Per­sian Shield and Cuban Gold Du­ranta of­fer a daz­zling com­bi­na­tion

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - BY NOR­MAN WIN­TER

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.”

MCT PHOTO

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.

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