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Products > Strobilanthes gossypina
Strobilanthes gossypina - Pewter Bush
Image of Strobilanthes gossypina
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus¹)
Origin: India (Asia)
Evergreen: Yes
Yellow/Chartreuse Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: Mauve
Bloomtime: Infrequent
Synonyms: [S. gossypinus, Hort., S. lanatus]
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 surface. The hairs are a soft gold color on the newly emerging leaves then age to silver gray with prominent narrow gold colored 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 and of a soft mauve color. They are held in elongated panicles that rise above the foliage in great profusion over many months, but these flowers are rarely seen as they are borne 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 that all plants initiate flowering 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 to part sun or light shade. Will get a bit more open in deeper shade and most attractive with more light and at its best 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 also 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 is listed as a correction to the epithet (from S. gossypinus) in 2008 on the International Plant Name Index (IPNI) but it is sometime listed as synonymous with Strobilanthes lanatus. This plant 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 and in Pacific Northwest gardens it has gone much longer without flowering. 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. 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.

Pewter Bush was listed as in cultivation in Santa Barbara in Peter Riedel's Plants for Extra-tropical Regions, published in 1957 three years after Riedel's death, 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 only first noted in cultivation in Southern California around 2010. We thank Dan Hinkley for recent historical information about this plants reintroduction in the Pacific Northwest and Mike Tully of Terra Sol Garden Center for sharing a flowering plant with us, which allowed us to collect and propagate this plant from seed in 2017. Our current crops are produced from cuttings taken from these first seedlings and we expect to get many years out of them before they flower, and the process will need to be repeated. The plant pictured in our 2nd image photographed in the late Ted Kipping's wonderful San Francisco garden. 

This information about Strobilanthes gossypina displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.