You Can't Kill a Cast Iron Plant

Aspidistra elatior

Gardeners call Aspidistra elatior the cast iron plant because it is as hard to kill as an iron skillet. It has been know to survive long periods in virtual darkness without benefit of regular watering or feeding.

I do not recommend that you grow it in this fashion as it will not thrive under these conditions.


A. elatior used as ground cover at Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens.

Evenly moist, composted soil in shade is what Aspidistra prefers when grown outdoors. African violet mix works well for potted specimens. Use a pot just large enough to hold the root ball comfortably.

A. elatior is not a picky eater.

Any houseplant fertilizer will do. Feed it at half strength spring, summer, and fall.

The dark green corn plant style leaves make an attractive and durable groundcover in shady frost-free areas. Leaf damage will occur at temperatures below 28 degrees F.

Mature plants reach a size of 1-2 feet tall and wide. However, they grow about as quickly as a cooking pot so start with the largest plants you can find and plant them close together when using them as a groundcover.

This underappreciated plant may be hard to find and expensive due to its slow growth habit.

Cast iron plaMilky Way'.

Aspidistra elatior variegata is the variegated form. Use its white streaked foliage to illuminate dark corners of the garden.

There is a dwarf form that sports white spots on black-green leaves called 'Milky Way'.

The leaves of all types make good cut foliage, often lasting for weeks in an arrangement.

This native of Japan grows from an underground rhizome.

Propagation is by division but you should know that indoor plants do best when pot bound so don't be too hasty to split them.

Cast Iron Plant Poster

The glossy, arching leaves of a cast iron plant look wonderfully tropical rising out of a terra cotta pot. Kind of like a Dracaena without the stalks.

Use its ability to tolerate lower light than most other plants to your advantage by staging it in dim corners. It will fill out a skimpy plant display and bring a touch of the tropics to it.

To preserve the plant's good looks and health, rotate it into better light periodically.



Other Hard to Kill Plants:

Indestructible Aloe vera

Asparagus Ferns Only Look Delicate

Florida Coontie: the Toughest Palm You'll Ever Grow

Bromeliads Never Really Die

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