Strobilanthes dyeriana

This soft-wooded shrub (ht 1.2m) from Malaysia is sometimes known as Persian shield. It belongs to the broad Acanthaceae family, most of which grow well in Sydney. I have previously referred to it as Strobilanthes dyerianus but this appears to be incorrect. It is purely a foliage plant (as the flowers are quite insignificant), with large, shiny silver and green leaves overlaid with a lustrous purple sheen, vivid veining, and an attractive texture. It prefers a shaded or part-shaded site and needs a reasonable amount of moisture to look at its most lush. Nipping out the shoot tips encourages bushiness and maintains the intense purple colouring. It needs to be cut back fairly hard in early spring and fertilised at that time. It strikes readily from cuttings. Its spectacular leaves combine well with the silvery velvet foliage of Plectranthus argentatus or the pink/purple-flowered 'Cape Angels' Plectranthus which grow to about the same height as the Persian shield. The deep purple leaves of Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea' also look effective with it. Persian shield is fairly frost sensitive so will not thrive well in very cold areas, though an overhead tree canopy may give some protection. It can grow in a pot. It is a good idea to take cuttings each autumn and keep these sheltered over winter.