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Large cast-iron plant potted in a metal pot, placed in front of a door.
For shady areas, the cast-iron plant is a proven winner. Its lush, deep green leaves (which can also be speckled or variegated) thrive in low light conditions and – once established – can tolerate a bit of neglect, too.

What you need to know about cast-iron plants

Name: cast-iron plant, Aspidistra elatior.

Height: 0.6m-1m.

Plant type: evergreen perennial. 

Climate: tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, frost-free.

Soil: moist, well drained.

Position: filtered sunlight, part shade, full shade.

Foliage: clumps of strappy dark-green leaves.

Flowers: small purple-brown rosette flowers at the base of the plant, rarely seen.

Feeding: feed during the warmer months with a liquid fertiliser.

Watering: water when soil is near dry. 

Appearance and characteristics of cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants are handsome evergreen perennials with strappy, glossy, green leaves. The leaves and stems emerge from underground rhizomes, fleshy horizontal stems that put out shoots and roots. They’re native to eastern and southeastern Asia, where they grow in the understory of forests. They prefer a position in part shade or filtered sunlight. They are well adapted to growing indoors. The ‘Variegata’ variety has white and lime green stripes, while ‘Shooting Stars’ has white flecks on its foliage.

Cast-iron plants are pet-safe – they are not considered to be toxic to cats or dogs.

Potted cast-iron plant with thick green leaves with white flecks on the foliage.

Uses for cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants are a great landscaping plant for heavily shaded areas, such as a south-facing garden. They also look great planted en masse under trees, or among other tropical style plants. Indoors, the cast-iron plant is ideal for areas with medium to low light. Use it as a standalone feature plant or group them with other indoor greenery.

How to grow cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants are a wonderful, low maintenance choice for both indoor and outdoor settings. In the garden, they need a warm, frost-free climate and a partly or fully shaded spot with well-drained soil. They’re particularly effective when used as a groundcover under trees where other plants may fail to thrive.

Indoors, cast-iron plants are happiest in a position with medium to low light – keep them away from direct sunlight, as it will burn the leaves.

Caring for cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants require minimal care once established. Remove yellow or dying leaves to keep them looking tidy. Re-pot every few years into the next size pot using a premium potting mix. To maintain the size of the existing plant, divide and separate the clump into smaller sections before potting.

Close-up of cast-iron plant leaves.

How often should you water and feed cast-iron plants?

Water cast-iron plants regularly at first. Once established, their mass of underground rhizomes allows them to tolerate drought or extended periods without water, although they will appreciate a regular drink in the warmer months.

Feed the plant about once a month with a liquid fertiliser during spring, summer and early autumn. Alternatively, use a long-term, slow release fertiliser.

Diseases and pests that affect cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants are usually trouble-free. Mealybugs, scale, or thrips may occasionally attack the foliage and stems, but these can be controlled with a suitable organic insecticide. Yellowing leaves is often a sign of overwatering or poor drainage.

How to propagate cast-iron plants

Cast-iron plants can be propagated by dividing the clump into smaller sections. The ideal time to do this is when re-potting. Remove the plant from the pot and use a clean, sharp knife, or secateurs, to divide the clump. Ensure there is a good ratio of foliage to roots with each section. Plant in fresh potting mix and water with a diluted seaweed solution to lessen transplant shock and encourage strong and healthy root growth.

If you like this then try

Mother-in-law’s tongue: an attractive and very hardy plant that is tolerant of neglect.

Ctenanthe burle-marxii (fishbone prayer plant): a shade-loving plant with unique patterned foliage.

Air plant: a type of bromeliad that thrives on air and water alone – a must-have for your indoor jungle.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


Photo credit: Getty Images

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