All about the Aspidistra
If you’re in pursuit of a plant that is a) appealing to the eyes and b) can live through significant neglect, the aspidistra elatior plant is the one for you. It is very popular for its evergreen foliage gleaming with its glossy dark green leaves that spring up directly from its fleshy rootstock on long stems.
Aspidistra elatior plants are widely known as the Cast-iron plant and Barroom plant. They also go by the names of ‘haran’ or ‘baran’ in Japanese.
Different types of the Aspidistra
Aspidistra elatior belongs to the Asparagaceae family and has several popular varieties. Most common aspidistra has shiny, corn-like, dark green leaves that can grow to about 60 cm in length. This type typically produces purple-brown, small flowers near the base of the plant.
Origin of the Aspidistra
Aspidistras can be found in the marshy soil of shady mountain forests and are native to China, Japan, and the Himalayas. It has been in cultivation since the early Victorian period as a houseplant. They were considered noble for the Victorian houses which were not really bright and spacious, so they required tough plants to grow indoors.
In Japan, the aspidistra plant is a prime training plant for ikebana, a name given to the Japanese art and floral arrangement craft.
How to (generally) take care of the Aspidistra
As stated earlier, aspidistra is a tough cookie and very forgiving towards considerable abuse. In fact, one of its nicknames, ‘Cast-iron plant,’ is so given because of its ability to survive through this abuse. Even so, let’s find out how one can provide aspidistra the love it deserves:
Aspidistras are fairly drought-tolerant, but they will look their best if you give them enough water. They like their soil moist but not soggy as it can lead to the development of root rot. Underwatering can cause its leaf tips to turn brown, but otherwise, it is very tolerant of under-watering.
The best time to water your aspidistra is when the surface of the soil, maybe the top inch or so, seems dry. One way to check that is by sticking your finger to the ground. If there’s no sign of dampness, you’ll need to water your plant.
Like any plant, aspidistra elatior likes to be placed in a spot where the sunlight exposure, soil nutrients, temperature, and humidity are perfect. Be mindful of the following specifications when choosing a new home for your aspidistra:
- Lighting exposure: Moderate to bright, indirect sunlight is ideal for an aspidistra. Keep it away from the direct sun, though, as it can bleach and burn its foliage. As a houseplant, it best grows in front of a north-facing window and can also do well under artificial lights.
- Soil necessities: Any well-draining potting mix will suffice for your aspidistra. You can also add some perlite, pumice, or coarse sand to a houseplant potting mix in order to increase the drainage levels. Additionally, good drainage holes at the pot bottom are advised.
- Temperature requirement: Aspidistras thrive well in temperatures 15.5-27°C. They can, however, tolerate degrees a little above or below this range, but try not to expose them to any hot or cold drafts.
- Humidity preferences: Average household humidity works well for an aspidistra elatior plant. They can even grow in dry air conditions.
A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with a diluted strength tends to be an ideal diet for aspidistra plants. Feed it every four weeks with the fertilizer in the active growing summer and spring seasons. To avoid burning its roots, try to apply the fertilizer immediately after watering it. There’s no need to feed them during the winter months.
Aspidistras are generally slow growers, so there’s no need to overfeed them. It may lead to a consequence of brown leaf tips and a decline in health.
An extensive study by NASA proves that most houseplants can enhance indoor air quality by absorbing harmful chemicals found in office complexes and homes. Aspidistra elatior is one of them. These plants are particularly good at absorbing benzene and formaldehyde from the surrounding air, hence creating a healthier environment for you and your loved ones.
An added benefit of possessing an aspidistra is that it’s not toxic at all. It’s nowhere near poisonous to humans or pets, so you won’t have to worry about this plant in this aspect.
Propagating an Aspidistra
An aspidistra elatior plant can be propagated very easily. The key to its successful propagation is to work carefully, as this plant has very fragile and delicate roots that can be easily damaged with rough handling.
Root division is the best technique for aspidistra’s propagation which is done during the process of repotting. Ideally, the division is done when the plant is actively growing in spring or summer. Here’s a brief summary of how it’s done:
Propagating aspidistra plant through root division
Carefully remove the plant from its pot. Lay it on a newspaper or any smooth surface, and separate the roots apart with your fingers. Make sure the separated roots have two or three stems attached to them to ensure healthy growth.
Put the divided roots in a container whose diameter is 5cm and which isn’t wider than the root mass. Also, make sure there’s a drainage hole at the bottom. Add a fresh potting mix to it. Keep the soil lightly moist, but make sure that it has good drainage.
Replant the parent plant back into its original pot and water the newly divided plant thoroughly. Wait until its roots are formed, and the plant shows new growth. It may take a while for aspidistra to fill out the container and eventually become an independently established plant.