The cast iron plant is one of the easiest plants to grow and maintain. It is ideal for low light areas and makes a lush, easy care addition to problem locations like hallways and near exterior doors.
Buying a Cast Iron Plant
Decide how much you intend to spend, and purchase the largest cast iron plant you can afford. More established plants are easier to maintain and adapt better to environmental changes.
Look for a full plant with deep green leaves that have no brown spots. The margins of the leaves and the leaf tips should look firm and not wilted.
Make sure that the plant's pot has a drainage hole.
Feel the plant's soil to make sure that it is loose and uniformly moist.
Provide a saucer for your plant's pot together with enough pebbles or marbles to fill the saucer two layers deep. The saucer should have a diameter that is larger than the base of the pot. Buying the saucer at the same time you buy the plant will ensure that you buy the right size.
Cover the plant with three or four plastic bags as insulation if you are transporting the plant through temperatures 8 or more degrees F higher or lower than the temperature in the store.
Helping a Cast Iron Plant Adjust to a New Location
Select a plant location that receives light for at least 4 hours a day. Avoid spots in direct sunlight. Placing your plant a few inches back from an east or north facing window is ideal.
Place a saucer filled with pebbles or marbles under your plant to catch water runoff from its pot.
Avoid fertilizing your cast iron plant for the first month and let it adjust to its new environment. Most prepared potting mixes have enough nutrients to keep you plant fed at least that long.
Watch your plant for yellow or burned leaves, drooping stems or other signs that it isn't adjusting to its new location.
If your cast iron plant is showing signs of distress, and you have ruled out other factors like too much or too little water, move it to a spot where it gets a different light exposure. If the leaves are brown and curled, move it away from direct light. If the leaves are yellow, try increasing the light by moving your plant closer to the window.
Maintaining your Cast Iron Plant
Water your plant when your finger, inserted about an inch into the dirt at the inside edge of the pot, comes away dry. Use this method to check your plant periodically, and water it when needed. Plants need different amounts of water at different times of the year, so always be sure to check the moisture in your plant's pot regularly.
Add humidity to the air around your cast iron plant by keeping a small water reservoir nearby. You can make one easily by using the saucer under your plant's pot. Keep the saucer filled with water at all times, making sure that the level of the water is never higher than the top of the pebbles or marbles. This will help to ensure that the micro-climate around the leaves of your plant is humid.
Other ways to easily add humidity to the area around your plant are to mulch the top of the soil with shredded bark or moss, and to use a misting bottle to spritz your plant a couple of times a day. Misting will also help to keep your plant's leaves clean. The more plants you keep together, the easier it is to maintain high humidity for them.
Check your plant once a month for signs of trouble. Yellow or drooping leaves could mean too much water, too little light or a root bound pot. Brown lines around the margins of the leaves could mean the humidity is too low. Sticky spots on the leaves or small webs could signal insect activity. The earlier you catch problems, the easier it will be to deal with them.
Add an all-purpose liquid fertilizer to your plant watering routine from spring through early fall. Adding fertilizer to your plant's water combines chores and ensures that your plant always has nutrition during the growing period in spring and summer.
Propagating your Cast Iron Plant
Divide your cast iron plant every three to five years. This will keep your plant from getting root bound and give you a new, free plant.
Remove the plant from its pot and divide it roughly in half.
Repot each half into a new pot that is slightly larger than the mass of the divided root ball. Always use fresh soil.
Water your newly potted cast iron plants, making sure to firm the soil around the roots.