Cast Iron Plants - Aspidistra


Aspidistra elatior


Listen to the Aspidistra Podcast here!



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy
  • Aspidistra can withstand all levels of indirect light; however, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, especially in the height of summer due to the risk of sun-scorch and bleached leaves.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist, allowing the top third of the compost to dry out in between waters. Reduce this slightly in the autumn and winter for the replication of its dormancy period.
  • Supplement every two to four weeks using a houseplant fertiliser, depending on the season.
  • Repot every three years with houseplant compost in the spring or summer months. Water the plant 24hrs beforehand, to reduce the risk of damaging the root hairs (transplant shock). This is a perfect time to divide the rhizomes (horizontal stems) that lay beneath the soil line.
  • Keep an eye out for Fungus Gnats that'll lay their eggs 2cm  (1 inch)  in any soil that remains too damp in-between waters. This is a prominent issue among specimens located in dark environments.




Location & Light - 🔸🔸

Aspidistra can withstand all ranges of indirect light, meaning that most locations in a home will be accepted. Avoid situating it in a spot that receives intense sunlight for more than an hour, as it'll quickly lead to sun-scorch and permanently damaged leaves. Clean the leaves regularly, especially with those in darker environments with lukewarm water and a damp cloth. Although this isn't too much of an issue, a build-up of dust particles can clog up the plant's pores, causing lowered light capturing-efficiency.


Water - 🔸🔸

Allow the soil's top third to dry out in between waters, reducing this further in the autumn and winter. If your specimen is situated in a darker environment, allow half of the compost to dry out to minimise the chance of root rot and hatching Fungus Gnat larvae. Under-watering symptoms include stunted growth, browned leaf edges and yellowing leaves; these issues are commonly caused by too much sunlight or heat, or pure forgetfulness. Over-watering symptoms include a collapsed base, yellowing leaves, heavy soil and plant death. If you feel that over-watering is to blame for a gradual decline in health, be sure to click on this link for more info about addressing root rot.


Humidity - 🔸🔸🔸

Although average room humidity is acceptable for this species, those grown in a dry climate (below 40%) should be sat on a humidity tray to prevent the risk of browning leaf-tips. At monthly intervals, perform a gentle hose-down to hydrate its leaves and reduce the number of dust particles resting on its foliage.


Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Fertile soil is vital for a healthy Aspidistra; supplement once a fortnight using a houseplant-labelled fertiliser, before reducing this to monthly in the autumn and winter. Try not to over-feed as their roots are susceptible to burning, especially when over-applied in dry soil.




Common Issues with Aspidistra

Older leaves that rapidly become yellow are a clear sign of over-watering, usually caused by too little light with other symptoms include mouldy or heavy soil, stunted growth and a rotten base. Although this species can do well in darker locations, the frequency of irrigations must be reduced to counteract the chance of root rot. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too; when soil is watered, the air will travel upwards and out of the potting mix. A lack of accessible oxygen will cause them to subsequently breakdown over the oncoming days. Click on this link to learn more about root rot and how to address it.

Too low humidity will cause browning leaf tips with yellow halos. Although this won't kill the plant, increase humidity to prevent new growth in adopting these symptoms. Either mist weekly while the heaters are on, or create your humidity tray to provide a a more stable environment for your specimen.

Persistent droughts will result in crispy brown sections across its foliage. Allow the affected leaf to thoroughly brown over before removing it with a clean pair of scissors, as puncturing the soft tissue may cause bacterial diseases further down the line. Introduce a watering schedule or pebble tray to avoid the risk of dehydration in the future.

A loss of variegations is caused by too little light. Despite Aspidistra being an excellent choice for shady locations, it'll come at the cost of its variegations for multi-coloured specimens. Move the plant into a brighter area with minimal direct sunlight to allow the variegations to appear on the new growth. If you aren't entirely displeased about the loss, simply skip this step. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant from developing chlorophyll (green pigmentation) is typically caused by too much sunlight.

Spider Mite are small, near-transparent critters, that'll slowly extract the chlorophyll from of its leaves. Have a check under the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about the eradicating Spider Mite, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!




Aspidistra has a modified stem whereby rhizomes (much like the Rabbit Foot Fern or Phlebodium) that runs just beneath the soil line, harbouring both its petioles and roots.


Origins

John Ker Gawler first described Aspidistra in 1822, using the Greek word for 'shield' (ασπίς) and the genus name of Tupistra, in reference to its foliar structure. Despite the initial taxonomy, it was largely ignored until the 1980s, when it was correctly placed from the Lilaceae family to Asparagaceae after morphological investigation.

During the age of gas-powered lighting in the Victorian period, toxic fumes and soot-covered surfaces were a frequent scene in homes, not only causing nausea and headaches, but also intoxicating plants until death. The only two species that survived this wicked time were Kentia Palms and the newly discovered Aspidistra, illustrating great wealth and fortune when featured on family pictures. Their popularity eventually died out, with many other plants from 'The New World' being successfully grown in the homes once the lightbulb became normalised. The foliage of an Aspidistra meets at an underground 'rhizome' which acts as a stem, harbouring the roots, stored energy and petioles. The rhizomes can be propagated by division in the spring and summer, or can be left to fill the pot.


Temperature

10° - 26°C   (50° - 80°F)
H1b  (Hardiness Zone 12)  - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 10℃  (50℉),  but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure any direct sunlight as it may result in sun-scorch and dehydration. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.


Spread

Up to 0.6m in height and 1m in width, with the ultimate height taking between 3 - 8 years to achieve. Each rhizome can produce up to three new leaves per season in the right cultivation. 


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.


Propagation

Via Seed & Rhizome Cuttings.

Rhizome Cuttings (Easy) - Choose the healthiest, most established rhizomes that show no signs of damage or disease. This method can be taken from spring to early summer, using between two to four fronds within each rhizomatous section. Cut directly below a node using a clean knife, and separate its root systems from the rest of the root ball. Make sure the propagated rhizome is at least 5cm (2 inches) in length so that it has enough stored energy to continue growing. Plant it straight into a moist, well-draining medium to avoid root rot. Sprinkle a half a centimetre of soil onto of the rhizome to lock in surrounding moisture and wait for new growth that may take up to several weeks. Avoid direct sunlight and offer high humidity with temperature (15°C, 59°C) for success. After its second new leaf, treat it like a normal specimen, following the care tips above!


Flowers

Matured specimens are perennial, with small purple rosette flowers emerging an inch above the soil line in spring or summer. Its blooming process has baffled botanists for many years due to its low-growing nature, a complete contrast to the preferred height of ordinary flowers to attract airborne pollinators. If pollination is successful, small red berries will form in the flower's urn, usually holding just one or two seeds. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that a domestically grown specimen will bloom indoors due to the unfavored growing conditions found in the typical home.


Repotting

Repot every two or three years in spring using a houseplant-labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before the tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those that are situated in a darker location, add a thin layer of small grit in the pot's base to improve drainage and downplay over-watering. Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

If you're still unsure of what to do, never hesitate to send us an email or direct message to get our expert advice on transplantation.


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mite, scale, thrips, fungus gnats, vine weevils & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, with the exception of the latter two in the soil. Common diseases associated with Aspidistra are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, rust, Fusarium wiltrhizoctonia, powdery mildew & southern blight - click here to learn more about these issues.


Toxicity

Not known to be poisonous by consumption of pets and humans. If high quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.


Retail Locations

Online Stores.



If you need further advice with indoor gardening, never hesitate to send us a message or leave a comment in the section below. This could be about your own specific plant, transplantation into a bigger pot, pests or diseases, terrarium ideas, & more!



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