Persian Shield – Strobilanthes dyerianus

Persian Shield is grown for the striking colours of its leaves. It is easy to care for and tolerates most conditions as long as it is kept in a humid environment and is not allowed to become too cold in winter. It prefers a light position.

The colours of the leaves of the Persian Shield look best when the plant is young. The leaf colours can fade if the plant is kept in too dark or too cool a place.

Persian Shield is a native of Madagascar and Tropical Asia where the humidity is high. It prefers high humidity if it is to grow well and avoid an attack of red spider mites. The plant is not able to stand direct spraying or misting. To keep the humidity up, it’s a good idea to stand the pot on a tray containing plenty of moist pebbles.Persian Shield - Strobilanthes dyerianus

The plant requires very little care, apart from being kept humid. In fact, if it is increased regularly from cuttings, it does not even need feeding as it will get all the nourishment from the new potting compost. In winter it can be left alone, either in the living room or in a conservatory where the temperature does not fall below 13°C (55°F).

Persian Shield is a shrub that grows erect and has many branches. Because it becomes straggly and the leaves lose their dramatic colours, it is best to take cuttings and then throw away plants when they are more than two years old or when they reach 43cm (181n). The stems of Persian Shield have a shiny surface. Growing from the stems are 3cm (1in) leafstalks from which grow oval-shaped leaves, reaching 15cm (6in) long and 5cm (2in) wide. The leaves have finely-toothed edges and the surface is darkish green with a purple-blue metallic gloss in the central areas. Underneath, the leaves are a dusky, reddish purple. Persian Shield rarely flowers indoors.

Propagation

Propagation from cuttings is best done in spring. Take a stem cutting 7.5cm (3in) long and remove the lowest leaves. Dip the cut end into a hormone rooting powder and plant the cutting in a 7.5cm (3in) pot containing a moist, equal parts mixture of peat moss and perlite or coarse sand. Put a polythene bag over the cutting and pot. Keep at 18°-21°C (65°-70°F) and put in bright yet filtered light until new growth appears.

Pests And Diseases

Small red insects visible in the delicate tissues around the leaf nodes are an attack of red spider mites.

Spider mites attack

Treatment: Spray plant with an insecticide containing malathion. Spray again after three days and then again ten days later. An attack can be prevented by keeping the plant humid.

Leaves lose their colour when kept in a cold, dark position.

Treatment: Move to a warmer, brighter spot.

Leaves curling up at the edges is probably caused by low humidity. Treatment: Increase humidity by standing the plant pot on a tray containing moist pebbles.

PLANT CARE

Persian Shield is easy to look after. Remove the top shoots of young plants to encourage bushiness. It does best in a conservatory.

  • Potting: Use an equal parts mix of soil-based compost and leaf-mould. Repot into a pot one size larger in spring if the roots are visible on the surface of the compost.
  • Water generously in the summer and allow just the top 3cm (1 in) of the compost to dry out between waterings. In winter water moderately but give the plant a rest of about 3 months, during which the plant should be watered sparingly. The plant likes high humidity.
  • Feeding: Apply a dilute liquid fertilizer once every two weeks between May and September.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Put the plant in good, but partially shaded, light. Protect from direct mid-day sun.
  • Temperature: In summer normal room temperatures are fine but in winter keep the plant above 13°C (55°F).

Buying Tips

  • It is best to increase Persian Shield from cuttings in spring. Buy a young plant in a nursery in spring.
  • Choose a small, healthy plant with bold colours on the leaves. Avoid buying or taking cuttings from old, straggly plants.
  • They can last a few years but look best when young.

The Persian Shield is grown for its striking leaves that are a blend of purple, shimmering silver and green. They are propagated by cuttings in spring and are easy to look after.

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