A well-loved houseplant since Victorian times, the Aspidistra elatior is often known as the “Cast Iron Plant” because it is exceptionally hardy. It can happily survive even in difficult conditions such as dusty environments with low levels of natural light. Its foliage is quite tough and leathery and it occasionally grows small flowers and fruits at its base.
The dark and shiny leaves of the Aspidistra elatior are similar to the leaves of corn plants. They grow to around 70 to 80cm in length and are around 10cm wide. The plant is slow growing, with the leaves coming directly through the soil in a hornlike clump of stems, which are usually about 15cm wide. The Variegata variety, as its name suggests, has variegated leaves.
The Aspidistra is native to China, Japan and the Himalayas where it grows in the marshy soil of shady mountain forests. It prefers to be kept at room temperature and between 18 and 24°C is best. However, it will tolerate temperatures anywhere between 10 and 29°C without any ill effect.
Aspidistras will grow all year round, although they do need to be kept out of direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves and cause them to turn brown. As it grows very slowly it is relatively expensive to produce.
The species is elatior and the genus is aspidistra. The plant comes from the lily family, also known as the Liliaceae family.
Aspidistras will grow in areas with low light levels although they prefer a reasonable source of natural light. The compost only needs to be kept moist; in fact, over-watering can cause brown spots or the leaves to turn yellow.
They will tolerate dust although it is a good idea to regularly wipe the leaves with a cloth. They do like to be pot bound so don’t change pots unless it is necessary and give them a little liquid feed every three weeks or so during the summer.
Did You Know?
The Victorians loved these plants because they could cope with the smoke and dust of oil lamps and coal fires.