As Durable as a Cast Iron Skillet

This beauty waits patiently for her haircut. She thrives in terrible soil and dense shade nestled in a sea of mondograss beneath the old Professor Sargent camellia.

When I moved into my house about 25 years ago, a couple of cast iron plants came with the landscape.  Over the years they have thrived and gradually attained an amazing girth.

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is an Asian lily relative.  Its 30″ bold coarse textured leaves impart a tropical appearance to the landscape.   With time this aspidistra slowly forms robust clumps from underground rhizomes.

Cast iron’s common name was certainly given due to its durability.   It thrives in dry shade where most other plants languish.   I would rate it as the easiest plant to grow as long as it is sited in a shady exposure with good drainage.  It is hardy through USDA Zone 7 and used as a container plant further north.

Around here, we haven’t had a freeze in almost two weeks and there is none in the forecast.  I have been running around like a maniac getting my garden ready for spring.  One of my goals for this year was to cut back the cast iron plant.

My plants have not been cut back since before Hurricane Katrina so needless to say they have many tattered leaves.  Removing the old leaves will provide space for the fresh new leaves that are about to emerge.

A view from the deck after the carnage. The large clumps in the foreground have been severely trimmed and the two behind are waiting their turn.

I started working on a massive clump in the front yard on Monday.  It took an hour and produced a substantial mound of leaves for the compost.

My friend Steve came over to help with the garden work  and he is cutting back the rest for me.

Yesterday he found a piece of statuary that had been swallowed by a particularly formidable clump of cast iron in the back yard.

There’s no telling what other treasures this project will unearth.

Due to the thinning, I might even find cast iron’s diminutive brownish-purple flowers.  They are borne at ground level and in their native habitat are pollinated by tiny soil-dwelling crustaceans.  The blooms are star-shaped and are normally hidden in the foliage.

I’ll be on the lookout!


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6 Responses to“As Durable as a Cast Iron Skillet”

  1. yardflow says:

    They will grow back, Heather, I have cut mine back before. It takes them a little while to recover, however. So I only cut them back every 3 or 4 years.

  2. Heather says:

    Hello, I am so worried. I cut back all my cast iron plants because they were not looking as good as they did. Does anyone know how long it takes for the plant to grow new leaves? How can I tell if they are not going to grow back?

  3. yardflow says:

    It’s all about the details.

  4. Jan says:

    I have both the solid green and the green with a white stripe growing in my garden and they are as great for a shady area as you say. I am going to have to go look at mine closely because I didn’t know they flowered. I’d love to see a flower.

    Always Growing

  5. yardflow says:

    Just yesterday I was remembering how we used to walk across the field to that abandoned shack and pilfer daffodils. Wish I still had some from there but I brought nada in the way of dafs when i moved here.

  6. kc says:

    Hi GB, last year Jo Jo the yard man discovered the flowers on the 5 year old clumps we were dividing. I was amazed and enthralled. Remembering the time B.E. and I were at your house heating up a cast iron skillet to dry heat some tortillas and the thing cracked in half, I’d have to say aspidistra is more permanent than cast iron skillets.

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