Question about very old Aspidistra

seedling88February 26, 2009

Hello everyone!

About 4 years ago I inherited an aspidistra from my grandparents when they moved. The plant originally belinged to my great-great grandmother, and is, by our best estimates, over a century old. Needless to say, I am terrified of killing such an amazing plant with so much history (if only it could talk...)

So far it looks like it's doing pretty well (knock on wood). It sends up a few new leaves every year, and the existing leaves are mostly a pretty dark green color.

My question is basically what I should be doing to take care of it? I've read that aspidistras are often hurt by over watering, so I give it a good soak only about every month, and my parents do the same while I'm at away at college, and I try to keep it's leaves free of dust.

Repotting seems like it would be an impossibility, so I think I'm stuck with the soil it has, though I layered a little new soil on top when I first got it.

I fertilize occassionally, and wonder what kind or fertilizer you'd suggest, and with what frequency?

thanks so much!

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maidinmontana(Zone 5 Billings MT)

Hi, I looked up the plant as I have never heard of it before. I know what a cast iron plant looks like and this web site is referring to it as a cast iron plant, however the picture the they show, it looks more like a peace lily. You can view the website I posted and see if that is your plant, if so there is a lot of info about caring for the plant. In my experiance, the cast iron plant and the peace lily are two totally different plants that require totally different care. Maybe you can post a picture. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 6:39PM
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With such a very old plnat, you want to be sure of how you are caring for it.
Try to understand though plants need water only when THEY need it....not according to any schedule your caregiver wishes to follow.
When you learn further about your plant, you can pretty well decide when by the clock and calendar, it needs water.

Your Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elator) prefers its soil to be kept damp...don't let it dry out.
Its given the name it has because it has a strong constitution. It puts up with less.
Soil that is kept damp then follows through with it needing higher humidity. Depending on the conditions the room it is in has, you can help the plant by raising the humidity level and put up a barrier to things that might change its environment.

Things such as how air currents from doors, windows, corridors from other rooms, or how the furnace comes on and directs air onto the plant.
Such can cause major headaches....for you, and the plant.
Too, air temperature around the plant can contribute to its overall health. Plants like nighttime temperatures to be cooler than during the daylight hours.
The range of coolness 60 degrees to 65 can be thought of as ideal.
Keep your fertilizing generally to twice a year...spring and summer. On store shelves, they have many such fertilizers expressly for houseplants. Be careful about what numbers are expressed in the make-up of any fertilizer you give.
I'm sure you understand the 3 main elements...N-Nitrogen,
P-Phosphurus and K-Potassium (or potash) and what they do for a plant.
Too much or too little of any or all, can detrimentally affect that old plant.

As long as the plant is doing fine by you, then there is no need to repot. If you do, do not go up any more than one size...that is generally more than diameter of an inch or two at any one time. Let the plant be accustomed to the new surroundings and how much more soil is feeding it.

As long as the soil drains well, and you don't let the plant sit in such drainage, then it will continue to do well under your care.

You might look back on further articles, in here and other forums, and on the internet, about water---and its effects on plants.
I only mention this because the water, and other factors, the plant received by your grandparents, is or may be, decidedly different than how your water is in its form.
Very old plants, with very old soil, can be thought to have salts build-up which, if you read the many articles on this subject, can affect badly a plant.
Your plant, right now, is not suffering any reduced health and so any thought about such build-up can be, should be, understood, but not be of concern.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 6:54PM
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The picture at is of a cast-iron (Aspidistra). It's just an unusually dense one.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:17PM
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I know this is an old topic, but my mother has brought her Aspidistra with her for 3-4 moves. She put in her current beds about 20 years ago. It's BEAUTIFUL! This is in Austin. She gave me several clumps 3 years ago and they are going strong, again in Austin. I do absolutely nothing to them except cut off the ones that don't look good. Each clump she gave me 3 years ago has done very well.

I'm using it under a very large tree. I love the plant and I love knowing it came from the house I grew up in.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 12:02AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Blue,

I don't see any problem w/ reviving an old post to which one wishes to add relevant comment. How nice to hear they've done so well for you. I only recently met this plant last summer on a neighbor's terrace.

Any chance you might share some pix?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 10:45AM
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I have been wanting an Aspidistra because it sounds like as close to idiot proof as you can get.

While at a local nursery, I found some and was so glad to have found some but then I got looking at it closely and realized that it was the unknown plant I had growing all over my yard. I had dug a bunch of it up a couple of years ago so I could spread it out, planted it everywhere I could think of and still had a huge amount left over.

It got left in a bucket with no soil for about a year and was still doing well. The bucket was in the shade though. All the plants in the sun died and some that I would think was in the shade is showing signs of too much sun.

I am totally going to bring some into the house.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Can you post pictures? I never seen a century old Aspidistra before.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 2:03PM
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I second that request for a pic! Any 100 year old plant is worth celebrating here. Not sure I've ever seen a houseplant that old!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:20PM
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Hello - I also have a very old Aspidistra that belonged to my great great grandmother and dates to the end of the 18th century. My plant was taken from my mothers plant about 10 years ago and has not thrived since I moved house 8 years ago. Reading the posts I am guilty of the following: location is near front door so blasts of cold air in winter, also near radiator so likely to be too hot day and night, also the hall may be too dark. I plan to move it to the kitchen where it will have cooler night time temperatures but given they don't like change I will wait to see if anyone has any other suggestions for restoring the health of my elderly family member! If earlier requests for photos of a 100 year old Aspidistra have not been answered I will happily send pics of my plant and my mothers

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 7:49PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I don't grow this. But I suggest you forget this notion of 'they don't like change' since clearly they also don't like being near blasts of cold air &/or the radiator.

In my opinion, correcting the bad location is more important than thinking they don't like change.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:39AM
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thanks pirate girl but I was only planning to delay changing my aspidistra's environment for a few days whilst reading feedback from the gardenweb forum - you are right of course in that I need to move the plant but after 8 years in the same location I guess a few more days will not matter too much. Thank you - I will report back when appropriate.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 9:05PM
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I also have an aspidistra over 100 years old, passed down from my Father and Grandmother and beyond. It was doing well at my Father's house in his bedroom which was cool and not too much light. It was then moved to the back of his garage where it continued to do well, near a window and away from the garage door drafts, but not in direct sunlight. Since I brought it home, as it seemed to like cool dark places I placed it into our garage where it has done well until the last few months, I have been told this may be because of the drafts and it also has been colder than usual lately. It is still in the same soil it has been in for years, but the leaves keep turning brown and dropping off. Despite this there are still some good, but slightly dry, green leaves. I feel like it should be re-potted and brought into the home, maybe the landing or hallway, but I am afraid to re-pot it incase this dosn't work. Please advise. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 3:24PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm thinking it's probably VERY root bound & possibly suffering from a high level of soluble salts in the soil if you were only supplying water in small volumes so there wasn't a substantial fraction of the water you applied exiting the drain hole after you watered.

Even cast iron plants have factors that limit growth considerably. Temperature, low light levels, improper watering, high salt levels in the soil, are all factors that have the potential to markedly limit growth.

I would be thinking about bare-rooting and dividing the rhizomes - getting the plant into a soil that drains very well and making sure the plant has good light exposure and favorable temperatures.

I'm saying this in a kindly way - I wouldn't be afraid of repotting it, I would be afraid of NOT repotting it. Even though this isn't the best time to be repotting, it sounds as though drastic measures might need to be taken. What is your feeling about where you would expect the plant to be in terms of its viability come June? Do you think it will still be living, or are you looking at a plant that is telling you its demise is imminent?


    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:32PM
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I too have inherited great-grandma's aspidistra in fact I rescued it when my mother chucked it out and now I have five of them!

Mum told me they like to be slightly potbound, and they also appreciate a drink of tea )no milk or sugar!) every now and then. I do get problems of leaves going brown but I usually cut them off.

Give it a cuppa every so often and you might leave it to your g-granchildren!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:36AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb, CD. I've got a couple of my gramma's plants, too. Makes 'em a little more special, much more sentimental!

Did you read post right above yours?

I used to do the tea thing too. You may feel differently after reading this discussion.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Hi my aspidistra goes brown on the tips why is this.............

    Bookmark   March 11, 2015 at 5:49AM
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Mine does too! Too low humidity? (I got mine from an old lady in the neighborhood.)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2015 at 3:06PM
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Thank you....

    Bookmark   March 11, 2015 at 3:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lots of potential causes, most related primarily to conditions that cause poor root health or limit the efficiency with which roots function. Low humidity would probably be considered a contributing factor. If the plant is sensitive to certain chemicals (like fluoride, which accumulates in tissues) or if there are toxic levels of nutrients or non-nutrients in the soil, these individually or in concert can also cause the problem.

A key element to avoiding necrotic leaf tips and margins is a soil you can water correctly - so you can flush the soil when you water. This gets rid of all sorts of potentialities and provides the kind of environment deeded to maintain roots in good health. It also makes fertilizing remarkably easy and relieves the grower of a large % of issues associated with poor nutrition - assuming the grower has in place at lease a reasonable supplementation program.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2015 at 3:20PM
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