughts, and pests then look no further than the cast iron of plants the Aspidistra. This cast iron plant has over 100 different species and is a virtual warrior in the ground flora arena.

The Aspidistra elatior, (its scientific name; pronounced: ass-pid-DISS-truh ee-LAY-tee-or), from the family of Liliaceae is not a native perennial or herbaceous plant of the United States. The Aspidistra originates from areas where there are high rains, and that grows in forests or underneath shrubs. Its home of origins is eastern India, Indochina, China, Vietnam, and Japan.

How to plant and grow the Aspidistra

In our area, Tallahassee, Fl, Zone 8, you can plant the Aspidistra elatior year-round. Three ways to plant it is in a container, above-ground planter or as ground cover. It will grow indoors or outdoors (see transplanting tips below) and used as edging or an accent.

The iron plant is evergreen and will grow slowly. It will typically reach one to two feet in height and have a spread of one to two feet across. You will also notice the leaves will emerge up from the soil without a primary stem. The leaf’s color is variegated, meaning it might be multicolored, varicolored, or many-colored. However, there are no fall color changes.

When it comes to flowering or blooms, the flower color is brown with blooms appearing from time to time throughout the year. As for the trunk, the Aspidistra is multi-trunked or has clumping stems, making it easy to transplant.

Mr. D’s Aspidistra Transplant Tips

When it’s time to transplant the Aspidistra, there is an indoor and outdoor procedure Mr. Dickerson recommends. Items you’ll need before you proceed are organic matter, pot with drainage holes, commercial potting soil, and a shovel.

Indoor Transplant Procedure

When re-potting the Aspidistra, choose a pot that has a drainage hole in the bottom and is about 1 to 2 inches larger than the plant’s current container. With your hand’s palm resting on the potting mixture secure the stem(s) between your fingers. Slowly turn the pot over or lay it on its side if the container is large. Ease the plant our carefully paying close attention to the roots. If the iron plant is rootbound, thump the pot gently on the bottom with the heel of your hand to break loose the roots.

In the new container, only add a small amount of the commercial potting soil. Next set the Aspidistra on the potting soil. If the root ball is about 1 inch from the top of the pot you’re set, if not, then adjust the amount of potting soil to meet this standard. Once set fill in around the root ball with the potting soil. Now firm the potting soil softly around the roots. Water the Aspidistra until the liquid trickles through the drainage hole. Allow the pot to drain thoroughly. Now you’re ready to set your plant in its usual space.

Outdoor Transplant Procedure

Before you begin, look through your garden and pick out a shady spot. Dig the soil to about 8 to 10 inches deep. Then add about 4 inches of your organic matter. Next, dig up the Aspidistra, but take care not to damage the roots. Slowly slip the shovel straight into the soil, then ease up with a slight prying motion to release the roots. Now circle the plant and lift the plant out of the container with all the dirt.

Quickly set the iron plant in your prepared garden spot and make sure the hole is large enough to adapt to an excessive amount of soil. Set the Aspidistra elatior down in the hole with the top of the soil even with the ground. Only add enough dirt to the hole to fill in the area around the roots. Pat the topsoil lightly, but don’t compact it. Finally, water the plant to saturate the soil around the roots.

If you found the Aspidistra aka the Cast Iron Plant interesting, then check out the Needle Palm material and let us know your thoughts!