A few weeks ago, I had occasion to take a peek at my neighbor’s gorgeous backyard. We were doing a one-day dog-sitting stint for their beautiful and very well-mannered golden retriever. I could go on and on about how wonderful this particular dog is, but I’ll save my comments about Molly for another time!
What was quite astonishing about this backyard was that in the midst of winter it exuded a lush, tropical feel. As I glanced around I noticed several outcroppings of deep-green, long-leafed plants throughout the area. Having had a few in my own yard at one time, I recognized the plants as Aspidistra elatior, or Cast Iron Plants. The strategic placement of these 2 ft X 2 ft, evergreen, perennial plants in my neighbor’s yard had definitely added vibrancy to their winter poolside decor and will most certainly enhance their summer landscaping as well.
If you happen to have a skillet, pot, fence or garden decor item made of cast iron, you can surely attest to its durability. And this is exactly the attribute by which the Aspidistra elatior obtained its common name – incredible durability; its ability to endure.
The Cast Iron Plant, a member of the lily family, is indeed one of the easiest plants to grow both indoors and outdoors. For those of you who claim to have brown thumbs – this is the plant for you! It can withstand weeks of neglect and amazingly doesn’t need much in the way of nutrients or sunlight to survive.
In Zones 6 – 11, you may sow the Cast Iron Plant outdoors in areas of deep shade to part sun, in dry to moderately moist soil, with acidic or alkaline ph, and/or any combination thereof. Full sun will burn its leaves and consistently wet soil will eventually rot its roots -but other than these two extreme scenarios, the Cast Iron Plant should thrive. But while it doesn’t do well in full sun, the plant can endure very hot ambient temperatures. So – if you have an isolated corner, strip along your patio, or a vacant spot in your landscape that simply could use a little greenery, the Cast Iron Plant will bring a refreshing tropical feel to these otherwise barren areas – spring, summer, fall and winter.
Speaking of a tropical feel, it is important to clarify that I am speaking of the wide, green, strap-like leaves (sometimes spotted or variegated depending on the variety) of the Cast Iron Plant. Although a “cousin” to the beautiful Daylily and Tulip, the Cast Iron Plant produces flowers that are a very inconspicuous brown and which develop at the soil level. Needless to say, the plant isn’t grown or displayed for its flowering capabilities. Nonetheless, it is a wonderful backdrop to other plants that do flower and it is sometimes used in beds as a tall, year ’round ground cover.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cast Iron Plant can also be grown indoors with ease. Like other houseplants such as Sansevieria (snake plant), Dracaena (corn plant) and Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen), the Cast Iron Plant can survive in very low light. In fact, it may be able to withstand the darkest corner of a room or hallway more so than those previously mentioned. A variegated or spotted Cast Iron Plant variety would further serve to brighten these indoor areas. Best of all, it is a very forgiving plant should you simply forget to water or otherwise attend to it from time to time.
Well, as promised in one of my earlier blog posts, I wanted to bring you a planting option for those areas in your landscape in which you haven’t had much success in growing anything in the past – whether it is due to poor soil, poor lighting, poor location or for reasons unknown. And, if I may reiterate, this particular planting option, the Cast Iron Plant, is an extremely tough, perennial evergreen and thus, a one-time planting will decorate your landscape throughout the seasons for many years to come. And don’t forget the Cast Iron Plant can be utilized as a houseplant in the most difficult of indoor areas as well, benefiting you with natural air filtration year ’round.
I can’t think of anything more versatile, yet resilient – that is . . . other than items actually made of cast iron!
Until next time,