Just like the hardy pan it’s named after, the cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) stands out due to its ability to withstand all kinds of conditions. While it won’t survive a 400°F oven, it can handle dim corners of your home and go weeks without water. However, these plants aren’t truly indestructible and are prone to drooping. If you notice your cast iron plant’s leaves are drooping, don’t fret. By diagnosing the cause and remedying the problem, you can encourage your plants to perk back up.
Reasons Your Cast Iron Plant Is Drooping: The Essentials
Cast iron plants may begin drooping if the soil is too wet or dry. An improper watering schedule or an unsuitable potting mix can lead to soil moisture problems. The wrong temperature or sudden temperature changes can also lead to floppy leaves.
6 Common Reasons Your Cast Iron Plant Is Drooping
Determining why your cast iron plant is drooping can help you fix the problem. Read through the potential causes of drooping leaves and see whether any apply to your plant.
If you water your plants too often, the soil will remain wet. Wet soils increase the likelihood that cast iron plants will develop root rot.
This group of fungal diseases leads to soft and rotten roots that have difficulty absorbing water and nutrients. So, while it may sound counterintuitive, overwatering can actually lead to dehydrated plants!
The frequency at which you should water your cast iron plant will depend on factors like temperature, plant size, sunlight, and humidity. However, watering once every two weeks is a good place to start.
Too little water can be as big of a problem as too much water. Plants need water to maintain turgor pressure inside of their cells. Without enough water, plant cells will shrink, and plant tissue will begin to wilt.
While cast iron plants can survive brief periods without water, they will suffer during prolonged drought. That means you should prevent the soil from drying out completely.
If you find remembering when to water your plants difficult, you can set a reminder on your calendar. Or, if you have a lot of plants in your home with various watering needs, you can utilize an app like Planta.
3. Improper Container
Planting your cast iron plant in the wrong type of pot can also lead to drooping leaves. First, check that your container has drainage holes on the bottom. If it doesn’t, drill holes into the pot or repot your plant into a different container.
You should also check the size of your container. A bit of extra room is okay, but the pot shouldn’t be more than a few inches wider and deeper than your plant’s root system. Extra room means extra soil and extra room for water to accumulate.
4. Poorly Draining Soil
Using the wrong type of soil can also cause problems with drainage and lead to plant wilt. If excess water cannot make its way out of the soil, plants may develop root rot.
When you’re choosing potting soil, check for materials that promote drainage. These include perlite, pine bark fines, and sand.
Many commercially available potting mixes can work well for cast iron plants. However, you should avoid planting these potted plants in native soil.
5. Soil Doesn’t Hold Enough Moisture
While cast iron plants don’t like wet soil, they still need some water to survive. Using a potting mix with a base of sand or perlite can prevent the plants from obtaining the moisture they need.
Suitable cast iron plant potting mixes should contain materials that hold moisture. These include peat moss and coco coir.
Blending these moisture-holding materials with perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand can lead to an ideal potting mix.
6. Sudden and Extreme Temperature Change
Cast iron plants are happy to live in temperatures between 50–85°F. However, they don’t like drastic temperature changes.
If the plants are in a warm environment and then suddenly exposed to cold, they can have difficulty adapting. This sudden temperature change can result in stunted growth, discoloration, and drooping leaves.
Therefore, you should avoid quickly moving your plant from a warm indoor environment to a cool outdoor environment and vice versa. Instead, slowly increase the amount of time your plant spends in its new environment.
You should also keep your cast iron plant away from drafty areas like next to cooling vents and fireplaces.
How to Fix a Drooping Cast Iron Plant
Once you’ve determined the cause of your plant’s drooping leaves, you can begin to fix the problem. The proper actions will depend on the cause.
For example, if your plant is drooping due to overwatering, you should decrease the amount you water your plant. But if you think underwatering is the cause, up the frequency that you water your plant.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine the exact reason why your plant is drooping. If that’s the case, focus on providing your plant with the proper environment and care, as I describe below.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position cast iron plants for optimal care and feng shui benefits.
Check Your Container and Potting Mix
Cast iron plants can struggle in wet soil, so select a container with drainage holes. These holes will allow excess water to drain through the soil, preventing waterlogged soil.
After you check your container, look at the potting mix. The mixture should hold some moisture but also offer excellent aeration and drainage.
If these mixes don’t offer enough drainage, you can mix in a few handfuls of perlite or pine bark fines to improve drainage.
Fine Tune Your Watering Schedule
Cast iron plants like their soil to dry out a bit between waterings. However, the soil should not become bone dry.
One easy way to check if you need to water your plant is to stick a finger into the top two inches of soil. If the soil is still moist, wait to water. If it’s dry, go ahead and water.
You can also use a soil moisture meter to determine if you need to water. Stick the meter’s probe into the soil and note the reading. Only water if the meter reads dry.
When you water, thoroughly wet the soil until water begins to run out of the drainage holes. If you have a catch dish below your pot, empty any water that collects.
Once you know how often you need to water your plant, set a reminder in your calendar. This will help you keep your plant’s soil at the optimal moisture level.
Maintain Proper Temperature
Cast iron plants aren’t too picky about their temperatures, but both hot and cold temperatures can lead to plant stress. Aim to maintain an air temperature between 50–85°F.
Try your best to keep the air temperature relatively stable. A small drop between daytime and nighttime temperatures isn’t a big issue. However, a 25°F increase in temperature within one hour can lead to plant stress.
Drooping Cast Iron Plants – Wrapping Up
If you find that your supposedly indestructible cast iron plant has developed drooping leaves, investigate the possible causes. Overwatering, underwatering, an improper potting mix, and sudden temperature changes can all lead to wilting leaves. Fixing these causes can lead your plant to return to good health.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.