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How to care for the Cast Iron Plant | Aspidistra Elatior care and propagation

This die hard plant will be a perfect treat for all of you out there who don’t have the time to deal with plants, but still want to enjoy having them. Aspidistra Elatior, more commonly known as the Cast iron plant, is really easy to take care for. It really doesn’t require much attention which also makes it the perfect beginner plant.

The Cast iron plant has beautiful big, long, lush green leaves. Along with the full green version, you may also find variegated ones. It’s actually quite a common plant along the Mediterranean coast and it’s usually used as an outdoor plant almost all year round. Winter is the only season when people bring it inside due to colder temperatures.

It’s not a really fast grower, but if you keep it outside during the growing season, it can double or even triple in size in just a few years. So, let’s see what kind of care does the Aspidistra Elatior require.

How often should you water your Cast iron plant? | Aspidistra Elatior watering

One of the things that makes this plant awesome is that you need to water it only when the soil has almost dried out. This makes it perfect if you are frequently traveling or don’t have the time to be on top of a watering schedule. You can also wait for the soil to dry out completely – the plant will survive. Don’t leave it dry for long, though, ok?

Water your Aspidistra when the soil has dried out.

Every time someone asks me how often should they water it, I can see they are pretty skeptical about my answer. Trust me, the plant won’t die if you wait for to soil to (partially) dry out. If anything, it will die if you water it too often.

Since many different factors affect when will the soil dry out (read more about it in – 7 factors that affect your houseplant watering frequency) it’s hard to tell whether you’ll need to water it every 5 days or every two weeks, for example. That’s why it’s best to feel the soil and when the first couple of inches are dry – it’s time to water it.

Depending on the size of the plant, you’ll need to water it less or more frequently. For example, I have mine in a large container (it’s a 15″/40cm pot, 19.7″/50cm high). I haven’t watered it for about two months now (winter months, the plant needs even less water). As opposed to my small Aspidistra (with only three leaves) that’s in a 5″/13cm pot, that I water about once a week/10 days.

How to water your Aspidistra?

Well, I like to thoroughly water it. When the water starts to drain through the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot, I leave this excess water in the cover pot (or saucer) for 10-15min. I do that so that the plant can absorb any additional water it needs, and then – I throw out what’s left of the water.

It’s really important that you don’t let your plant sit in water for long.

If your Aspidistra is constantly in moist/wet soil, roots will eventually start to rot – which can be fatal to the plant.

How much light do Cast iron plants need? | Aspidistra Elatior – lighting

The second great thing about the Cast iron plant is that it doesn’t require bright indirect light. This gives room in front of windows for plants that need it more, while your Aspidistra can be placed a couple of feet away from the window.

The more light you give to your Aspidistra, the quicker it will grow.

Although the Aspidistra could survive in a medium light spot, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t like or need sunlight. If you have an east, west or south facing window – you can place it a couple of feet, even 2-3 meters away from the window. But, if you have a north facing window with limited lighting, it’s better if you place it more closely to the window.

If you decide to bring your Cast iron plant outside in your garden or on your balcony for the growing season – be sure to place it in a shady spot.

If you don’t place it in shade, Aspidistra’s leaves will start to fade in color and will get damaged by the harsh summer sun.

Once the leaves are damaged, you can’t fix them back to being lush and green. All you can do is cut the damaged leaves off and wait for new ones to grow.

Does the Cast iron plant need to be fertilized? | Aspidistra Elatior fertilization

It sure does!

To fertilize my Aspidistra, I use water diluted liquid fertilizer.

It says on the bottle it’s for leafy green plants and flowering plants – so that’s what I use. Once a month, from March to October, instead of watering it with only water, I water it with water diluted fertilizer.

Follow the instructions on the packaging to know the water-fertilizer ratio. It’s important to read the instructions on the packaging so you don’t over fertilize the plant.

How do you propagate the Cast iron plant? | Aspidistra Elatior propagation

When it comes to Aspidistra – division of the plant is the way to go. I find the best time to do it is when you need to repot the plant.

You need to repot your Cast iron plant when it’s root bound. You’ll see long, white, vertical roots that start to lack soil and room to grow. Then, just before repotting – divide it in as many parts you want.

My plant was pretty big, so I divided mine in three big parts and three small parts (with 3-5 leaves). I find this plant looks so great even with just three big leaves.

The best thing of all, I was able to gift two of the big ones and one small to someone who really wanted one.

Aspidistra can develop really strong roots that connect the leaves.

So in order to divide it, you’ll need a sharp pair of scissors or a knife of some sort. Be really careful while you do it, because it can be really tough. Have patience and divide it little by little until you’ll eventually be able to divide it with your hands.

When you repot it (whether the divided pieces or the whole plant) choose a pot that is 1-2″ (2-4cm) bigger that the root part of the plant. So that you have place for about an inch of fresh soil to put around the roots. Once you repotted the plant – thoroughly water it.

Is the Cast iron plant toxic to pets? | Aspidistra Elatior toxicity

Aspidistra Elatior is considered non-toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA.

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