Perfect Cast-Iron Plant Guide

27 Aug 2022

The cast-iron plant is one of the go-tos on an in-door gardeners’ die-hard list. This perennial joins the pothos  and the Chinese ever-green as a “tough-guy” club member in the houseplant community.

Found in homes and offices worldwide, they give many an indoor gardening newbie the confidence they seek to expand their collection.

Read on to learn more about caring for, growing, planting, and reviving this herbaceous beauty.

Fun Fact: the cast-iron name was chosen to illustrate that the plant is almost indestructible and can withstand a certain amount of neglect.

Main Features

Like its relative, the dragon tree and the snake plant, the cast-iron houseplant is a member of the Asparagaceae family, and its botanical name is Aspidistra elatior.

Originating from the low-lit forests of China and Japan, this slow-growing perennial pet will grace the shady areas of your home with deep glossy green leaves and requires little maintenance and fuss.

These lovely houseplants display broad, oblong leaves that rise and fall into a sword-like shape.

Fun Fact: The cast-iron plant is also commonly known as the bar room plant due to its ability to cope in poorly lit, moody conditions.


Here are the popular varieties, all beautifully named:

  • Aspidistra elatior ‘Asahi’: a pretty white-tipped variety.
  • Aspidistra elatior ‘Lennon’s Song’: striped with soft green or pale yellow.
  • Aspidistra elatior ‘Hoshi Zora’: also known as ‘Starry Sky,’ this varietal is dotted with little star-like spots.
  • Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’ or ‘Okame’: glossy leaves featuring white stripes.
  • Aspidistra elatior ‘Milky Way’: beautifully dotted with a starlight spray.

How Big Do They Get?

Aspidistras grow reasonably slowly. However, they can eventually reach a height of around 2 feet (60.96cm), and their long spear-like leaves spread roughly 2-3 feet (61-91cm) outwards.

How Fast Do They Grow?

This houseplant will eventually spread to a maximum of 3 feet (91cm) wide after about five years. These slow-growers will only produce a few new leaves annually, depending on how much light they receive.

How Long Do They Live?

Once your bar room plant has reached maturity, the possibility of enjoying it for up to 50 more years is entirely accurate! This makes this plant an excellent heirloom piece to pass to family members or friends to take care of and enjoy.

Sago palms offer a similar lifespan, should you wish to grow a few plants to pass on.

Fun Fact: Aspidistra elatior were often displayed in middle-class Victorian and Edwardian homes, as a status symbol of a successful life. Boston Ferns could also be found in Victorian homes and times.

Toxicity Information

Cast-iron plants are one of the safest houseplants you can own in your home.

Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

Thankfully, like the African violet and the rattlesnake plant, the cast-iron plant is entirely non-toxic to dogs and cats.

Are They Poisonous to Humans?

The Aspidistra is safe for family homes and is considered non-poisonous to infants and children.

Cast-Iron Plant Care

For anyone looking to expand their collection, this is the houseplant for those dark corners begging for a leafy friend. The joy of a perennial offers vibrant green foliage and requires very little parenting.

Let’s discuss a few critical care needs of this hands-off baby.

How Often to Water It

With regards to watering, Aspidistra only requires watering every 10 days year round or when the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil has dried out.

While these houseplants have some drought tolerance, they prefer soil with some moisture. Most of the potential issues which are discussed further in the article are a result of over-watering.

Young bar room plants require a little more attention to ensure their soil environment has a moderate moisture level.

Drainage Guidelines

Cast-irons prefer a quick-draining soil and environment in a pot with drainage holes and a few stones layered at the bottom. They will not thrive and offer you their full potential if they sit in a water-logged environment.


Aspidistras don’t require a lot of pruning, much like  ZZ plants. Snip or gently pull off old or yellowing leaves, and cut off the stem close to the base. This method will allow the perennial to focus on other healthier parts.

If you have to prune away more yellowing leaves, take note of how much you water your houseplant and ensure that the soil is drying out a little more than it was before watering it again.

When and How to Repot It

Your uncomplicated Aspidistra will only require repotting once the roots start to sneak through the pot’s base. This might only be around the 3-year mark, and you should wait until the weather warms up to repot. For a young plantlet, once a year is sufficient for repotting. Like over-exposure to the sun, Aspidistras do not like to have their root systems disturbed.

Follow these steps to repot your Aspidistra:

  1. Lean the pot over and gently release the Aspidistra.
  2. Be careful with the delicate roots; this is your most critical point to keep in mind.
  3. Choose a new pot about 2 inches larger than the rootball of the plant.
  4. Layer the new pot with drainage stones and a moderately moist potting mix.
  5. Place the plant into its new pot at the same depth as it was sitting in before.

Environment Conditions

Other than severe sun exposure, this houseplant is your all-weather friend.

Light Requirements

Bar room plants are unfussy, but their ideal light is indirect via a north-facing window. These perennials can handle deep, dark, shady spots in your home or office. They will be unhappy in an area with direct sunlight, resulting in their beautiful leaves being burnt and bleached.

Best Soil

Cast-iron plants can habituate in various soils as long as they drain well. Their optimum soil is slightly acidic to neutral with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5; a standard potting soil will be fine.


Aspidistra enjoys a little all-purpose liquid fertilizer during the spring and summer. The only point to note is that the fertilizer should be applied after watering to protect the roots from being burned.

It is unnecessary to fertilize them during the cold seasons.

Pot Size and Type

Unglazed clay or terracotta pots are ideal for Aspidistra because they need to breathe; although they can be planted in almost any material, plastic is suitable too. The extra moisture will evaporate through the walls of these pots, helping to maintain the correct level of water in the soil.

A pot size 2 inches wider than the rootball will be ideal for your bar room plant. As they grow at a snail’s pace, they will give you many years before needing repotting.

Temperature Range

Your Aspidistra is comfortable in a temperature range of around 60 – 70°F (15-21°C) but will struggle in temperatures below 50°F (10°C). While challenging to kill, they are not built for very chilly conditions.

Humidity Level

Your cast-iron houseplant will enjoy moderate humidity (30-60%) but will be unconcerned with it as it doesn’t have to have it to thrive.

Can They Live Outside?

Aspidistra grows in hardiness zones of 6-11 USDA and will thrive here much like its friend, the maidenhair fern.

Aspidistras will sit happily undercover on a veranda in a shady corner. While it will cope outside, remember that direct and harsh sun will bleach and affect the color of the leaves. This houseplant would prefer to be frost-free; consider bringing it inside if you expect a frosty period.

Do They Bloom?

It is uncommon for an Aspidistra to flower indoors. However, this is not unheard of and occurs in the spring and summertime. The flowers are either a soft purple or white and grow directly out of the soil because they are pollinated by the little snails and slugs that crawl along the ground.

When/if flowers grow, there will only be one bloom per Aspidistra at a time, and they only last for a few weeks. Light will need to be optimal, and this will only happen for quite mature plants.

How to Grow It

These forgiving and hardy houseplants can be grown through division during the warmer months. It is important to remember that they have very sensitive root systems, and these should not be over-handled.

Below is a guide on achieving a promising new plantlet via this method.

How to Divide It

Steps to successfully divide your bar room plant:

  1. Ideally, choose to divide it simultaneously as you decide to repot it due to its roots being sensitive to interference.
  2. Divide the clump of roots and select an underground stem, also known as the rhizome, with at least two leaves on it.

Top Tip: Use your fingers to separate the plant instead of a knife, shear, or other metal tools. This sensitive method will reduce the likelihood of root damage.

Cast-iron Plant Propagation

Cast-iron propagation is ideally achieved in soil.

Fun Fact: dividing your Aspidistra will yield a new baby plant and benefit the mother plant by preventing the mature plant from becoming overcrowded.

Propagation in Water

Cast-iron divisions should not be propagated in water.

Propagation in Soil

Steps to propagate your division

  1. Bury the piece into a pot of fresh potting soil.
  2. The soil should be moderately moist but not soggy, and drainage must be provided well.
  3. Keep your new baby plantlet warm but away from direct sunlight.
  4. Once the new shoots begin to develop, the baby plantlet has established its root system and can now be treated like an established Aspidistra.

Can They Be Planted by Seed?

Regarding indoor gardening, bar room plants are not usually planted by seed. Dividing and propagation via soil is the number one preferred method.

How to Revive It

Aspidistras are unlikely to give you too many problems unless you decide to kill them with love (like over-watering). Below is a list of a few issues that may creep up with your pretty plant pet.

Browning Tips

If your bar room plant’s leaf tips suddenly turn brown, it may be experiencing either slight under- or overwatering. In both cases, the solid should be checked.

If the soil seems too wet, check if something prevents the pot from draining correctly. Once you have reviewed and sorted out the drainage, allow the soil to dry completely before watering it again.

If the soil conditions seem right, the other issue could be that the plant is situated next to a radiator, blowing heater, or fireplace. While it is flexible regarding its environment, it doesn’t enjoy long periods of hot air blowing on it.

Bleached Leaves or Scorched Leaf Edges

If your Aspidistra is placed in direct sunlight, it will pale in color over time and possibly scorch at the tips.

If this happens, move your houseplant to a corner with filtered or indirect light.

Yellowing Leaves

While it is normal for one or two aging leaves to yellow, should your plant be turning yellow all over, there could be one of 3 things happening :

  • Over-watering is the first thing to consider as it is the most common problem with this plant.
  • Frost is affecting your plant – should you have your houseplant on a balcony and the season has changed to a frosty one, bring it indoors.
  • Aspidistra has sensitive root systems. Frequent repotting and handling of these systems may result in the plant’s leaves turning yellow.

Final Remarks

This is one of the best household options for a dark bathroom, staircase, or light-lacking office. Treat it well (now and then), and your die-hard cast-iron plant will yield a lifetime of lush and glossy leaves.

So long as you are kind to its sensitive root system and don’t overwater it, you’ll have a beautiful friend for life.

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