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A Resolution

Here we are at the very first full week of a new year and new decade. Amid all the parties and reveling, any number of resolutions are made and by this time probably forgotten. But, how about a resolution that can be kept, especially if you are a person who likes plants but has difficulty keeping them alive in your house.

The resolution is this. "This year I'm going to get a plant that I can put in my house that will tolerate less than great growing conditions, looks good in spite of what I do or fail to do, and has longevity."

Well, your resolutions starts by getting a cast-iron plant. No this is not a joke, there is a plant with his as a common name and it is about as foolproof and durable as its name.

The cast-iron plant, Aspidistra elatior is aptly named. A native of the forest floors of Japan and Taiwan, the cast-iron plant gained popularity in homes in Europe and America during the Victorian era. They graced many a hallway and also became known as the ballroom plant or barroom plant. It was low maintenance greenery that could survive low light, low humidity, irregular watering, and temperature fluctuations and still looks good. This plant is one tough dude. Even the worst plant neglector can keep a cast-iron plant alive but there are still a few conditions you need to be aware of to keep this plant happy.

While cast-iron plants aren't picky about regular watering, it does need some water and really heavy watering is the biggest cause of failure and sure death due to root rot. So, let the plant dry out between watering. It would rather be too dry than too wet.

The main light requirement is no direct sun, which may cause the leaves to take on a bleached look or even become sunburned. This means that indoors, it can be grown near a north facing window or even deep in a room away from windows. The one exception is if you buy a variegated form. They require a bright light location to maintain their variegation otherwise, they go back to solid green leaves. Fertilize only sparingly during the spring and summer.

Even when the plant is given the best of care it is extremely slow growing. For this reason don't be in a rush to re-pot. This plant prefers to be left alone and re-potting too often is sometimes a reason for the plant dying. Don't worry if the occasional leaf turns yellow. This is normal. But if large numbers or groups of leaves turn yellow that suggests that the plant was subjected to cold temperatures, too frequent re-potting or too much water.

Cast-iron plants are known for their longevity, with lots of stories of people having plants reach 50 to 60 years of age. So, if you want to pass something down to the kids instead of the house, a car or a trust fund, put the Aspidistra in your will.

Here's an interesting cast-iron plant fact. They do flower. Not often, but they do. The flowers are purple/pink in color, have no fragrance and emerge at soil line and stay there. The reason, they are pollinated by snails, slugs and small frogs in their native habitat. O, the wonders of nature.

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