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Cast iron plants, also often called bar room plants, have a reputation for being extremely difficult to kill, and are therefore perfect for beginners or those looking for a low-maintenance plant. In this post, I’ll review cast iron plant care and propagation.
Cast iron plants are native to parts of Japan and Taiwan. Although cast iron plants are well known within the houseplant community, they are also commonly grown by outdoor gardeners as ground cover.
Why is it called cast iron plant?
Known for its ability to adapt to less-than-ideal conditions, it’s essentially indestructible! This is why it’s named the cast iron plant—because it’s so tough. It can tolerate drafty and dim areas, although these are not their ideal conditions. We’ll cover that throughout this post.
Cast Iron Plant Care
How much light do cast iron plants need?
Cast iron plants ideally prefer bright to medium, indirect light. However, this plant is known for being able to tolerate low light. They also do well under fluorescent light which is why you might find them around office buildings.
Can cast iron plants take full sun?
No. Full sunlight can burn the leaves of the cast iron plant. Although they can survive in a wide variety of environments, you should not put them in full sun.
If you need help determining the light levels in your home, check out my guide to natural light for indoor plants. I also wrote a helpful post on grow lights if you’re someone who lives in a low-light home (like me!).
How often should you water a cast iron plant?
You should water your cast iron plant when the top half of the potting mix is dry. How often that actually is will depend on the environment the plant is growing in. Is it dark? Are you in the middle of the cold winter months? Then the plant won’t need to be watered very often. So, be sure to stick your finger down into the potting mix to check if it needs to be watered before watering it.
These plants are super tough and can tolerate getting a little too dry. Just be careful not to overwater them, especially if you have your plant in a dark environment. Check out my post on how and when to water your houseplants for more watering helpful tips.
Cast iron plants do not require any extra humidity. In fact, they are great at withstanding dry, drafty conditions. They are the perfect plants for the less-than-ideal areas of your home like cold, drafty front halls.
This plant is so low maintenance that it really doesn’t require any special kind of potting mix. A general indoor plant potting mix will be fine, as long as it’s well draining. If I have it on hand, I like to add an extra handful or two of perlite into my potting mix to improve the drainage.
Cast iron plants are naturally slow growers, but you can still fertilize them to give them a boost. To fertilize your cast iron plant, use a general, liquid indoor plant fertilizer once or twice a month during the growing season (spring and summer).
Cast iron plants are slow growing and they also don’t mind being slightly rootbound. This means you won’t need to repot them often. Repot your cast iron plant every two to three years. If your plant has noticeably gotten too big for its pot, if there are roots coming out of the drainage holes, or if the plant is starting to break the pot, then it’s also time to repot it.
Use a pot that’s the next size up from its current pot and has good drainage. And keep in mind it’s best to repot in the spring or summer if you can help it.
Cast iron plants do not require heavy pruning. Remove any dead or dying leaves once they can be gently pulled away from the plant.
Outdoor gardeners who grow cast iron plants outside might prune their plants back every few years, but this is not necessary as an indoor plant. If you do want to remove any leaves for cosmetic purposes, use a clean pair of pruning shears to cut the leaf back to the base. Do not take too many leaves at once. If you are, for some reason, doing heavy pruning, save that for the spring or summer.
Propagating the Cast Iron Plant
The best way to propagate cast iron plants is through division. This means you’re separating one or more parts of the plant from the original plant.
To do this, simply remove the plant from the pot and identify a piece of the plant that has a separate root system. Note that this works best if you have at least two to three stems on the piece you’re separating.
Use your fingers to gently separate the roots of each part. If the roots are too tangled and you absolutely cannot untangle them by hand, use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to cut them away from each other, but try to keep as much of the root system intact as possible.
Plant the part you have separated into an appropriately-sized pot that fits the plant. Then, water it and care for it how you normally would!
Note that it’s best to divide your plant in the spring or summer if you can help it.
Are Cast Iron Plants Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Cast iron plants are non-toxic to cats and dogs. However, it’s best practice to keep all plants out of your furry friends’ reach.
Where Can I Buy a Cast Iron Plant?
Cast iron plants are relatively common and can be found at many garden centers. You can also find cast iron plants on Etsy. I love shopping for plants on Etsy because there is such a huge variety of plants available, and I get to support small businesses, too! Check out these cast iron plant options on Etsy. There are also a few options available on Amazon. You can check those out here.