Aspidistra/spdstr/ is a genus of flowering plants that is endemic to eastern and southeastern Asia, mainly China and Vietnam. It belongs to the Asparagaceae family and the Nolinoideae subfamily.  They flourish in the shade of bushes and trees. Their flowers also occur at ground level, where their leaves grow more or less directly. Since the 1980s, there has been a significant increase in the number of species known, with about 100 recognised as of July 2013[update]. The leafy house plant Aspidistra elatior is widespread around the world and is remarkably forgiving of neglect. It may be cultivated outside in the shade, where it and other species are typically hardy to 5 C. (23 F).
Is Aspidistra a healthy indoor plant?
The cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), which grows in some regions, has developed a reputation for being both a tough houseplant and an attractive outdoor foliage plant. This plant can withstand extensive neglect as well as adverse growing conditions, like low light, that would kill many other plants. Its arched, lance-shaped, glossy, deep green leaves can grow up to 2 feet long and 4 inches broad. When cultivated outdoors, it occasionally bears inconsequential cream and purple blooms close to the plant’s base, however indoors, the plant rarely sprouts flowers. The optimum time to plant the cast-iron plant is typically in the spring because of its moderately slow development rate.
Are Aspidistra blooms uncommon?
The cast iron plants were placed close to the base of a giant oak tree’s trunk all around its base. These plants’ bases were concealed from view by a covering of oak leaves.
To remove the plants out of the ground, I edged my shovel around the plants and dug into the earth to break up the roots. The dirt was tough and challenging to dig through and did not readily give as it had been weeks since it had rained.
The cast iron plants consequently had very little dirt on them when they were removed from their bed, but they did have another surprise.
Several short, squishy, mushroom-shaped creatures with zigzag edges that were 3 inches long and covered with maroon spots were sprouting from the root/stem boundary. I know. Strange description, huh? But I can only describe things as best as I can in that way.
There were 3 to 4 of these things sticking out from the leaf stems in each plant clump. Was it a fungus? No, it seemed to be attached to and growing from the plant’s stem or roots. Was it infected with a fungus? For that, it looked to be too big. I finally pulled out my phone (which I always have with me while I garden) and looked it up on Google.
I discovered the strange growths from the leaves to be cast iron plant blooms (Aspidistra elatior). They are remarkably unusual.
I’ve shared my images with a few others since I found them, only to learn that these blossoms are extremely uncommon. Two horticulturists I spoke with, three others who have worked in the plant nursery industry for decades, and one researcher who researched cast iron plants have never seen these blossoms.
How is an Aspidistra cared for?
The cast iron plant, aspidistra elatior, is also known as this because of its strong constitution. Because it could tolerate gas and coal pollutants and thrive in dim lighting, it was a common houseplant in Victorian times.
Aspidistra elatior requires relatively little care and can withstand some neglect. Give it a bright area, away from direct sunlight, and keep the compost barely damp to maintain its finest appearance. It will value the occasional feeding of drink. To maintain the leaves clean and shining, periodically wipe them with a moist cloth.
Repotting should only be done when the roots are poking out of the pot’s bottom or top since the cast iron plant prefers to be pot-bound. Every spring, top dress with new compost.
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
The cast iron plant, or Aspidistra elatior, has sturdy dark green leaves that thrive in low-light environments.
This plant is for people who are busy and don’t have the time or energy to give their plants a lot of attention but still want some greenery in their home. It’s a fantastic substitute for poisonous plants like the zz plant.
Can Aspidistra be placed outside?
Few houseplants will withstand as much neglect as an aspidistra if you want a genuinely unbreakable houseplant. It can withstand more shadow than practically any other plant, in addition to months of drought, the coldest drafts, and nearly any insect. Therefore, the species was known as the “cast iron plant” in Victorian times.
But exactly how unbreakable is unbreakable? Well, I had a specimen that the mailman had left in a trash cabinet at my front door when I was testing out plants for one of the tropical gardens I designed for the Chelsea Flower Show. This was still in its sealed cardboard box when I eventually found it a month later, and it came out looking as though nothing had occurred. No other plant that I am aware of would survive this treatment without resembling wet mush or a dried-out skeleton.
Few people are aware that aspidistras have a surprising amount of cold endurance given their tropical appearance, which makes their robust constitution equally beneficial outside as it is indoors. Even though aspidistras are regarded to be reliably hardy species like fatsia, cordylines, and phormiums, estimates of the exact temperatures they can tolerate range greatly. However, I have seen aspidistras survive winters that have been devastating to these plants. This means that they are the ideal choice if you live in a more temperate area and have a protected garden that is afflicted by dry shadow, the gardener’s worst nightmare. Almost every modest urban plot I have seen has at least one area that fits this description (since surrounding walls not only produce a relatively sheltered microclimate, but they also function as a rain/sun shadow to create the location that is both sun-starved and extremely dry). It is thus surprising how seldom this genus is actually employed. A lot of people are also unaware of how stunning and varied they may be, in contrast to the bland, dark-green paddles of the conventional Aspidistra elatior of days gone by.
I adore the A sichuanensis ‘Ginga’ plant’s gorgeously speckled foliage, which has constellations of dazzling lemon yellow spots scattered across its dark green leaves. It grows in tidy clusters of narrow, blade-like leaves that like something out of the Amazon, yet in my experience, it can withstand extended lows of at least -10C without suffering any obvious damage. If you like speckles, “Milky Way” is extremely similar, except the patterning is creamy white rather than brilliant yellow. A sichuanensis ‘Chromatographic,’ which has yellow dots that are each surrounded by a halo of pale olive green before blending into the dark green, is the most amazing of all the dotted species in my opinion.
The tips of an elatior have the appearance of having been painted white, and they bleed through the leaf like tie-dyes, which can halt even a seasoned opponent of variegated plants (like me) in their tracks. Aelatior “Okame,” which is striped with ice-white, is another material I adore for its ability to reflect light in even the driest and darkest areas. Lacking flowers? A attenuata, also known as the “Dungpu Dazzler,” arrives with drifts of pale yellow stars that are right at ground level and are punctuated by slender, almost grass-like leaves.
What is the lifespan of an aspidistra?
The Cast Iron Plant, also known as Aspidistra elatior, is a member of the lily family and is indigenous to China and Japan. It was once a fairly common houseplant and could be found in many Victorian hallways.
Even while it is currently much less popular and less frequent in modern homes than it was at this time, it is still a wonderful indoor plant to acquire.
An aspidistra is a classy houseplant despite being less frequently seen.
However, the plant’s complexity or maintenance requirements have nothing to do with the decline in popularity. In fact, it was given the moniker “Cast Iron Plant” for its near indestructibility because it is perfectly capable of coping with low lighting, muddy surroundings, as well as bad air quality, warm or cold temperatures.
Famously, it even made an appearance in George Orwell’s 1936 book “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” (despite though the book itself has nothing to do with caring for houseplants!).
Only a few new leaves are produced each year due to the slow growth of the huge paddle-shaped leaves, which are frequently a dark shade of green. The biggest benefit of this is that it won’t quickly outgrow the site you choose for it.
It won’t require much of your effort to live fairly contentedly in many regions of the house.
Because Aspidistra take a long time to reach a size that is suitable for sale due to their slow growth, they can be very expensive to purchase. It might be challenging to find due to the price as well as certain false perceptions that the plant is outdated and “fussy” in modern homes.
Nevertheless, it’s worth looking for because, against popular belief, it makes a lovely and forgiving houseplant. It will also thrive in numerous locations without much of your effort. Additionally, they have a remarkable capacity for longevity, as seen by the numerous anecdotal accounts of Aspidistra living past the age of 50.
The Aspidistra variety with all-green leaves, A. elatior, is the most popular (sometimes labeled as A. lurida). It is conventional, simple to maintain, and quite perhaps the variety you will encounter most frequently.
Nevertheless, although they are more difficult to find, there are some variegated varieties available. If you fall in love with variegated varieties and make a promise to yourself that you must possess one, be ready to look for the professional seller.
Cost: These indoor plants can be pricey. With more than 15 huge leaves, a whole pot might easily cost $40 or more. Look for smaller plants with fewer leaves if cost is a concern. They will develop over time.
Because they will need more light to keep their stripes or markings, variegated types are less forgiving when it comes to lighting requirements. Additionally, they may be less temperature tolerant and grow a little more slowly than their green cousin. Even at its slowest, the all-green A. elatior does not grow quickly, therefore the absence of a cultivar that grows even more slowly may be the cause.
There are varieties with white speckles covering the leaves, such as “Milky Way” (below).
Picture taken by Plantsorbust of Aspidistra ‘Milky Way’s white-speckled leaves
Then there are the Aspidistra species that feature stripes, like A. elatior Okame, which have striking white markings. While A. elatior variegata stands out with its creamy white leaves that can have yellow or lime green tints.
All Cast Iron Plants, whether green or variegated, require the same maintenance in order to flourish. Continue reading for some pictures, detailed care instructions, a list of typical plant issues, reader comments, and owner growth advice.
When should an Aspidistra be repotted?
- Easy Care Difficulty
- Aspidistra can resist all intensities of indirect light, although prolonged sun exposure should be avoided, especially during the hottest part of the summer due to the possibility of sunburn and bleached leaves.
- Allow the top third of the compost to dry out in between waterings, keeping the soil evenly moist. Reduce this a little bit in the fall and winter to replicate its dormant season.
- In the spring and summer, fertilize with a “Houseplant” labeled feed every four waters; during the winter months, reduce this to every six.
- Every three years, repot plants in the spring or summer using “Houseplant” compost. To lessen the chance of injuring the root hairs, water the plant at least 24 hours ahead (transplant shock). Rhizomes (horizontal stems) that are below the soil line are the ideal time to divide them at this point.
- Watch out for fungus gnats, which will deposit their eggs 2 cm (1 inch) deep in any soil that is left wet enough between soakings. This is a significant problem for specimens found in dimly lit areas.
- To learn more about their beautiful blossoms, scroll down to “Flowers”!