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Persian Shield Finally Attracts Attention
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
One of my favorite plants that has been harder to find than a four-leaf clover has been blessed recently by other Southern horticulturists. Now that horticulturists whose words carry more weight than mine are pronouncing Persian Shield a great plant, nurseries everywhere will propagate it.
Persian Shield, known botanically as Stobilanthes dyerianus, has been around for awhile. I could buy this spectacular plant fairly easy when I lived in Louisiana in the early 1990s, but it has almost disappeared in recent years.
Persian Shield is one of the most beautiful and unusual plants for the garden. It is a native to Burma and has 8-inch long leaves that are iridescent in shades of purple, lilac and pink with purple-maroon on the undersides. If those colors aren't awesome enough, the foliage looks as though it has a light coat of silver electroplated to the leaf.
There are some great combinations to plant with the Persian Shield. My first choice would be to use lilac-colored impatiens as companions although pink also would work well. Look for the Dazzler or Showstopper series that will have several good choices for companions.
Some of the gray-leafed plants like artemesias, lambs ear and dusty miller would also look exceptional. The Persian Shield is ideally suited to being placed as the center plant in a large container with companion plants.
Every week someone asks me what plants do deer not like? The reports say that this is one of those plants deer will leave alone.
The Persian Shield prefers well-drained, organic-rich soil. I rarely see it in full sun looking its best. I recommend planting it in morning sun and afternoon shade to keep its brilliant colors from developing a scorched look. Wait to plant until all danger of frost has passed, then space plants on 18 to 24-inch centers. The plants should reach close to four feet in height. Like coleus, pinching is recommended to keep plants bushy.
This is not exactly a xeriscape (drought tolerant) plant. Keep the plants uniformly moist throughout the growing season. This is a tropical plant that likes our humidity and performs well in our heat. Keep it growing vigorously by fertilizing monthly with a light application of a slow release fertilizer. My choice would be a 12-6-6 with minor nutrients.
This plant has another huge virtue. It is easy to propagate by cuttings. After you fall in love with it, you may want to take cuttings in the fall and overwinter indoors. Cuttings can also be done in late summer should they become a little straggly looking. It is well worth the effort to mulch heavily in the fall, which may entice its return in the spring, especially closer to the Coast.
I have heard our some of our growers saying that they have included it in this year's product line. Ask for Persian Shield and give it a try. I believe you will like it.