Persian shield, pretty as a flower

Persian shield, pretty as a flower

Some plants are just plain pretty. The Persian shield (Strobilanthes) got its name from that sheen on the leaf that gives it a sort of metallic look. The leaves are so iridescent that it truly is as showy as a blooming flower. Gardeners in the North and South and all in between love this delightful tropical shrub. It has amazing purple foliage. It will also produce pale purple flowers. Put it in garden beds, borders or containers. Just think of this striking plant next to some purple Bordeaux “Supertunias.”

Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that Strobilanthes is a genus of about 350 species of flowering plants. They are mostly native to tropical Asia and Madagascar. Many of this genus is cultivated for their hooded flowers in shades of blue, pink and purple.

The Persian shield has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Gardeners around here use it in the yard or in containers so that it can be moved inside if the weather gets really chilly. Persian shield is rated as being garden worthy in Zones 9, 10 and 11, so we have to be careful with it being left outdoors all year here in the Golden Triangle. But even if it freezes back to the ground, you should see it poke its little head out come next spring.

Look for this purple haze to grow to 2-3 feet in height. It looks great as a border plant and works especially well in an area with partial shade. You can pair it with other purple, chartreuse or gray-green plants to really call attention to the striking purple color.

If you choose to grow it as an annual, consider bringing some of the plants indoors and grow them as houseplants through the winter. If you bring them inside the house it’s a great idea to place the pot into a saucer with gravel and water to create more humidity for the plant. Dry air will cause the leaves to dry and drop. You can even spoil them daily with a little water mist spray. Then next spring, take a few cuttings and propagate them to make even more little baby Persian shields for planting outdoors again.

This iridescent stunner likes moist soil and some shade during the hottest parts of the summer. The less water it gets, the more shade it will need, as do many plants. Persian shield loves our humidity. It’s best to pinch back the leaves to create a bushier plant You can also treat them to a light feeding of fertilizer every month.