Known as cast iron plants, Aspidistra have earned their reputation as nearly indestructible houseplants. They are fairly undemanding and will survive through neglect that would easily kill a lesser plant. These tough, attractive plants are members of the lily family. They feature upright, strappy leaves that grow from an underground rhizome.
Light: Semi-shade to bright, but will not tolerate direct sun.
Water: Keep soil continuously moist throughout spring and summer, and reduce watering in the winter.
Temperature: Thrives at temperatures from 60ºF to 80ºF. Does not like extreme cold.
Soil: A well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Fertilize regularly during growing season with liquid fertilizer, or use controlled-release twice during growing season.
By division. Take pieces of the rhizome that include at least two leaves. Pot into fresh potting soil and keep moist and warm until new shoots begin to emerge.
Repot every year or every other year as needed. As rhizomous plants, cast iron plants can tolerate less frequent repotting.
Closely related to the lily, there are eight species in the Aspidistra genus. All are native to Asia. Of these, only one is commonly grown, A. elatior, which features upright green and dark leaves. A. elatior variegata is a variegated version that has attractive white striping on the leaves. The variegated version is less hardy than its darker cousin.
These are highly dependable, attractive and tolerant plants. The vast majority of mistakes with cast iron plants are caused by either too much water coupled with dark corners (they dislike waterlogged soil) or by direct sunlight, which will cause leaves to turn yellow, then brown and die. Older plants can often be rejuvenated from intact rhizomes, even ones that might seem to be dried out from lack of water. These are also great patio plants.