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When I first picked up the aspidistra we now have in our flat I was warned about how slow growing they are, but I wasn’t prepared for what that would look like for us because my word they grow so slowly in low light environments. Ours is pretty content overall, but in the five years we’ve had it it’s put out maybe 8 new leaves. Here’s the thing about these ‘impossible to kill’ plants: just because they can tolerate drought, low light, and neglect doesn’t mean that’s how they thrive. All an Aspidistra wants is to be loved, watered, and to have some brightish indirect light; just like most other houseplants. If, like me, all you happen to have is a low light situation then read on for some tips about how to keep your Aspidistra flying.
The Aspidistra Elatior, which is the one you find most commonly in homes across the UK, is native to Japan and Taiwan rather than China and Vietnam as is usually claimed. These ‘cast iron’ plants have been part of the British sitting room furniture since the Victorian era as their resilience allowed them to cope admirably with the conditions they found there.
After falling out of favour in the mid-20th century, Aspidistras have been bouncing back into fashion in recent years as a big lush leafy retro plant, but the cost of the the larger examples – due to the length of time they’ll have taken to grow – can be off putting for many. More affordable smaller specimens of the en vogue variegated varieties such as Milky Way or Variegata have remained popular. Those who bring them home have found that a big upside of a slow growing plant means it won’t outgrow the spot chosen for it for a good while.
With reference to the clean air NASA report mentioned in my Peace Lily care post, Aspidistras have also been proven to purify the air in your home, specifically benzene which can be emitted from furnishings, detergents and paint.
Aspidistras are naturally used to shade and slightly cooler temperatures. As they really don’t like too much attention, you shouldn’t put your Aspidistra on a schedule with any of your other houseplants: this one stands alone. Here I’ll give you some of my own Aspidistra care tips and how I’ve kept mine alive in the less than optimal conditions of my flat.
Water: When the soil feels dry as far down as I can reach with my finger, I water thoroughly from the top down by placing the plant in the bath and running the shower until the water starts to run out of the bottom of the pot. I then leave it overnight. In the morning I turn over the top layer of soil to loosen, check for dead leaves and pests, then put it back.
Food: I fertilise when I water from March through to September. I use a low cost general houseplant fertiliser, Baby Bio Original, and dilute it to twice as weak as the instructions say. Don’t feed it when the soil is dry, do it after watering.
Light: Aspidistras can take any light levels apart from none at all or direct, bright sun. Over the years I’ve had mine in a variety of situations but it’s currently most happy in a north west facing window receiving no direct sunlight in the evening.
Other: I have heard that misting aspidistras can stop the dreaded (but almost unavoidable) brown leaf tips but I’m not convinced. I wash the leaves throroughtly under the shower every time I have it in there to water, and in between these washes I blast off dust with a hairdryer on the cool setting or wipe it away with my hands.
All the above has kept our Aspidistra as happy as it can be in our low light Scottish flat. When we move on I’d be interested to pick a brighter spot for it, or even plant it outside in the garden as I’ve read many have done that very thing with great success.
Images in this post by Mark Neal from Pexels
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