If you’re a gardener, the words “cast iron” do not draw up a mental image of a skillet but rather a plant with superhero status, one that meets challenges many other plants would ordinarily succumb to – such as low light, heat, and drought. I’m talking about the cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), Mother Nature’s solution for the unwitting plant killers amongst us. Got a brown thumb or not as attentive to your plants as you should be? If so, then this resilient plant is for you. Cast iron makes a great easy-to-care for houseplant, but will cast iron plants grow outside? Read on to learn more.
Will Cast Iron Plants Grow Outside?
Yes! You can grow cast iron plants in gardens – in the right setting. If you’re looking to grow cast iron plant as a perennial, keep in mind that while a cast iron plant can withstand a lot of adverse conditions lobbied at it, winter could be the kryptonite to this superhero plant. With this in mind, those living in USDA zones 7 to 11 will be able to grow cast iron outside as a perennial year-round with relative assurance. The rest of us will be enjoying cast iron plant outdoors as an annual or as a container plant that splits its time alternatively indoors and outdoors, depending on the season. Now, let’s find out what is required for an outdoor cast iron planting and how to grow a cast iron plant in the garden.
Care of Cast Iron Plants Outdoors
Cast iron plants in gardens will prove to be steady performers with just a modicum of care and a basic understanding of their minimum requirements. This is a foliage plant that features long 4 inch wide (10 cm.) glossy green or variegated leaves that are described as “corn-like” in appearance. The plant does produce tiny purple flowers, but they really do not contribute to the plant’s aesthetic beauty, as they grow close the ground and are obscured by the foliage. Cast iron plant is a slow but steady grower that reaches a height of 2 feet (61 cm.) tall and a span 2 to 3 feet (61-91 cm.) wide. Cast iron plants can be sourced from your local nursery or, if you have the right connections, you can obtain some rhizome divisions from a friend, family member, or neighbor. An outdoor cast iron planting should maintain a spacing of 12 to 18 inches (31-46 cm.) apart between plants for creating an effective groundcover or border. Cast iron plant is a shade plant that needs to be in a location that receives filtered to deep shade. While soil quality is not a concern for this plant, it does prefer soil that is characteristically rich, fertile, and well-draining. What is required for the care of cast iron plants? There really are no hard-core requirements for their care, simply recommendations, as this is a plant that can withstand a fair amount of neglect. For optimal growth, consider feeding it once a year, either in the spring or summer, with an all-purpose fertilizer. Water it initially during the first growing season to help the plant’s rhizomatous roots get established. The plant is drought tolerant once established, but you may opt for periodic watering afterwards to facilitate better growth. An occasional pruning may be necessary by cutting any unsightly leaves down to the ground. Propagation of this plant is done by root division. Simply section pieces of the rhizome that include at least a few leaves and transplant.
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Shelley Pierce was a writer for Gardening Know How, contributing to hundreds of articles for the site.
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