Go ahead..take a chance on Persian Shield!

By Jane Malec

I don’t follow all the rules when I garden.  My yard often has a look of wild abandonment which would make many gardeners scratch their heads.  If I love a plant it will usually find its way into my garden.  This is one of the reasons there are pots in the most “interesting” places. Sometimes it isn’t good for a marriage to keep digging up grass for more flower beds so I have to be inventive!

One of my all time favorites plants is Persian Shield, Strobilanthes dyerianus, a tender perennial that loves the sun and but will tolerate shade.  In fact, mid afternoon shade can help it keep the rich purple color in its iridescent silvery leaves.  I love to put Persian Shield in pots.  It pairs well with plants with foliage and flowers in the bronze, purple, gray and pink ranges.  It will grow quite tall, up to 3′ if it isn’t pinched back and the stunning leaves are 6 to 8″ long. A Persian Shield will be a show stopper in mid summer when other plants fade.

The house we are renting has a very shady yard.  Many of my favorite plants for pots need more sun that I can provide them.  Believe me, part sun is a stretch for us.  So, I bought lots of ferns, coleus and impatiens this spring but decided to bend those rules for a couple of my favorites including Persian Shield.

I had some failures of course, the pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, was spindly and didn’t flower, the white geranium, Pelargonium x hortorum, produced only a few blooms and the celosia, Celosia argentea, was – well, just sad.  However, the Persian Shield made up for all the failures.

It grew in the most amazing form and the color stayed beautifully purple.  I paired it with dark pink new guinea impatiens, Impatiens hawkeri, which gave it a wonderful pop of color.  Come mid summer, I noticed that the Persian was really reaching for sunlight but there was nowhere to move it with more than the 2 or so hours it was receiving.  So there it stayed.  Happily, it continued stretching and growing creating an almost artful shape.  This tender plant has pushed through the several cold nights and is now the show stopper it is meant to be!

The moral of the story…if you love a plant go ahead and experiment because sometimes rules are meant to be broken or at least bent a little!