Botanical Name: Aspidistra elatior
As its common name suggests, Cast Iron Plant is tough. It will survive low light, infrequent watering and extreme heat that would be deadly to most plants.
In fact, it practically thrives on neglect. Don't overwater -- it doesn't like soggy soil. And don't repot it very often -- it doesn't like to be disturbed. Respect its Greta Garbo attitude and it will do just fine.
This plant grows slowly in a clump of 6-inch (15 cm) stems with glossy, dark-green leaves growing 24 inches (60 cm) long and 4 inches (10 cm) wide. You can keep those shiny leaves dust-free by wiping them with a damp cloth. It won't really mind the dust, but you might.
Many named varieties are available. 'Starry Night' has leaves speckled with yellow, 'Milky Way' is speckled with white, and 'Variegata' has creamy stripes down the leaves.
Small, unattractive, purplish-brown flowers may appear at the plant's base in spring. But, don't expect them. Flowers don't appear often, and they're hardly noticeable.
Split and damaged leaves may be caused by too much fertilizer. If leaves are starting to split, skip feeding for a month, then resume feeding with a diluted amount. You can cut off badly damaged leaves at the soil level. It's also a good idea to flush the soluble salts that build up in the soil from fertilizers. Fortunately, getting rid of excess salts is easy. Here's how:
Watch for spider mites that may invade this plant. You'll first notice their faint webbing between leaves. Treat any infestation immediately.
Cast Iron Plant is evergreen and makes a beautiful, easy-care house plant year-round. Best of all, you'll enjoy it for many years.
Height: Up to 3 feet (90 cm).
Light: Low to moderate light. No direct sun. Direct sunlight can cause brown scorched marks on leaves.
Water: In spring and summer, water thoroughly, but allow soil to dry out between waterings. Water less in fall and winter. Yellow leaves are often a sign of overwatering.
Humidity: Average humidity. Will tolerate dry air, but keep plant out of drafts.
Temperature: Adaptable to changing temperatures ranging from 50-85°F/10-29°C
Soil: Any all-purpose potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Do not feed at all in fall and winter, as plants grow very little during this time.
Propagation: Divide in spring only when it gets overcrowded in its pot. A slow-grower, it probably won't need divided more often than every 5 years. It's best to remove new shoots (with roots attached) and pot them separately than to repot an old plant.