Plant Description

Strobilanthes gossypina

Strobilanthes gossypina

This is a member of the Acanathaceae family of plants, hailing from South India and Sri Lanka, and is sometimes known colloquially as pewter bush. I have previously referred to it as Strobilanthes gossypinus but this appears to be incorrect. It is a beautiful plant growing to a little over a metre in height, with exquisite velvety silver foliage: young leaves have a golden sheen. It forms a neat, rounded shape and it is also drought tolerant: I once grew it near my letterbox at the top of a long driveway, an area which is rarely watered. It can grow in full sun or - usefully - dappled shade. Some growers believe it does best in part-shade. It needs good drainage and likes to be mulched. It doesn't like frosts. It is also said to be suitable for seaside gardens. It is an excellent background shrub for drought-tolerant plants such as rosemary, bearded irises, wallflowers and Osteospermum. I also have it growing near to Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara', which has a silvery cast to its leaves too; and it is a brilliant partner to many of the other compact Salvia specimens, providing a foil to blue, cerise, pink or white blooms.

It may never flower but it it does this is likely to be in winter, with lilac flowers in racemes, making the branches arch over like a fountain. But ... flowering is often a prelude to its imminent demise - so I cut the flowering stalks off when they form. Alternatively, you can let it flower but take a few cuttings as a back up. However: cuttings can be a little tricky: they shouldn't be enclosed in a propagating box but left on a potting bench in shade and the propagating mixture should be free-draining. I believe it is also possible to grow it from seed.

Of Interest

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Strobilanthes gossypina
Out now in my Sydney garden.
Flowers from June to August.
Plant Family: Acanthaceae

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