Persian Shield – Foliage is Fabulous
Most gardeners can remember where they first saw Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus). My encounter was in the Floriculture Department greenhouses at Texas A&M while I was in high school. It was in with all the foliage plants, just one of them sitting there like a rare jewel on the rain forest floor. That was 60 years ago, yet I’ll never forget it.
Texans have been growing it casually ever since. I’ve seen it in friends’ patio pots, and my good friend Bob Brackman used it in beds in his times at the Dallas Arboretum and the San Antonio Botanic Garden. I’ve seen it around restaurant and hotel courtyards. It just kinda shows up.
In the off chance that you’d like to try it, let me give you some guidelines.
Key facts for Persian shield…
• Tropical annual, it can’t handle freezing weather. Either replant it each spring or make provisions to get it into protection before frost.
• Does best with early morning sun until 9 or 10, then shade the rest of the day.
• Grows to 18 to 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
• Leaves are an iridescent silvery purple that sparkles against other purple-leafed plants such as purple fountaingrass, purpleheart, wandering Jew or purple ornamental sweet potatoes. Or let it contrast with bright yellow marigolds, lantanas, zinnias or Gold Star Esperanza.
• Plant Persian shield in highly organic potting soil. Keep it moist at all times, and feed it with a high-nitrogen, water-soluble plant food to keep it growing actively. New foliage is far more colorful than mature leaves.
• Its flowers are inconspicuous. Go for the foliage!
• It is rarely visited by insects or diseases.
• Persian shield is started from cuttings, so you can propagate your own new plants during the growing season, then carry them over indoors during the winter.