Friday, April 6, 2012

Strobilanthes Dyerianus

Strobilanthes Dyerianus, commonly-referred to as Persian Shield, is a species in the genus Strobilanthes, which boasts about 250 flowering plants that belong to the plant family Acanthaceae (or Acanthus). The Strobilanthes members are mostly native to tropical Asia, although a few can be found in temperate regions of the continent. Even though there are over 200 types of Strobilanthes, there is only one (as far as I can gather) that is grown indoors, and that’s the S. Dyerianus.

This charming plant with its shiny, lance-shaped, marbled, dark green and metallic purple leaves commands attention and is best displayed on its own. Long-lasting, pale blue, funnel-shaped flowers are produced under the most ideal conditions, but they are not very showy; they can be pinched off. Although this is an exceptional choice for indoors with its dazzling foliage, it requires specific care to look its best. If its needs are not provided accordingly, the Persian Shield can prove to be quite difficult as a houseplant.

Adequate humidity is one of the most important requirements in keeping a Strobilanthes Dyerianus healthy. High humidity is absolutely essential and not something that can be compromised. If the air is too dry, the tips and margins of the plant’s leaves will brown; chronic dry air can cause entire leaves to dry to a crisp, and also send out an invitation to spider mites to move in. If your home does not offer enough humidity, remedy the situation by adding a humidifier nearby, by placing the plant on a pebble tray filled with water, by double-potting and filling the spaces in between the containers with moist peat, by grouping plants together to form a microclimate with higher humidity, by growing the plant in a room naturally higher in humidity (bathroom) or by growing it in a greenhouse (if you are fortunate enough to have one!).

Use an airy, quick-draining soil and keep it evenly moist during the warm months. Allow it to dry slightly between each watering session, and then water thoroughly. During the cooler months, water carefully to avoid root rot; allow the soil to dry out a little more. Never let the soil dry out completely; the plant does not handle drought very well. Switch to hydroculture for an alternative growing style. Conversion is fairly quick with very few signs of stress. You can transplant the entire specimen, or you can take cuttings, root them in water and then plant them in clay pebbles when water roots form. If you decide to transfer from soil to pellets from the get go, provide the Persian Shield with high levels of humidity to help it get through the transition effortlessly.

Choose a location that offers bright, indirect light; protect the plant from the direct rays of the summer sun. Strobilanthes Dyerianus does not mind a little early morning eastern or some late afternoon western sunshine, so don’t be afraid to try out those locations. In the event that your plant complains that there is too much light, just relocate it to a shadier spot. Average household temperatures are fine. The plant prefers to be kept warm; always protect it from cold drafts. Do not expose Strobilanthes Dyerianus to temperatures below 13° Celsius (55° F).

A Persian Shield only looks best in its juvenile stage. As it ages, the plant declines and the colours fade, making it less attractive and not very desirable. This does not mean that it should be treated as a temporary room accent and then disposed of. This is a fast-growing specimen that roots easily; new stock can be raised from cuttings, allowing you to enjoy its majestic presence in your home indefinitely. Older specimens should be pruned often to promote a more compact appearance and avoid lankiness. Regular pruning also maintains a desired shape and size.

Unfortunately, despite its good looks, Strobilanthes Dyerianus is not readily available at local greenhouses or other retailers. Don’t expect to be taking one home any time soon because you may have a hard time tracking one down. Because it’s a little bit more challenging than the common indoor favourites, the Persian Shield is not a plant that anyone looking to turn a profit is eager to add to their store’s inventory. Nonetheless, this beautiful specimen does show up at local shops periodically, most often in 4” pots that are very inexpensive ($2.00 - $3.00). If you happen to run across a rarely-available Strobilanthes Dyerianus at such a great price, give it a try. It may require a little added effort, but it is well worth it.

* photos courtesy of *


  1. Well, this little darling looks stunning! But you say it can be difficult if its needs aren't met? Me too! No, I can only do plants who thrive on my neglect!

    1. Ha ha...silly kitten! Well, this is a stunning plant, but it can be a little demanding.

  2. I often see these for sale when I'm out and about - a very attractive plant.

    1. It's a beautiful plant. In warmer regions, it's grown outdoors. I wish I was able to do that year round. What an amazing addition to the garden it must be!