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What is a Cast Iron Plant?

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  • Written By: Laura Evans
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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When a person thinks of cast iron, the individual may think of an object that is tough, durable and built to last. Many tropical plants do not fit in with the concept of "cast iron." The cast iron plant is one of the exceptions to this concept. A cast iron plant can live indoors in poor light with irregular watering and "extreme" indoor temperatures. This plant can also be grown outdoors in shaded locations as a type of ground cover.

A cast iron plant, or Aspidistra elatior, can tolerate temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit (just over -2 degrees Celsius), although it is more likely to thrive when the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (about 21 and 24 degrees Celsius) during the daytime hours and 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (about 10 to 13 degrees Celsius) during the nighttime hours. Aspidistra elatior can live in light conditions at 10 foot-candles. This plant is happier when the light is between 50 and 500 foot-candles. Most indoor rooms are lit with about 50 to 150 foot-candles.

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In addition to tolerating low light and low temperature levels, a cast iron plant will "take on" more dust than other tropical plants. Although Aspidistra elatior prefers moist soil, the plant can be left dry for periods of time. A cast iron plant can also survive in areas that have drafts. In others words, Aspidistra elatior is a perfect houseplant for those who sometimes forget that there are plants in the house.

A cast iron plant is slow growing. Its leaves will eventually be about 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 cm) long. The plant will also bloom at its base with dull purple flowers. Aspidistra elatior is not renowned for its flowers. This plant does have long-lasting leaves that can be used in foliage in flower arrangements.

Aspidistra elatior is often planted in small pots. People often break the plants apart to propagate new plants. The best time to divide a cast iron plant is in the spring. Plants should be placed about 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 cm) apart.

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