Sometimes it only takes one standout in the crowd to bring attention to an entire group.
This is the case with the cast iron plant, which had been popular for a few centuries but suddenly hit the spotlight and brought attention to its genus.
As a result, Aspidistra (ass-pih-DIS-trah) has gone from only 8 to 10 known species in the 1970s to approximately 192 today.
As for the cast iron plant, the name belongs to Aspidistra elatior, as well as its cultivars and select cultivars of Aspidistra lurida and Aspidistra yingjiangensis.
These plants have a strange way of blooming and seldom bloom indoors, so propagation is almost exclusively done through division.
How To Divide Cast Iron Plant
The roots of a cast iron plant are its Achilles heel, so dividing requires a little finesse.
However, you can easily create more of these wonderful plants with proper care.
When To Divide
You will want your cast iron plant to establish itself and get a little growth before dividing so the roots won’t be as delicate.
Generally speaking, the best time to propagate is in spring to early summer, so the plant has time to recover before hitting its dormant phase.
For potted plants, do the following steps:
- Divide them every 3 to 5 years, so it doesn’t become rootbound.
- Follow the same timeline with your garden specimens, so they have plenty of time to grow stronger roots.
Preparing The Potted Plant
Here are the steps to follow when preparing a potted plant.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot.
- A light watering a few hours prior will help loosen the soil.
- Take a butter knife or similar object and gently work around the inside edge of the pot to further loosen any dirt.
- Tip the plant over and carefully slide it out of the pot.
- Gently knock away the dirt from the roots, as you are likely also repotting the plant at this time.
Preparing A Garden Plant
Garden plants can be easier and more difficult to uproot, as the roots aren’t as contained.
Here are the steps to prepare the garden plant:
- Gently excavate downwards in a 1’ foot radius around the plant when in doubt.
- Carefully lift the plant out of the ground using a fork and lay it on its side.
- Knock away any loose dirt, so you can better view the roots.
Dividing A Plant
At this point, the division is pretty simple by doing the following steps:
- Decide whether you want to divide the plant in half or more parts.
- Ideally, each division will have multiple stems on it.
- Check the roots for any signs of root rot.
- Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut away diseased roots as carefully as possible, so you don’t harm the healthy roots.
- Gently tease the roots apart using your fingers and only use sterile scissors as a last resort.
- As you handle each division, set it aside or pot immediately.
Repotting A Divided Plant
For repotting a divided plant, make sure to follow these steps:
- Choose new pots or containers that are slightly larger than each division’s root ball.
- Always use fresh potting soil when repotting your cast iron plant to have fresh nutrients and any buildup of mineral salts is removed.
- Fill the bottom third of the pot, then test fit the division.
- Add a little more soil or remove a little as needed to get it to the proper height, and for the divided plant to be at the same level as the original plant.
- Once ready, slowly fill in around the plant, spreading out any loose roots as you go.
- When the pot is filled to the appropriate level, gently tamp the soil down and give the plant a light watering.
Planting A Divided Plant
The process for planting freshly divided cast iron plants is essentially the same as with a potted one.
- Figure out the proper depth of the roots and backfill the hole as needed.
- Slowly add more dirt, adjusting loose roots as you go so they have more room to grow.
- Once the cast iron plant is covered to the same level, it was originally gently tamped down the soil and lightly water the plant.
Is There Any Special Aftercare?
Cast-iron plants get their name because they can handle a lot of abuse and neglect.
As their roots are the most fragile part of the plant, you can immediately put the freshly divided plants in their permanent homes without having to worry about waiting for them to heal over.
Just remember not to water them heavily right after the division, as the loose soil can often make it harder to tell if you’re adding too much water.