Cast Iron Plant- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#69

Because of their low maintenance manner, and adaptability in most environments, the Cast Iron Plant is one of the oldest adopted houseplants.

The Cast Iron Plant is known for it's upright, long foliage that has a slightly leathery texture. As the plant matures, the leaves become longer and wider.


Botanical Name: Aspidistra elatior

Common Names: Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra, Barroom Plant

Varieties & Cultivars: Milky Way, Variegata, Snow Cap, Asahi, Hoshi Zora, Lennon's Song

More than likely you can find the original green Cast Iron Plant, and Milky Way, more than any other variety.


Sun Requirements:

One reason Cast Iron Plants are a low maintenance plant, is their ability to do well in low and medium light. If you have a darker corner in your home that gets low light this would be the perfect plant. Similar to the Snake Plant, it can still grow well in the darker corner, but for the fullest and fast growing foliage, medium light is best. They still do good in bright, indirect light as well; however, I would avoid direct sunlight because they can burn.

The more variegation in the plant, the more light they may need to hold their variegation. Still make sure to avoid direct sunlight.


Water Requirement

Their watering requirements would be the second reason they are low maintenance houseplants. They are best in low to medium moisture and are drought tolerant. The best watering pattern for them is when the top layers of soil are dry, and not when the plant is complete dry. In this case, the best thing to do when understanding their watering pattern is letting them dry out before watering again since they are drought tolerant.


Even though their native environments are rainforests, increased humidity in your home is not needed for their success.


If you aren't quite sure if you are providing too little or too much water, I would highly recommend trying a Moisture Meter Reader. It is a great tool to measure the moisture until you understand the watering cadence needed for your conditions. If you are also looking for the best way to increase humidity, the most effective way would be using a humidifier. There are MANY different kinds out there and you do not need to buy a humidifier that is specific to houseplants to be successful. I currently use one that is Honeywell brand linked here.



Fertilizer

As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize my plants.


In this case, you don't need to fertilize the houseplant as much to be successful. Here are a couple other recommendations:


The Healing Power of Plants: "Feed once in summer to encourage new leaves."


Practical Houseplant Book: "Apply a half-strength basic household fertilizer once a month when this plant is actively growing."


There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.


Propagation

Dividing Cast Iron Plants when they are a bit more mature is the best way to propagate. This is the same process as a Ginger Plant, Canna Lily, Hosta, or Iris for propagation.


Other Facts

  • All part of the Asparagaceae family

  • Native to parts of Eastern Asia.

  • These are known as the Cast Iron Plant because of their adaptability as a houseplant dating back to the Victorian Ages. They were known for surviving and thriving in dark, smoky taverns.

  • Their mature sizing depends on the variety and environment they are in. On average these get about 2ft tall. There are also shorter growing varieties that stay more compact as well but the compact size is harder to find.

  • They do produce flowers along the base of the plant that usually come in a dark purple/red color. As a houseplant, you probably will not see the flowers.

  • They are non-toxic to pets. If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!


Instagram Q&A

I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Cast Iron Plant...


"Is this the Milky Way plant?? Do they also call it that? Or is this a variety of it? Thanks!"

  • Milky Way is a cultivar of the Cast Iron Plant. This has white speckles throughout the foliage. It is one of the more common variegated varieties.

 

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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)

 

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