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Aspidistra elatior
( Milky Way Cast-Iron Plant )

Glossy, dark green leaves, speckled with white are produced singly along the rhizomes. Evergreen in warm climates, sturdy house plant anywhere. Cream flowers with maroon inside are erect, fleshy and bell-shaped. Provides interesting texture and form in the shaded garden with its wide dark green foliage speckled with white. Grows to 24 inches. Tolerates neglect and dimly lit areas both indoors and out.


How to Grow this Plant:


Where can you buy this plant: click here!

Characteristics
Cultivar:Milky Way  
Family:Liliaceae  
Size:Height: 0 ft. to 2 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 2 ft.  
Plant Category:ground covers, houseplants, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics:spreading,  
Foliage Characteristics:evergreen,  
Foliage Color:dark green, silver to cream, variegated,  
Flower Characteristics:erect,  
Flower Color:burgundy, creams,  
Tolerances:deer, drought, pollution, rabbits, slope,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:Early Summer to Mid Summer  
USDA Hardiness Zone:7 to 10  
AHS Heat Zone:Not defined for this plant  
Light Range:Deep Shade to Dappled  
pH Range:5.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range:Mostly Sand to Mostly Clay  
Water Range:Normal to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

How-to : Fertilizing Houseplants

Houseplants may be fertilized with: 1. water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; 3. or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are used every two weeks or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are carefully worked into the soil usually only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, follow label directions. Allow houseplants to 'rest' during the winter months; stop fertilizing in late October and resume feeding in late February.

Light
Conditions : Shade

Though there are varying degrees of shade, this definition refers to a dense shade that is often found beneath lower tree limbs or on the north side of the house. Some sun is received, but usually in the morning hours. Because the afternoon sun is stronger, plants that require shelter from the afternoon sun are usually categorized as shade loving.

Conditions : Full to Partial Shade

Full shade means there is little or no light in the growing zone. Shade can be the result of a mature stand of trees or shadows cast by a house or building. Plants that require full shade are usually susceptible to sunburn. Full shade beneath trees may pose additional problems; not only is there no light, but competition for water, nutrients and root space.

Partial shade means that an area receives filtered light, often through tall branches of an open growing tree. Root competition is usually less. Partial shade can also be achieved by locating a plant beneath an arbor or lathe-like structure. Shadier sides of a building are normally the northern or northeastern sides. These sides also tend to be a little cooler. It is not uncommon for plants that can tolerate full sun or some sun in cooler climates to require some shade in warmer climates due to stress placed on the plant from reduced moisture and excessive heat.

Conditions : Low Light for Houseplants

Place low light houseplants within 5 to 8 feet of a sunlit window or within 2 feet of a northern exposure window.

Watering
Conditions : Normal Watering for Houseplants

Houseplants that require normal watering should be watered so that soil is completely saturated and excess water runs out the bottom of the pot. Never water just a little bit; this allows mineral salts to build up in the soil. The key to normal watering is to allow the top inch or two of potting soil to dry out between waterings. Check frequently as certain times of the year may dictate that you water more frequently. Also, some plants that require normal watering during the growing season, may require less during the winter months when they are dormant.

Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Containers

Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.

Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.

How-to : Planting Perennials

Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.

The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.

To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.

To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.

To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.

How-to : Potting Indoor Plants

Make sure that the plant you have chosen is suitable for the conditions you are able to provide it: that it will have enough light, space, and a temperature it will like. Remember that the area right next to a window will be colder than the rest of the room.

Indoor plants need to be transplanted into a larger container periodically, or they become pot/root-bound and their growth is retarded. Water the plant well before starting, so the soil will hold the root ball together when you remove it from the pot. If you have trouble getting the plant out of the pot, try running a blade around the edge of the pot, and gently whacking the sides to loosen the soil.

Always use fresh soil when transplanting your indoor plant. Fill around the plant gently with soil, being careful not to pack too tightly -- you want air to be able to get to the roots. After the plant is in the new pot, don't fertilize right away... this will encourage the roots to fill in their new home.

The size pot you choose is important too. Select one that is not more than about 1 inch greater in diameter. Remember, many plants prefer being somewhat pot bound. Always start with a clean pot!

Problems
Pest : Spider Mites

Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.

Pest : Mealybugs

Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.

Fungi : Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.

Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.



Diseases : Anthracnose

Anthracnose is the result of a plant infection, caused by a fungus, and may cause severe defoliation, especially in trees, but rarely results in death. Sunken patches on stems, fruit, leaves, or twigs, appear grayish brown, may appear watery, and have pinkish-tan spore masses that appear slime-like. On vegetables, spots may enlarge as fruit matures.

Prevention and Control: Try not to over water. If your climate is naturally rainy, grow resistant varieties. In the vegetable garden, stake and trellis plants to provide good air circulation so that plants may dry. Increase sunlight to plants by trimming limbs. Prune, remove, or destroy infected plants and remove all leaf debris. Select a fungicide that is labeled for anthracnose and the plant you are treating. Follow the label strictly.

Pest : Scale Insects

Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.

Miscellaneous
Glossary : Rhizome

A thickened modified stem that grows horizontally along or under the soil surface. It may be long and slender, as in some lawn grasses, or thick and fleshy, as with rhubarb.

Glossary : Container Plant

A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.

Glossary : Evergreen

Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time. Some plants such as live oaks are evergreen, but commonly shed the majority of their older leaves around the end of January.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Glossary : Tolerant

Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.

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