University of Florida

Persian Shield

Coleus may be the go-to foliage plant for some gardeners, but Persian shield is a stunning foliage plant that works equally well in summer gardens.

Characteristics

Persian shield is a large, evergreen perennial known for its vibrant foliage. The irridescent purple leaves shimmer with a hint of silver. Each leaf can reach 4 to 7 inches long and 3 inches wide. And as if the color wasn't enough, the leaves also feature bold green stripes along the veins.

Persian shield can grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet across. It can be planted in perennial beds or used effectively in larger container gardens. Because of its colorful foliage, it pairs nicely with silver plants like artemisia or chartreuse plants like 'Margarita' ornamental sweet potato.

The plant flowers in winter with small violet flowers. The flowers are hardly noticeable, but if you find them obtrusive you can simply pinch them off.

Known scientifically as Strobilanthes dyerianus, Persian shield can be grown as a root-hardy perennial in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-11. In colder climates, it can be grown as a summer annual.

Planting and Care

Persian shield loves humid climates, making it a perfect choice for summer gardens in Florida. It will perform best if it's planted in a rich, well-drained soil that receives regular watering. Here in Florida, it's best to plant it in partial to full shade.

The stems can sometimes get tall and flop over, so it's a good idea to pinch the plant a few times early on to help create more branching.

Persian shield is cold tender, so gardeners should cover it when cold weather strikes. The other option is to treat the plant like an annual, replacing it in the spring if it doesn't grow back from its roots.

Persian shield can also be propagated from cuttings, so it makes a great passalong plant.

For more information on Persian shield, contact your county Extension office.

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