Persian Shield and Cuban Gold Duranta offer a dazzling combination
The Persian Shield has always been one of my favorite foliage plants with its almost psychedelic purple. Despite the fact I fancy myself has a real plant combination guru, it was someone else’s garden that taught me an incredible new partnership.
The thrilling combination was seen as part of the Keep Columbus (Ga.) Beautiful garden tour. I had already been mesmerized by the owner’s vegetable garden and water features and then as I walked around the corner there it was Persian Shield as the backdrop for Cuban Gold duranta.
If you aren’t using the Cuban Gold or a version of Gold Mound duranta, Duranta erecta, you are missing one of the showiest plants in the garden. It is used much like you would a lime green or chartreuse Joseph’s Coat. Both of these are so popular in my area with the commercial landscape industry that it might be easier finding a four-leaf clover.
This combination that made me take a photo was really pretty simple and a terrific complementary planting that I should have done long time ago. It is just one of those examples that show there are always lessons to be learned from other gardeners. It also points out the fun and benefit from attending your own community’s garden tours.
The Persian Shield is one of the most beautiful and unusual plants for the garden, and is known botanically as Strobilanthes dyerianus. It is native to Burma and has 8inch-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 like it has a light coat of silver electroplated to it.
Persian Shield has been around since Victorian times, but it slipped in popularity until the University of Georgia named it an Athens Select plant. This designation really helped make it much easier to find at the local garden center.
The Persian Shield prefers well-drained, organic-rich soil. I have never really seen it looking stunning in full sun situations. I
prefer to plant where it will get morning sun and afternoon shade to keep its brilliant colors from developing a bleached or scorched look.
Space your plants on 18- to 24-inch centers. They will work in straight lines, but informal drifts or clumps can be riveting. The plants should reach close to 2 to 3 feet tall. Like coleus, pinching can be done to keep plants bushy.
For best results, keep the plants uniformly moist throughout the growing season. This is a tropical plant that performs well in heat and humidity. Most people would think of Persian Shield as an annual plant much like coleus. However, it could be considered a perennial in zones 8-11.
You can make great combinations with the Persian Shield. The purple foliage plays off the yellow-green stalks of bananas and Lime zinger elephant ear much like they do with the duranta if you like the tropical look. Another great choice would be to use lilac-colored SunPatiens as companions, although pink also would work well.
Every week someone asks me what plants deer do not like. Reports indicate Persian Shield is one of those plants deer will leave alone. The Persian Shield is a good choice if you are looking for an unusual plant for a tropical setting or you just want a companion for your impatiens.
• Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus, Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.”
The iridescent purple foliage of the Persian Shield and the golden chartreuse of the Cuban Gold duranta make for an incredible complementary partnership in the garden.