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Houseplants to discover - Aspidistra or Cast Iron Plant

Aspidistra eliator

This plant has a reputation for tolerating the worst possible conditions, hence the name "cast iron plant", which suggests that it's as tough as cast iron... a slight exaggeration, as any living plant needs some care. However, it remains a tough plant useful for difficult locations where other plants just won't survive.

The aspidistra is a very simple plant and entirely stemless. All it produces are lance-shaped leaves, leathery and very dark green, which emerge individually from the soil from a creeping rhizome that may be buried or partially exposed. The leaves, upright and rolled into a tube at first, are carried on a vertical petiole and end up arching outwards as they mature. The plant becomes denser and denser over time, as new leaves are formed, but its growth is very, very slow at the best of times.

Occasionally, the aspidistra produces a dark purple flower at soil level, but it's not very attractive and usually goes unnoticed.

There are several cultivars of aspidistra, some with narrow leaves or, more frequently, leaves streaked or speckled with white or yellow.


The aspidistra is very shade tolerant, but will grow faster in medium light. Avoid placing it in full sun, especially during the summer.


Let the soil dry out slightly before watering abundantly, enough to moisten the whole root ball. Aspidistra has a hard time tolerating constantly moist soils.


Apply an all-purpose or foliage plant fertilizer at a quarter of the recommended rate and from spring to early fall. Plants growing in deep shade can do without any fertilizer at all.


The aspidistra tolerates all indoor temperatures, both hot and cold. Minimum: 4ºC (40ºF). It will enjoy spending the summer outdoors in a shady spot.


It tolerates dry air fairly well, but sometimes the tips of the leaves turn dry out and turn brown. This can be avoided by maintaining at least average humidity at all times.


Every 4 or 5 years into regular houseplant mix.


This plant can only be multiplied by dividing the rhizomes.


The aspidistra is not toxic to humans, dogs or cats.

Further Information

The leaves live for several years, so dust tends to accumulate. Wipe them off occasionally with a damp, soapy cloth. Remove any yellow leaves.