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Products > Strobilanthes gossypina
Strobilanthes gossypina - Pewter Bush

[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthusą)
Origin: India (Asia)
Evergreen: Yes
Yellow/Chartreuse Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: Mauve
Bloomtime: Infrequent
Synonyms: [Strobilanthes gossypinus, Hort.]
Height: 3-4 feet
Width: 3-5 feet
Exposure: Cool Sun/Light Shade
Seaside: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 30-32° F
Strobilanthes gossypina (Pewter Bush) - A rounded dense evergreen shrub to 3 to 4 feet tall by a bit wider with very attractive 2 to 3 inch long elliptically shaped opposite paired leaves that alternate 90 degrees to the pair beneath. The leaves are covered in a short fuzz on the upper surface with prominent yellowish veins showing through the fuzz on the lower. The hairs are a soft gold color on the newly emerging leaves then age to silver gray and also showy are the prominent narrow gold leaf margins. These leaves shimmer attractively in sunlight and, if the foliage is damp, the green color below also becomes evident. The flowers of this plant are tubular shaped of a soft mauve color and held in elongated panicles that rise above the foliage in great profusion over many months but these flowers are rarely seen as they are born on the plant only at maturity, which takes from 7 to 14 years and after flowering the plant sets seed and dies. In nature such plants, where entire species flower at one time, are called plietesials or semelparous mast-seeding (or masting) plants. Their life cycle is creatively also called "multiannual" since it takes more than a year, such as an annual, or two, such as a biennial, to complete the life cycle. Plant in coastal full sun to part sun or light shade. Will get a bit more open in deeper shade and seems most attractive with more light and does great in full morning or part afternoon sun. Irrigate occasionally to very little as it handles relatively dry periods fairly well but with an occasional watering the plant will remain full and more attractive. It is frost-tender so best in near frost free gardens but can resprout from the base after the top is damaged from cold. It reportedly tolerates salt-laden winds and so should be useful in seaside gardens. Trim back in spring every one to two years to maintain shape or if damaged by a frost. This very attractive shrub can be used as a focal specimen plant or for using its foliage contrast in combination with other low water using shrubs and perennials. There is some confusion of the name and origin of this plant in online sources. We are using the name Strobilanthes gossypina as listed as a correction to the epithet in 2008 on the International Plant Name Index (IPNI) and this agrees with the current listing on The Plant List (the collaboration between Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden) but we note that many commercial sources continue to use the name it was first described under, Strobilanthes gossypinus. It has naturalized in such places as Zimbabwe and Hawaii, which leads some to list other areas of origin but was first described in 1867 by Dr. Thomas Anderson, the Superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Calcutta with the habitat reference "In montibus Mysore" meaning that it came from the mountains of India. Anderson also noted that "This is a most beautiful and distinct species, and is evidently rare, as it occurs only in Lobb's collection", referring to the wide traveling Cornish plant collector Thomas Lobb. This plant was listed In the 1901 edition of Curtis's Botanical Magazine noting that it was collected by Thomas Lobb at about 4,000 to 5,000 feet elevation at Sisparah Ghat in the Nilgiri Hills (the Blue Mountains) in the Western Ghats of Southern India, where it flowered on a 6 to 7 year cycle in nature. It first flowered at Kew in 1900, as a 13 year old seedling, so speculation is that its lifespan is prolonged in cultivation. This article was accompanied by a beautiful drawing by illustrator Matilda Smith (1854-1926) of this first flowering event. We in the past have grown the related Strobilanthes kunthianus, which is another semelparous mast-seeding plant from the Nilgiri Hills and was the plant that when in flower turned the mountainsides blue, which led to the naming of this "Blue Mountain" region. Pewter Bush was listed as in cultivation in Santa Barbara in Peter Riedel's Plants for Extra-tropical Regions, published after his death in 1957 but has not been seen for many years since. It was also grown as an ornamental plant in New Zealand and possibly reintroduced from there back into the US in the Pacific northwest around 2001, but we have only noted it in cultivation in Southern California about 10 years later. The name for the genus comes from the Greek word 'strobilos' meaning "a cone" and 'anthos' "a flower" from the form of the buds and emergent flowers and the specific epithet is a reference to this plant's hair having a resemblance to cotton, in the genus Gossypium. We thank Mike Tully or Terra Sol Garden Center for sharing a flowering plant with us for us to propagate from the seed it bears.  The information provided on this page is based on research we have conducted about this plant in our nursery's library, from what we have found about it on reliable online sources, as well as from observations in our nursery of crops of this plant as well as of plants growing in the nursery's garden and those in other gardens. We will also incorporate comments received from others and welcome getting feedback from anyone who may have additional information, particularly if it includes cultural information that would aid others in growing  Strobilanthes gossypina.