Aspidistra elatior – Cast Iron Plant

The Cast iron Plant or Parlour Palm, is probably the most tolerant plant on earth! It is easy to grow and may well survive fifty years on minimal attention. It is a tidy, symmetrical plant with long pointed leaves which are strong and upright. A variegated form with cream-striped leaves is more decorative but less common.

Aspidistra elatior (syn. A. lurida) Cast Iron Plant: China.

Temperatures:

Growing season 12-15 °C (53-60 °F)

Minimum winter 7 °C (45 °F)

Soil: Mix good friable loam and soil-less compost in equal quantities. Do not over-feed.

Where to position: In a cool, shady position. Sunlight discolours the leaves and may leave their edges an unsightly brown. It is tolerant of draughts and temperature changes.

Watering requirements: Keep soil fairly moist with lukewarm water. The plant is a heavy drinker so water freely in hot weather. It has no special humidity needs. Spray from time to time to keep foliage clean, gently wiping moisture from the leaves with cotton wool or a tiny sponge.

Feeding and fertilizer: The plant can reach considerable size. Re-potting as necessary will ensure continued increase to the preferred height. If the plant becomes too large it can be divided; leaves with roots attached can be potted in compost to form young replacements. Feed every 3-4 weeks with very weak liquid feed.

Rest and care: There is no marked resting period. Reduce water by half during colder winter period when plant growth slows down, and continue as above.

When it looks sick:

Brown-edged leaves : Move plant out of sun and check for dryness ; the symptom can result from either. Flagging leaves : Check for waterlogging and if it exists, stop watering until the soil is in a good condition.

Yellowing leaves : Water with rainwater – there may be an excessive build-up of lime in the soil.

Roots appearing on the surface of the soil : The plant is potbound and should be re-potted.

The great favourite of the Victorian era, the aspidistra still has much to commend it and is most effective when seen in its traditional setting, atop a Victorian plant pedestal and growing in a rather grand and flowery Victorian plant pot.

Aspidistra luridu is a tolerant, easily grown house plant. Known in America as the Cast Iron Plant, its tough, long, lanceolate leaves grow in sheaves. A well grown plant may occasionally flower, but the small purple bells are inconspicuous and it is for the dark green, glossy leaves this plant is grown. It is tolerant of fumes, indifferent to changes in temperature and survives in either light or shade.

The oblong-lanceolate leaves, up to 50 cm (20 in) long, are green and somewhat coarse in appearance and are produced on short stalks that emerge directly from the soil. There is a rare variegated form with creamy-white striped leaves, but this needs reasonable light to

aspidistra

maintain the colouring.

As its common name suggests, this plant is among the hardiest of all foliage houseplants, withstanding with equanimity gas, deep shade, neglect, heat, dust, dryness of air and soil, but not bright sunshine. Any care, however, brings its rewards.

All it asks for is to be kept moist, given moderate humidity and reasonable warmth. It likes having its leaves sponged occasionally and to be given spells out of doors in the summer rain. The leaves of both the darkgreen and variegated varieties are prized by flower arrangers.

Propagate Aspidistra elatior – Cast Iron Plant, at almost any time by diving older clumps and potting them in a rich loam-based mixture.

30. July 2010 by Rupert Foxton-Smythe
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