Persian Shield: An Exotic Specimen Plant

STROBILANTHES DYERIANUS

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) is a stunning ornamental plant that originates in the warm and humid nation of Myanmar, where it grows as an evergreen perennial.

It is a member of the Acanthaceae family, which consists mostly of flowering tropical plants.

Close of the purple and green leaves of Strobilanthes dyerianus or Persian shield.

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With its unique iridescent purple leaves, S. dyerianus had no difficulty attracting the attention of U.S. gardeners, and is now grown here as an annual, perennial, and houseplant.

Exotic and Intense

Sometimes called Bermuda conehead, this striking tropical species thrives on heat and humidity, yielding its most brilliant color in partially shaded locations.

Learn how to grow and care for Persian shield plants | GardenersPath.com

Its foliage positively shimmers in neon shades of purple, veined with green. With too much light, the colors are less impressive.

The leaves of S. dyerianus are approximately six inches long, and stems may reach three feet. In regions where the plant thrives year-round, small, tubular, cone-shaped blue flowers bloom in fall or winter. They remind me a little of Virginia bluebells, and make an unusual accompaniment to the lustrous tropical foliage.

In cooler regions, where it grows as a summer annual, Persian shield usually succumbs to frost before blooming.

If you live in a cool climate zone, bring Persian shield plants indoors to overwinter: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/ornamentals/persian-shield/

For indoor cultivation, use a good quality potting soil and a container with adequate drainage holes. Keep the soil moderately moist with weekly watering. Fertilize quarterly with a slow-acting fertilizer, per package instructions.

I propagate new plants by cutting off young stems at a length of about two inches, placing them into a cup of water until roots form, and then planting them in soil.

Where to Buy

Plant S. dyerianus outdoors in the garden, or cultivate them indoors as houseplants.

Persian Shield Plant

Find these plants at Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon.

Strobilanthes Dyerianus Plant Facts

  • Grows easily from seeds or cuttings
  • Iridescent green-veined purple leaves, small blue flowers
  • May exceed three feet in height
  • Organically rich well-drained soil
  • Part to full shade; tolerates sun in cool areas
  • Thrives in heat and humidity
  • Tropical species that makes an excellent houseplant or garden specimen
  • Zone 8 to 11 perennial, annual in cooler regions

Versatile and Vibrant

Persian shield is a stunning plant that may be enjoyed in several ways.

Let it reach full height, recklessly spreading its bright, tropical foliage across a garden bed, and providing a gleaming backdrop for foreground plantings.

Enjoy Persian shield as a tall plant, or cut it back for a bushy specimen | GardenersPath.com

Or, pinch it back, sacrificing height, but achieving a bushy and compact plant, for a more formal.

And finally, if you’re in a cool climate zone, bring plants indoors for the winter, or keep them inside as easy-to-tend houseplants. Pinch back as desired.

If you live in the South, you may have the pleasure of seeing the blue blossoms of Persian shield in your autumn or winter garden.

For additional late-blooming flower ideas, consult our article “Fall Annuals for the South.”

Does Persian shield grow in your garden, or in a container indoors? Share your experiences with this unusual tropical species in the comments section below.

 

Product photos via Hirt’s Gardens. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

65 thoughts on “Persian Shield: An Exotic Specimen Plant”

  1. Hi, my name is Reid Wauchope and i have had one of these Persian shields for about two years now and I have been wanting for a long time to get it vibrant as it was when I first bought it. It’s percing up to the sky looks happy but is in peat moss soil and direct light being fed vf-11 almost every watering. The color dies off about two or three leaves down the plant from the top that is a semi vibrant purple. So I guess I’m asking should I transplant in new dryer soil along with indirect sunlight? Lastly should vf-11 be fine? The plants been slow but it could be a combination of food light and soil.

    Thanks for any help or input anyone has!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your question, Reid! It sounds like a few things could be the problem, and knowing a little more about your growing setup could be helpful to isolate the cause of the issues that you’re having. First, where are you located, and what environment are you growing in? How many hours per day of sun is the plant getting? And when you say “peat moss soil,” is this a combination of peat moss with potting soil and other elements, or peat moss on its own?

      Persian shield likes humidity, and it prefers to be brought inside in locations with cold winters. Peat moss alone might not be the best growing medium, though a combination of peat with a quality potting soil should provide good drainage. If planted in a container, make the sure soil is draining properly- though it likes a humid environment, the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Few plants really enjoy wet feet. And if you are bringing your plants inside for winter protection, be sure to adjust your watering cycle appropriately.

      If you’re experiencing any leaf burn-off, less direct sun would be appropriate. Filtered bright light is best during the hotter summer months. But the total amount of sun per day is likely the best answer to getting that purple foliage that you seek. Since you say the color fades a few leaves from the top, it’s likely that the plant isn’t getting uniform bright light. (The fertilizer that you’re applying may also be relevant, but we’ll address that a little later). Consider using the poinsettia as an example- many gardeners like to keep these plants after the winter holidays are over, but find that the red color they love has been replaced by a less desirable green in the following seasons. Experts recommend giving these plants about 10 hours of constant light per day- followed by 14 hours of complete darkness. A similar cycle given to your own plants might help, applied daily for at least 8 weeks or so. And the period of darkness is key! This will probably need to be done indoors, with grow lights.

      Finally, your regular applications of the VF-11 do stand out as a red flag. Though this particular fertilizer is less NPK-heavy than others, we’d be willing to bet that you are simply giving your plants too much. If they’re in pots, what concentration are you applying? Be sure that any applications of water or fertilizer do not touch the leaves, and scale back significantly- maybe apply once every week or two, during the spring and summer only.

      Hope this helps! Please check in again soon, to let us know how things are going.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for your response and input Allison! I realized I had slightly been switching to Botanicare Pro Grow for soil and some additives like Cal-Mag and Liquid Karma as well. This was around 6 months ago but I have moved twice recently, however the plant has been quite white I think ever since I brought it inside. Before my first question here in October the plant was perky for months and in direct window sunlight for plenty of hours a day. After my last question I moved the plant to a dark shady spot in my new living room, and topped it aggressively after waiting so long to. (Was waiting til it looked healthier). The soil has been Sun Gro #4 by itself. The color has not gotten any better as of yet but new shoots are starting and the plant drinks quite slow. The leaves are truly massive at about 7 inches long and 3 inches at its best width.

    Reading up on VF-11, I believe they say that the product enhances nutrient uptake and being more bioavailable. I think possibly the plant got used to larger quantities of nitrogen and foods and the like. Got thrown off balance and is burning and possibly deficient. Also, my new home is 68 at the lowest temp because of heated floors, usually high of 77. Humidity always 47-57%. I am in Sammamish, WA and the plant is now about 15 feet from my window. I haven’t used the Pro Grow in a long time – it may have been 2-4 months, so I’ll see if feeding that changes anything. This could obviously also be completely the wrong thing to do, but I’ve been struggling with her for months and I took 3 cuts off her for new plants (rooting now). Let the experiments continue! If I can post a picture on here too I will. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi Reid,

      Thanks for your reply! Indoor light is almost definitely the culprit in terms of pigment, though you could consider supplementing with grow lights. Though light coming from a window may be direct, it is still filtered in comparison to what a plant would get outdoors – but not during the winter in Washington!

      Keep up the good work. Be sure to avoid watering or feeding too much in the winter, and best of luck with the cuttings. We’d love to see photos- feel free to share them on the Gardener’s Path Facebook page. Happy Gardening!

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply again! I wasn’t able to get pictures going yet but the mother plant is doing the same might be better new growth but the shoots are small.

        I was curious what you recommend I put the three new cuttings into for soil, I think the peat moss I have the mother in isn’t something I want to put the new three in, they’re ready for transplanting any day now.

        Thanks again I greatly appreciate all your input and help Allison!

        Reply
        • Hi Reid! You’re so welcome. I think a soil-less seed starting mix is great for rooting cuttings. Try a combination of vermiculite, perlite, and peat, or something similar. Happy planting!

          Reply
  3. Hi, I left my Persian shield outside for just a day (it’s a houseplant but I want it to get some air and rain water since it was starting to look dull), after the rain, the sun shines brilliantly and I forgot to bring it in. Now my Persian shield is a very full greenish brown – but the underside of the leaves are still a brilliant purple, hence why I think the sun washed out the colors.
    Is it possible to restore its vibrancy? I plan to propogate one or two leaves and start new plants, but just in case this one is salvagable (I’m keeping it regardless), I’d love to try and restore it. Any help is appreciated. And this article was super helpful, so thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Omolayo –

      So glad you enjoyed the article on Persian shield, and sorry to hear that yours had a little too much sun. These things happen, and usually a return to the shade results in a full recovery, provided that there has been adequate moisture. Let us know how it goes, and thanks for reading.

      Reply
  4. I live in Southeastern Louisiana. I have several of the purple shield, for the first time this year. We have been very hot this year, and humid. I came here to look for information, because mine are growing like gangbusters so I was wondering how big they were actually going to get. I have the majority of mine planted in partial sun, and they are the deepest most beautiful purple. I will definitely relocate some of these since they will get very large, and some I will leave where they are and just cut back….thank you for the information!

    Reply
    • Hi Donna –
      So glad you enjoyed the article on Persian shield and that yours are doing so well. Your plants may exceed three feet in height, so plan accordingly! Happy gardening.

      Reply
  5. The pointed ends of my Persian Shield plant are turning brown and drying up. I’m growing it indoors due to my climate approximately 3 feet away from a very sunny window, at least for several hours a day.
    Would misting help? It was so beautiful before.

    Reply
    • Hi Ellie –

      It can be confusing to grow a plant that likes it hot, humid – and shady. We want to put it in the sun for heat, but it can’t tolerate the bright light without fading and/or turning brown.

      Even at three feet from the window, your Persian shield is most likely getting too much sunlight. This dries out the soil, and causes the leaves to fade and/or turn brown at the tips.

      Move your plant out of the sun. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy, and be sure that your pot has drainage holes. Misting is a good way to increase humidity, which Persian shield loves, but misting in sunlight may scorch and brown the leaves.

      Provided the pot has never completely dried out, once out of the sun, your Persian shield should return to its former lovely self.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  6. Like Ellie, I have one purple shield plant. I live in Cleveland, Ohio & it’s an indoor houseplant. I’ve had it for about 2 or so years. When I first bought it, the plant was very vibrant purple, but now, the pointed ends of my plant are turning brown and brittle. I *just* read how to really care for this plant as I was not given instructions when I bought it. What’s going wrong? Will my plant die or can I fix it so the brown edges go away??

    Reply
    • Hi Donna –

      Like Ellie’s plant, I think your indoor Persian shield has gotten an overdose of sunlight. This may cause a pot to dry out and leaves to fade and/or turn brown at the tips. Move your plant to a darker location. Make sure your pot has good drainage holes, and keep the soil evenly moist. Assuming it has never completely dried out, your plant should make a full recovery in its new location.

      Best of luck, and thanks for reading!

      Reply
  7. Hello-
    Do you know if this plant is toxic to pets? We have some cold days coming up so I’d like to bring it inside but I have 2 very curious cats.

    Reply
    • Hello Brandy –

      While Persian shield is not listed on poisonous plant lists, caution is recommended with pets near plants and planting material, as they are not intended for consumption and may pose a choking hazard. Perhaps a thin netting over the plants would be the best way to deter the kitties and keep them safe. Thank you for reading!

      Reply
  8. Can you help me with this? I have a Persian shield that may be 2 years old or older, and I have also made a cutting from it. I overwinter quite a few plants, and live in New York.

    This week I experienced intense pain in my hand after picking up dead leaves in the room. The plants are under lights. The pain became an intense itching and I kept scratching my hand. After 2 days, the skin had covered it over but I know something is in my hand. Again yesterday I went touching all my plants and again, intense pain in one of my fingers. This time I got a magnifying glass and found there were very tiny things stuck in my finger. This time I pulled them out. I see on top of the larger, older leaves of Persian shield there are curved, clear thorn like structures. And they are also on the cutting, though not any where near the size. I have also put systemic bug killer in the plants to try to keep the insect population down. Wondering if getting stuck by one of these thorns could also have insecticide in them or I’m also experiencing an allergic reaction. Feels similar to tiny bee stings. The only other possibility are the leaves of a hibiscus plant. The thorns on the Persian shield looks like it. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Ouch- sorry to hear this, Debbie! As far as I know, Persian shield is not known for having thorns, so my first question there would be to confirm whether you’re able to positively identify this plant. But it is poisonous if ingested and is known for potentially causing contact dermatitis. If you like, you can send photos of the plant in question via our Facebook page. Hibiscus is not likely to cause a reaction and it does not have thorns or spikes, but individual reactions to skin contact with certain plants may vary.

      More importantly, pain and itching is a definitely concern. Wearing gloves while gardening is always recommended, to avoid a potential reaction via skin contact with plants or gardening chemicals, which may be absorbed by the skin. I cannot provide medical advice as I am not a medical professional, but I would recommend consulting with a physician.

      Reply
  9. Hello,

    My name is Rebecca and I live in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I planted a Persian Shield in my garden last year during the summer. It grew big and very vibrant and the winter came – no snow, just low temperatures.
    The plant lost its leaves and turned brown in days. Now the weather is getting very warm and humid as Virginia is, so my question is, will she come back or did she die?
    What is the best way to grow this very beautiful plant outside in my garden?
    Please help me because the garden centers around here are more about selling than helping new gardeners understand how to garden in Virginia’s three-seasons-a-day climate. Thank you for your time and any help given.

    Rebecca, Starter Gardener

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca,

      In Virginia Beach you’re probably in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a, on the cooler end of climates where Persian shield may be grown as a perennial. But it thrives in warm, humid weather and will be killed off by frost. Sorry to hear that the cold got to your plant this past winter – it’s not likely that you will be able to save this one.

      Our best recommendation is to try some potted Persian shield plants again this year, planted in portable containers so they will be easier to protect from the cold. You might try wrapping and covering them for warmth in cold weather, and if winter temps are predicted below freezing, potted plants can be brought indoors to wait it out.

      Reply
  10. First time for this plant.. put it in filtered light.. really hope it likes it there. Just to clarity.. I put in 3 outside.. I live in zone 8 , middle Ga..I really don’t want them 3/4 ft tall.. can you trim them?

    Reply
    • You can cut them back if you like, but keep in mind that they will get the most vibrant color in bright light.

      Reply
    • Hello Cathy –
      Persian shield can become sticky when it is preparing to bloom. Not all do, and the flowers are rather non-descript in comparison to the vivid foliage. To remove the goo, add a drop of dish detergent to about 12 ounces of water. Spray this over the leaves. Then rinse the leaves with water.

      Reply
  11. My husband bought me a Persian shield for mother’s day and 2 weeks or so later all the leaves were drying and falling off. Had it in the screen porch not in the sunlight. We live in central Texas and temps were 70-85. Watered and can’t seem to bring it back to life. Any tips….

    Reply
    • Hi Nathalie –
      It may be that in addition to a lack of sunlight, the pot dried out. Thoroughly soak the soil, let the water drain through, and then water a second time. If this doesn’t revive it, the plant has died.

      Reply
  12. Hi, My name is Janis and I absolutely LOVE this plant – my question – it is poisonous to cats? I can’t seem to find a straight answer.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Yes it is toxic, not sure how “toxic”, but as mentioned above, some clear finely knit netting over the plant may deter your cat from ever getting at it. I keep mine on a 4’ high pillar plant stand and am diligent about watching for leaves dropping-although for me this has never been a problem. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  13. My plant seemed to of had gone into shock and I am wondering if you might suggest a reason why. I received this Persian Shield as a gift. The young plant has grown so much and the leaves much larger —it still is a young plant as the leaves are only about 1.5 inches in length. My plant received and remained in it’s 4-inch pot from Feb 2018 until about Aug 2018. It sat in a bright, indirect light, window behind the shade of a translucent shade. In August: In preparation for the winter, and because the plant was growing so much I moved the plant to another room with same lighting, but more in shade —the prior location was directly above a working radiator —I wanted to avoid cooking the roots. I sat the plant in the new room, eventually moving it to a much larger pot mixed with other houseplants. I replanted the plant while the dirt was dry so it came out it’s original pot with all it’s roots surrounded by the original dirt. I was hoping the plant would be happier and grow more now that it’s roots had space to spread out. It beautifully did spurt with growth for about 2 months then suddenly started to decline. 1st the long stems began to droop, the the leaves and stem tips dried up. The top leaves completely died 1st, then in order, the lower leaves shriveled and died. As of now, I have removed the plant from the large pot and replanted it in another pot by it’s self. I have cut off everything dead or dying. The stems are still green and hairy but there are no leaves. It is receiving 24-hour artificial lighting. 1.5 weeks have past …the poor sick plant is sitting in limbo. Today I moved it from 24-hour lighting back to a spot over a working radiator.

    Reply
    • Hi Cha-Ron –
      It sounds like you have given your Persian shield plant very tender, loving care. It’s possible that in a pot with other plants, the competition for water is just too much for it. Another possibility is that the sunlight coming in through the window is too intense. The green stems are a good sign. Keep in mind that Persian shield is dormant during the winter, so you won’t see new growth until spring. The new location over the radiator is likely to dry the pot out very quickly, so you may want to return it to the prior location. Best of luck!

      Reply
    • Live plants are typically easier to find than seeds for this plant. We’ll let you know if we’re able to track down a source! In the meantime, you can follow the link to Hirt’s Gardens above to purchase plants.

      Reply
      • I placed a query over a month ago and I’m still awaiting a response, is this website and service you provide still available?

        Reply
  14. Hi fellow Persian Shield lovers,

    Why has my Persian Shield lost it’s color? I live in Melbourne – Australia and I fell in love with this plant the second I saw it’s purple leaf.

    I have attached 2 pic’s of when they where in their prime (Jan 2020) and a current combined pic (Feb 2020) and you’ll see how well they both look, just minus their signature purple color. I watered them both the same amount of water except the one on the right has left overs….any idea why? They both live inside (the back door) and don’t get direct sun just filtered light. I bought both plants around December 2019 (separate pots – varying size) from the same outlet and whilst they both had lush purple leaves, one seems to be thirstier than the other and absorbs water quicker. I haven’t changed their original pots or soil and whilst they both are still alive and growing, they both have lost their striking purple color and are now just green leaves with their underside still purple…what is happening? I have been fertilizing them one a month thinking this would be the cure, although it hasn’t helped it hasn’t hurt them either…should I continue with this method?

    Please help!!
    Fady

    Reply
    • Hello Fady –
      It’s likely that the filtered light is not enough, and that there is a draft from the door. Try moving them to a brighter, warmer location. As for the excess water in one plant, no two potted plants are identical, because they are bound to have different root structures and soil compaction. When you water each, be sure to let all of the excess water drip away to avoid oversaturation.

      Reply
      • Thank you for replying Nan, I will move them to the front of the house to get the morning sun. I hope they do come back to life as I miss their vibrant purple leaves.

        Reply
  15. Hello, I live in Tampa Florida in zone 9b. I would like to plant some persian shields in a shady area. I see their mature height is 3-4 ft. How fast do persian shields grow and about how long do they take to reach their mature height?

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin –

      Persian shield exhibits bright coloration in partially shaded locations, but full shade is not recommended. It is considered to be a fast-growing plant, especially in organically-rich soil that is consistently moist.

      Reply
  16. I live in Layton, Utah. I have been searching all over to find the Persian shield. Does anyone know where to buy it?

    Reply
  17. Hi, this is Rob. I live in the desert southwest, Palm Springs. I have recently discovered Persian Shield. I now have two which I bought as very tiny plants and now they are happy and looking healthy under a skylight in my bathroom. Now it is time to select the place to grow them. In the center of my house is a “solarium”. It is screened above and yes it gets hot in the summer. There are plenty of opportunities for shade. I mist the solarium every day in the hottest months. So – I finally get to my question. Do you think that the Persian Shield will do well in these conditions???

    Reply
    • Hello Robert –
      With sunlight, humidity, and evenly moist soil, plants generally do well, although they tend to lose some of their vibrant color when cultivated indoors.

      Reply
  18. Hi Nan, I live in Napanee, Ontario, Canada. I discovered Persian shield several years ago and I absolutely love this plant. I planted it in large planters, surrounded by pink and violet pentas and trailing potato vines. They were stunning!! The last two years I have tried unsuccessfully to get more plants, and no luck. Any ideas where to find this in Ontario, Canada?

    Reply
  19. I live in Georgia, one hour north of Atlanta. My plant is growing well with vibrant colors. But as the leaves get old they lose their vibrant colors and fade, but they remain otherwise healthy and happy. I keep it in good indirect light only. Thank you very much!

    Reply
  20. Hello all – I am in the garden state (NJ) and this season (spring 2020) we planted a number of Persian Shield – in strong sun – some in post some in garden – which grew just wonderfully. I mean these were full, brilliant irridecent vital plants. Now fall (and never seeing any flower/bloom as I read they can) and most still fairly healthy – I’m thinking of taking a big pot and maintaining many in the basement for the winter.

    I gather I should cut them back to just above soil level…
    Should the soil have a fertilizer/feed, or be strong peat?
    Will I need to care for them in the pot regularly – as in water/moisten every week?
    Are there any other plants I can (or shouldn’t) store in the same container.
    Any problem with putting them in sun early spring (maybe even inside by a window) and once they start to show life replanting into the garden?

    Thanks –
    Jeff

    Reply
    • Hi Jeffrey –
      To overwinter Persian shield, pot it up and bring it inside to live as a houseplant. Provide a well-draining pot filled with organically-rich potting medium, and a location in your warmest, moistest room. Water when the soil completely dries out.

      Both indoors and out, the temperature should be at least 60° F, and the exposure should be indirect, or shaded from direct sunlight.

      Reply
    • Hello Marge –

      Plant your Persian shield at the same depth it is in its nursery pot. It will require consistent moisture, so check it daily, especially during the heatwave. Water when the top two inches of soil feel dry. Water at the soil level, in the morning, and avoid getting the leaves wet.

      Reply
  21. WE LIVE IN FLORIDA ND ARE EXPERIENCING 85 TO NINETY DEGREE WEATHER. THE PLANT WILL BE OUTSIDE. HOW DEEP SHOULD WE GO AND HOW OFTEN DO WE WATER?

    Reply
  22. Very good article, thank you.
    I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and recently bought a Persian shield plant which is doing well in a container in a mostly shaded area, receives a couple of hours of late afternoon sun.
    I’ve just noticed mealybugs, which I have attacked with a spray mixture of hydrogen peroxide, Dawn soap and water. I also have the same issue with coleus nearby in pots. Any suggestions in preventing more mealybugs? Also for coleus, I was toying with the idea of bringing it inside for the summer.

    Thank you. Julie Levin.

    Reply
    • Hi Julie –
      We’re glad you enjoyed the article.
      You might try organic neem oil as both a preventative and treatment for mealybugs.
      As for coleus, it does well in shaded locations in zones with hot, humid summers. You can also grow it indoors as a houseplant.

      Reply
  23. Hi,
    I live in Washington state, zone 6 I believe. I wàs wondering why not just plant it in a big pot to begin with? I have no problem with it growing to it’s full height, even though it will be indoors. Would it harm it to do so?
    Also, I don’t have compost but I do have old horse manure. Will that work ok?

    Reply

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