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Plant of the Month: Strobilanthes dyerianus

Strobilanthes Dyerianus

Latin name: Strobilanthes dyerianus

Common name: Persian shield 
Foliage: Large, purple and green
Flowers: Non-showy
Mature size: 3 ft. tall x 3 ft. wide
Hardiness: Summer annual
Soil: Well-drained
Exposure: Shade
Water usage: Medium
Sources: Local nurseries

This tropical plant is indispensable in my shade gardens. There is nothing new about this plant, but I still find it is not used as much as it should be. Every gardener is familiar with coleus, but Persian shield is even easier to grow.

Strobilanthes has large leaves of glowing purple brushed with dark green and fuchsia. Worried about your shade garden not having enough color? Don’t worry anymore, because this plant practically glows. I love it mixed with Pachystachys lutea (commonly called lemon lollipop or yellow shrimp plant) or with purple, pink and white impatiens. The photos I have here were taken last week at Callaway Gardens in Georgia, where they paired it with the bright green, unusual foliage of Homalocladium platycladum (tapeworm plant or ribbonbush).

Persian shield grows best in shade, but can tolerate some early morning sun once established. Amend your soil with plenty of organic matter, which will help it grow and hold moisture. This plant isn’t for dry shady areas. It likes an evenly moist soil all summer long, and it will let you know if it is dry by drooping and wilting almost to the ground.