Aspidistra elatior (ass-pih-DIS-trah eh-LAY-tee-or) is a rugged plant which is also known as the Cast Iron Plant.
It is called Cast Iron Plant because it is able to tolerate all manner of dire circumstances, such as heat, darkness, and drought.
For this reason, it earned its other common name, Barroom Plant.
It is a popular houseplant among folks who want a lush green plant but have had nothing but bad experience keeping plants.
It stands to reason that a tough plant like this might also make a good outdoor plant for challenging settings.
In this article, we discuss how to grow the Cast Iron Plant outdoors.
The Cast Iron Plant Is Ideal For Warm Woodland Settings
Cast Iron Plant makes a wonderful addition to almost any garden in a tropical or semi-tropical setting.
It is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11.
In these warm locations, it is easy to grow as a perennial year-round.
In cooler settings, you can set it out as a container plant during the warm months and keep it as a houseplant during the winter.
Alternately, you can dig the plants up during the winter months and store the rhizomes to be replanted in the springtime.
Use Cast Iron Plant As You Would Hosta
Cast Iron Plant has large, deep green leaves that can be up to a foot long.
They look somewhat like Hosta leaves, so the plant is sometimes considered a Hosta substitute.
These tropical plants do very well in deep shade, so they are often grown as understory plants or naturalized in woodland settings in the southern United States.
They also make good container plants, and because of their large size, they can be used as accent plants or specimen plants.
This is especially true of some of the more interesting cultivars.
There are several different varieties of Cast Iron Plant, so it’s easy to find one that is especially eye-catching for your setting.
Consider the following varieties:
- China Star has boldly speckled leaves that are nearly 3 inches wide and 10 inches long
- Gold Spike has a bright yellow stripe that runs halfway down the upper center of its leaves.
- Goldfeather has striking golden yellow stripes running lengthwise on its leaves.
- Asahi has white-tipped leaves that have the look of airbrushing.
- Okame has randomly splashed white streaks on its leaves.
- Milky Way Cast Iron displays a constellation of tiny, white spots.
- Variegata sports attractive white stripes.
In the spring and summer, you may see very tiny purple flowers on any of these varieties.
The flowers are barely noticeable, though.
They are not a point of interest for this plant.
Aspidistra Elatior Is Happiest Under Forest-Like Conditions
While Cast Iron Plants can tolerate drought and poor soil, they do not prefer these conditions.
For best results, they should be planted in the sort of soil you would find on the woodland floor, loamy, rich, loose, and well-draining.
When you plant your cast iron rhizomes, provide deep watering and keep the soil slightly moist until the plants are well established.
If you have reasonable rainfall in your area, you may never have to water again.
These plants don’t typically need to be fertilized, but if you wish, you can give them a feeding of all-purpose fertilizer early in the springtime to get them off to a good start for the growing season.
As with most plants, too much water can be very detrimental.
In very dry climates or in times of drought, use soak and dry watering throughout the growing season.
Withhold water during the winter months.
Maintain good drainage and good air circulation around Cast Iron Plants outdoors.
When planting, always maintain a spacing of at least a foot between plants to allow them room to spread and to provide good airflow.
Divide As Needed To Maintain Ideal Conditions
These evergreen perennials grow and spread via rhizomes.
In ideal situations, the plants grow in dense clumps with a height and spread of about two feet.
When your plants become crowded, you can dig them up, divide your Aspidistra and plant the new rhizomes elsewhere or share them with friends.
Provide Some Protection Outdoors
Barroom Plants are very disease and pest and deer-resistant, and they can also tolerate a salty, seaside setting.
Even so, there are some conditions they cannot tolerate.
Protect your Cast Iron Plants against the harsh rays of the sun.
They do best in settings that receive dappled or deep shade.
Because these are woodland plants in their warm native setting, they prefer a sheltered location.
Don’t let them be exposed to strong winds, especially in the wintertime.
If leaves do become damaged by wind or other environmental factors,
- Simply cut off the damaged leaves. More on Pruning Cast Iron Plants
- Trim them all the way back to the base.
They will soon be replaced.