Cast Iron Plant Guide: How to Care for an Aspidistra Elatior - Backyard Boss
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Cast Iron Plant Guide: How to Care for an Aspidistra Elatior

A native of Taiwan and Japan, the cast iron plant has earned its name: heat and cold resistant, drought hardy, low and direct light tolerant, and no fertilizer hog, the cast iron plant can truly live and thrive in almost any conditions. It’s a plant that requires little care—perfect for people who have just discovered their passion for plants, as well as for those who have low light conditions in their homes. Today, we are going to learn more about what it means to take care of Aspidistra elatior, the cast iron plant, including the plant’s needs as well as methods for propagation, common pest and disease concerns, and how caring for a cast iron plant can benefit you and your home.

Cast Iron Plant Details

Aspidistra elatior
Light: Indirect, low to bright light
Water: Infrequently, only when soil is dry 1.5 to 2 inches below the surface
Temperature range: 45-85° F
Height: Up to 24 inches
Fertilizer: Weak, infrequent.
Special care: Leaves should be wiped clean or dusted as needed. Susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs.

Benefits of a Cast Iron Plant

The cast iron plant comes with two main advantages: the ease of care and its ability to purify the air. The plant’s name actually comes from the fact that it’s quite a durable plant, requiring very little watering. It thrives in low light conditions and it’s one of the best plants for beginners who are likely to forget about plants that would otherwise require looking after on a regular basis.

Unlike other house plants, the cast iron plant doesn’t really need a high level of humidity, and it’s also quite flexible in terms of temperature.

cast iron plant in pot indoors on floorAccording to a study conducted by NASA, the cast iron plant is one of those home plants that have the capacity to purify the air. It acts efficiently in absorbing harmful chemicals in the air, such as formaldehyde and benzene.

How to Care for a Cast Iron Plant

Caring for a cast iron plant is easy, and the following list of tips will surely prove helpful to everyone who is looking to have one of these babies at home:

  • When it comes to light, these plants will do just fine in bright indirect light. You want to avoid placing the container under direct sunlight as there are high chances the leaves will be scorched.
  • The funny thing about the cast iron plant is that it can tolerate a really humid environment, but can also withstand drought. You need to avoid over watering the plant. You can proceed with adding water when the top inch of the soil is dry. During winter, the plant requires even less water.
  • Keep in mind that the cast iron plant grows really slow, so don’t panic if it doesn’t show too many signs of growth over time. In general, a cast iron plant will grow about two feet in height and about three in width.
  • Some of you might notice that your cast iron plant requires pruning. In order to do that, you have to remove the dry and dead leave of the plant but, for the most part, you want to leave the pruning from spring and summer months. Make sure that you use a clean and sharp pair of scissors or shears and that you remove any excess growth or foliage that you don’t want lying at the base of the stem.
  • Cast iron plant leaves are a regular dust magnet, which means that you will have to clean them from time to time. In order to do that, you can use a soft tissue or a clean cloth and just wipe the leaves to give them a nice healthy shine and remove the dust from their surface. If you clean the leaves at least once a month, you are also likely to get rid of pests.

Cast Iron Plant Propagation & Growth Rate

The most common propagation method for a cast iron plant is by root division. This can be done during the spring or summer, as the warmer seasons are the best time for the plant to set properly. Then, you can follow the regular repotting steps, which are listed below.

roots of cast iron plant Aspidistra elatior propagationRepotting is an important part of caring for your cast iron plant. You need to keep in mind that when this plant is grown in a container, it takes a longer time to grow compared to the time it takes outdoors. Because of that, you can repot a cast iron plant every three or four years. When you notice that the plant doesn’t really fit the pot anymore, then you know it’s time for replanting.

As far as the pot size is concerned, you are going to need one that’s about 2 inches bigger in diameter compared to the previous pot the plant was in. In case you plan on trimming the plant to keep its height under control, then you can reuse the same pot and add a fresh batch of soil.

As for the repotting process itself, you can spread a newspaper on a wide and flat surface (the floor will do just fine) and just remove the plant from the pot and place it here. You want to get as much of the soil off the roots as possible because they need to be clean when replanting. When that’s done, you can simply place the plant in the center of the pot, and add new soil while pressing it down firmly. It will take about two to four weeks for the cast iron plant to adjust to its new “home.”

Where to Buy Cast Iron Plants

There are plenty of different online stores that will sell you cast iron plants, so all you have to do is a little bit of research. As always, Amazon is here to help with some options for cast iron plants available at all kinds of prices and in different growth stages.

    AMERICAN PLANT EXCHANGE Cast Iron Plant Pet Friendly Live, 6-inch Pot

Live Plants from American Plant Exchange on Amazon
    The cast-iron plant deserves its name: They're nigh indestructible, just like your favorite old skillet. This cast iron plant comes in a 6-inch growpot and is shipped live and healthy right to your door. Aspidistra elatior can thrive almost anywhere, so choose a planter, a corner, and enjoy cleaner air and easy care for years to come.

You can also find cast iron plants available for sale on Etsy. If you don’t want to purchase your plant from such a general online store, you can look for specialized cultivators or gardening stores that have cast iron plants available for sale. Some examples include Wilson Bros Gardens or Plant Delights Nursery.

Cast Iron Plant FAQ

Why does my cast iron plant have yellow/brown leaves?

One of the most common mistakes that people make when caring for plants that are as resistant as the cast iron plant is over watering them. When you put too much water in the soil, the soil becomes soggy and it can kill the plant’s leaves. Another problem that leads to leaves turning yellow or brown is placing the plant under direct sunlight. Avoid these two and your plant should have healthy green leaves.

cast iron plant care and growthWhat type of soil is good for a cast iron plant?

In order for a cast iron plant to grow happy and healthy, it needs well-drained soil. You can use any decent potting mix as they will provide you with the level of drainage needed. If you want to test the soil before putting the cast iron plant in it, you can add it to a pot, fill it will water, and then wait a few hours to check it. If you notice the soil is damp (but not gooey), it should be just fine for your cast iron plant.

Is the cast iron plant safe for pets?

While there are a few common household plants that are poisonous to pets, the cast iron plant isn’t one of those. Consuming large quantities of it can lead to an upset stomach, but the plant itself is not poisonous, so it’s safe to have it inside your home even if you have cats or dogs.

When should I cut back my cast iron?

The best time for propagating, repotting, or cutting back your cast iron plant is during spring and summer. The perfect time for it would be late February or early March. Those of you that are looking for plant rejuvenation should cut the plant to a few inches above the ground. Keep in mind that cast iron plants grow really slow, so you can expect it to last about one or two years for the plant to grow back to the height and thickness it has before you cut it.

Alternatively, you can choose to cut just a few leaves and leave the healthiest one behind if you want the plant to recover faster. Keep in mind what we told you earlier about plant leaves turning brown or yellow.


Taking its name from the idea that it’s almost indestructible, the cast iron plant is a wonderful addition to a home where you want more green without having to worry about the plant dying on you because a lot of different conditions have to be met. The cast iron plant is one of the best choices for beginners because it requires so little to thrive.

As long as you make sure not to keep the plant under direct sunlight and you avoid over watering it, you should be able to enjoy its beauty for many years. However, keep in mind that it might require repotting every four years and clean its leaves at least once per month to avoid potential pests and to give the leaves a nice and healthy shine.