Cast iron plant care begins with a little understanding of the background and characteristics of this attractive indoor plant.
Aspidistra elatior or cast iron plant (or bar-room plant) is a species of plants from the Asparagaceae family that has more than 100 species.
It originates from Taiwan and Japan.
Being low-maintenance and strong enough to tolerate neglect, it’s an excellent choice for an indoor plant.
It can grow up to 24 inches in height and it has beautiful dark green leaves that can grow to 12 and 20 inches in height.
Its attractive flowers appear in early summer and have maroon coloring on their inner surface. They make a suitable houseplant for areas with low light and more shade. They don’t tolerate direct sun exposure.
Cast iron plants are the ideal choice for those who have less time to attend to their plants, yet want them to beautify their space and add more greenery.
It’s an evergreen foliage plant that you often seen in dimly-lit bars.
You may be pleased to know that it’s not toxic to dogs and cats so you needn’t worry about your pet accidentally swallowing bits of plant.
Cast iron plant care is quite simple and rewarding.
Despite being considered a slow grower, it’s a reliable plant that will last for many years and may reach a mature height of approximately 2 feet.
It wants good and proper watering, particularly during dry seasons, organic soil and yearly all-purpose fertilization.
It’s a great option for places with hot, dry summers, as well as cold winters, because it keeps up well in both conditions.
Interesting fact: Besides the common variety of cast iron plant we see, there’s a variegated cast iron plant cultivar or the white-striped variant, that has white spots on its leaves.
How to Care for Cast Iron Plants
Cast iron plant care indoors begins with making sure you never place it in direct sun light, because it may damage its leaves. But, also avoid entire darkness.
If you choose it for your office or home, make sure you place it near windows facing the north or in a room that’s further from windows.
The variegated cast iron plant specimens, like the ones with the leaf spots, may need more light than the regular green ones, but still, never full sun exposure.
If you keep it outdoors, you’ll need to put it in a place with full or partial shade and further away from direct sun.
In order for your cast iron to thrive, ensure the area indoors has a temperature range between 45 degrees F and 85 degrees F.
In case the temperature drops below 40 degrees F, you should put your plant in a warmer area to prevent excessive cold.
Cast iron plants thrive in growing zones from 7-11.
Water & Humidity
If you live in an area with lower light and cooler climate, you need only to water it once every couple of weeks. Make sure you never overwater it.
Water the plant only when the top one or two inches of the soil is dry. It’s important for the pot to have good drainage, so the surplus water goes out and its roots don’t sit in water. A soil moisture meter can be a worthwhile investment.
This can lead to root rotting. The plant does well in moist air, mostly because its natural surrounding is a rainforest floor. They also tolerate drier air indoors.
If you plant it in a pot, ensure you use quality soil mix; the one for African Violets will do well.
You can also make your own soil mixture- use 1 part all purpose loam, one part peat moss, and one part perlite or vermiculite.
And, don’t forget to use a pot with a good drainage system.
Make sure you regularly feed your cast iron plants during their growing season (spring – summer).
If you’re using high-quality liquid fertilizer for houseplants, apply it monthly.
If you use granular fertilizer, feeding should be less often. During the colder months, reduce fertilizing.
Make sure you don’t apply excessive fertilizer because it can cause problems with the plant’s growth.
Your cast iron should be repotted ideally every year or every other year, according to needs. Being rhizomatous plants, they’re good at tolerating less frequent repotting.
You’ll notice it’s time for repotting when the plant seems to bust out of its pot and you see its root growing out of the draining system.
If you want your plant to grow in width, opt for a pot that’s 2-inches larger in diameter than the one it’s currently in.
On the other hand, if you want it to remain the same height, use the same pot and replace the soil only. When repotting, pull out the plant from the pot and shake off as much as of the old soil.
Make sure the other pot is filled with soil and place the plant in the middle, pressing it down firmly. Add water and place it in a suitable area. Your plant will need around 2 to 4 weeks to adjust to its change of home.
Propagating a cast iron plant isn’t complicated. You just need to remove the mature plant from its pot. Using your hands, you gently divide a root cluster.
You need at least 2 or 3 stems that grow from the root cluster you want to propagate.
Then, you need to place the root cluster in a smaller pot with several inches of suitable potting soil. Cover it with more soil and firmly press it down.
You need to water it often to ensure the soil is moist to the touch.
In several weeks, the plant will take root.
Best Cast Iron Plant Varieties
This species is very demanding and its dark green leaves have dramatic vertical and white stripes. Its flowers resemble a dwarf pepperoni pizza and are seen at the base of the leaf in the spring.
This marvelous Japanese variety has dark green leaves in its youth. However, as it grows, the tips of the leaves become white.
This variety is characterized by upright semi-glossy dark green leaves that have long and lean golden lines in the center from the top to the bottom.
Throughout the whole year, prune the dead or dry leaves and any clumps. When you prune, use sharp and clean shears. Remove any surplus growth at the base too.
To keep pests away, wipe the top of a leaf using a soft cloth. Repeat this at least once per month.
To ensure the soil and root are moist, you can immerse the pot briefly in a tub of water every month. But, even though moisture is necessary, overwatering isn’t good for the root.
Trouble Shooting- Common Issues
Problem: Cast iron plant leaves turning yellow or brown
Cause: Soggy soil or excessive light exposure
Solution: You need to reduce the watering and make sure you transfer the plant in an area that’s less exposed to direct sunlight. Make sure you also cut away the damaged leaves or stems.
Problem: Brown Tips
Cause: Low watering or accumulation of minerals
Solution: Although it’s tolerant to neglect, cast iron plant will show distress if it’s been neglected for too long. Brown leaf tips are usually a sign of under watering.
If under watering isn’t the case, it could be excessive minerals in the soil.
This is because some tap waters are richer in minerals than others. A good solution would be to filter the water prior to using it.
Problem: Speckled and discolored leaves
Cause: Spider mites (overly hot and dry environment)
Solution: Clean the plant with a stream of cold water in the shower or in the sink. Then, spray the tops and leaves to wash off mites, eggs, and webs.
After the plant has dried, use a natural pesticide such as Neem oil. Spray it with it every week for a period of three weeks to prevent the mites from coming back.
I hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of cast iron plant care.
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