107 Strobilanthes dyerianusCommon Names: Persian shield Family: Acanthaceae (acanthus Family)
Persian shield is an evergreen sub-shrub with soft (not woody) stems which are square in cross section. The opposite leaves, 4-7 in (10.2-17.8 cm) long, have a seersucker texture and are variegated dark green and silvery-metallic purplish-pink on top and all purple underneath. The leaves shimmer with iridescence. The little flowers are just an afterthought with this showy foliage plant. They are funnel-shaped, pale violet, and arranged on short spikes. Persian shield gets 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) tall with a 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) spread.
Persian shield, Strobilanthes dyerianus, is native to Myanmar (formerly called Burma).
CulturePersian shield thrives outdoors in humid climates in rich, well drained soil. It tends to get tall and fall over, so pinch back a few times in the first half of the growing season to induce branching and thicker, bushier foliage. If you don't care about the flowers (which aren't very showy anyway), pinch back anytime. Persian shield is difficult to maintain indoors since it needs bright light, high humidity, and warm temperatures. Light: Persian shield does well in partial shade. Indoors, Persian shield needs a bright location. Keep Persian shield out of direct mid-day sun in summer. It does best with direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Moisture: Persian shield is not at all drought tolerant and should be watered before the soil dries out. Reduce watering in the dormant season. House plants should be misted several times a week. They suffer if humidity falls much below 50%, and are best grown in the greenhouse. Water with soft water or, better yet, rain water. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 10. Persian shield is everpurple in zones 10 and 11; it dies to the ground after frost, but may sprout back in spring in zone 9 and possibly in zone 8, especially if you mulch the roots. Keep houseplants above 60ºF (15.6ºC). Propagation: Persian shield can be started from stem cuttings taken in spring or summer. For best results, use bottom heat.
Use Persian shield in shady borders where its unique silvery purple sheen outdoes most flowers. Even in climates where it will not survive the winter, Persian shield makes a great summer bedding plant, mixing well with colorful flowering annuals. Grow Persian shield in a container, bringing indoors when temperatures drop, but it must be kept in a humid environment.
Persian shield is a beautiful foliage plant for semi-shady areas in tropical and subtropical gardens, but don't overlook its potential as a summertime bedding plant.
Steve Christman 9/8/00; updated 2/5/04