It is easy to see how Strobilanthes was dubbed the Persian shield. The leaves have the appearance of little armor shields ready for battle, with a flashy, purplish iridescence and silvery metallic sheen. Although this plant's name is "Persian," it is native to Myanmar (formerly Burma), not Persia. It is a sub-shrub that is evergreen in hot climates. In cooler climates, it is grown as an annual plant and is even more popular as a houseplant because it tends to bloom during winter. It can grow well in containers or outdoor flowerbeds.
|Botanical Name||Strobilanthes dyerianus|
|Common Name||Persian shield, royal purple plant|
|Plant Type||Evergreen perennial|
|Mature Size||3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Shade to partial shade|
|Soil Type||Rich and moist|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic to neutral|
|Bloom Time||Late fall or winter|
|Hardiness Zones||8 to 11|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Persian Shield Plants
Persian Shield Plant Care
If Persian shield plants bloom, it is usually in fall or winter. When grown as an annual, Persian shield may not have enough time to set buds and flower, but you will not miss them with all the colorful foliage. Plants grown indoors will generally bloom in the winter, but you may prefer to pinch them off and develop a fuller plant instead. The flowers tend to be small and are outshone by the leaves. Persian shield prefers moist soil and shade during the hottest parts of the summer.
Persian shield is not usually susceptible to fungus disease or other problems with the foliage, except water stress and spotting. Aphids and whiteflies can become pests, especially when the plants are drought-stressed.
Persian shield planted in partial shade will pick up the light and reflect it back off its leaves. If kept indoors, it needs bright light to keep its color.
The less water the Persian shield plant gets, the more shade it will need. The plant will quickly droop if it doesn't receive adequate water, but it typically bounces back quickly after a drink.
Temperature and Humidity
Persian shield requires warm temperatures (above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and sultry humid air. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 but is more commonly grown indoors or as a summer annual in cooler climates. In zone 9, and during mild winters in zones 7 and 8, Persian shield may die back to the ground after frost but remain alive and regrow the following season. In zones 10 and 11, it should remain evergreen or "everpurple." If growing indoors, make sure it has humid conditions. Dry air will cause the leaves to dry and drop. Misting daily is recommended, but be sure to use soft water, as chlorine will damage the leaves.
If grown in rich soil with plenty of moisture, Persian shield should only need light feeding at the start of the season and again about midway through the summer.
Potting and Repotting
When indoors in a container, keep the plant to a manageable size instead of letting it grow to its full capacity. The best way to accomplish this is to pinch back plants, repot younger plants annually until they reach their maximum size, then repot every other year. Root prune older plants as a way to control their size. If your plant becomes leggy, take stem cuttings and discard the mother plant.
Propagating Persian Shield Plants
Plants can easily be started by softwood cuttings. Applying some bottom heat will keep them from rotting before they establish roots. Change water daily. Spring and early summer are the best times to take cuttings.
Since Persian shield is grown for its foliage and the flowers are not particularly showy, many gardeners like to pinch back the leaves to create a fuller plant. If left to grow on its own, it can get tall, leggy, and floppy.
Do not remove the fading leaves that develop immediately after flowering. The leaves may look sad at this point, but that is because the plant has gone dormant for the remainder of the winter. Resist the temptation to pinch at this point, to avoid disturbing dormancy. Resume pinching when the plant starts growing in earnest in the spring.
Landscaping Uses for Persian Shield
Persian shield makes a striking border plant, particularly when paired with soft gray greens or chartreuse.
In USDA Zone 10 and higher, Persian shield can get quite bushy and makes a wonderful focal point. It may even overwinter some years in cooler climates.
Even when grown as an annual, Strobilanthes make an eye-catching addition to borders and containers. Bring a plant or two indoors, and grow as houseplants through the winter. You can always move them back outdoors in the spring.
Neal, Nellie. Gardener's Guide to Tropical Plants: Cool Ways to Add Hot Colors, Bold Foliage, and Striking Textures. Cool Springs Press, 2012