Aspidistras originate from East Asia, usually as part of the undergrowth. Although the genus is estimated to be home to 200-300 species, less than a hundred have been described. A botanical curiosity is its pollination by amphipods (terrestrial crustaceans) and springtails (hexapod arthropods). The etymology of the genus name is unclear. It is usually given as derived from the Greek ἀσπίδιον (aspidion, meaning "small shield"), while the Greek ending στρα could be "place" or "instrument", i.e. "serving as a shield".
Ornamentally the most frequent species are A. elatior and A. lurida, and varieties of these two (with variegated leaves for example). The elatior is, in particular, native to the islands in southern Japan. It is the best known species tolerant of low light conditions, irregular watering, and temperature range. In other words, it is hardy in indoor environments. It is also resistant to insect attack.
They flower with difficulty, and the flowers, at ground level, are inconspicuous but very attractive, ranging in colour from pink to blue.