Justicia brandegeeana, usually referred to as the shrimp plant, is an evergreen shrub that is known for its distinct ornamental blooms. If you’re thinking of adding to your home garden, it’s best to learn some facts about shrimp plants and how to care for them.
It comes in a wide variety of colors, including red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, and even white. These showy plants require little maintenance and make a fine addition to home gardens.
If you are looking for plants that can add year-round color to your backyard, shrimp plants are a good choice to consider. They grow to an average height of 4 feet, and look impressive in pots as well as when planted directly on the garden floor.
This comprehensive guide provides the basic information about these plants along with other useful tips on how to grow and care for the shrimp plant.
About Shrimp Plants
Shrimp plant is the common name given to a species of flowering plants in the Acanthaceae family. The botanical name of this plant is Justicia brandegeeana.
Shrimp plants are native to Mexico, which is why they are sometimes also referred to as the Mexican shrimp plant. Another name for these plants is ‘false hop’ because young shrimp flowers look a lot like the seed cones of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus).
Flowering and Fragrance
The plant produces tubular non-fragrant two-lipped blooms that are enclosed in reddish-brown leaf-like bracts. Overall, the drooping flower resembles a curled prawn, hence the name shrimp plants.
Shrimp plants are low-growing shrubs that generally do not exceed the height of 4 ft.
Additional Facts About Shrimp Plants
- This species of plants was originally named after Townshend Stith Brandegee, an American botanist known for studying the flora on the Channel Islands
- Shrimp plants were one of the many Mexican and drought-resistant plants that were introduced in California from 1834 to 1945
- Shrimp plants are hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11, but are most likely to grow in other areas as well, provided that they are well cared for
- Overhead watering can result in fungal growth in shrimp plants.
- The otherwise attractive bracts of these plants tend to rot after a rainfall
Types of Shrimp Plants
Red Shrimp Plant
Red shrimp plant is what most people consider when they think of growing shrimp plants. This decorative shrub has thin, twiggy stems and grows around 3 ft high. It cannot survive frost, but the flowers return when winter ends. The popular ‘Fruit Cocktail’ is a hybridized version of the red shrimp plant.
Yellow Shrimp Plant
Yellow shrimp plants, also known as golden shrimp plants, are the landscape item of choice in tropical areas. Mainly grown for their attention-grabbing flower heads, these plants are ideal for brightening up home gardens for a long period of time.
The yellow shrimp plant is often confused with the closely related species, Beloperone guttata. The common name for this perennial is ‘Yellow Queen.’
White Shrimp Plant
White shrimp plant is a bushy shrub that differs from the red variety in that rather than bent-over bracts, it features flowers that grow upright.
Also, unlike most of the other shrimp plants that thrive in full to partial sun, the white shrimp plants are more shade-loving.
How to Care for Shrimp Plants
Shrimp plants require plenty of sunlight, so they will grow best when planted in a bright location. In regions that experience relatively cool summers, these shrubs can be grown under direct sunlight. In regions where the summer season is considerably hot, it’s better to plant them under partial shade instead. This is because warm weather conditions can easily damage their delicate flowers.
Shrimp plants prefer loamy soil with proper drainage. The pH of the soil should be close to neutral, although they can withstand slightly acidic soil conditions. When growing shrimp plants in your garden, make sure that the soil pH level stays within the range of 6.1 to 7.5.
When it comes to temperature, USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11 offer the ideal conditions for supporting the growth of these shrubs all around the year. However, it is possible to grow shrimp plants in other regions outside these zones. For those living in warm regions, you would have to provide them with proper shade. If you live in a region with extremely cold winters, you can grow shrimp plants in containers so that they can be shifted indoors to avoid frost.
Watering and Feeding
Shrimp plants do not require a lot of moisture. Usually, watering them once or twice a week is sufficient to maintain healthy growth. However, the frequency and amount of water required will vary depending on the overall weather and soil conditions. The general rule of thumb is to water these shrubs whenever the soil gets notably dry. Avoid overwatering as soggy soil can kill the plant.
Using mulch is a good idea as it helps retain moisture. Plus, using the right type of mulch can also improve the overall aesthetic qualities of the shrimp plant.
As far as feeding is concerned, Justicia brandegeeana might need a high-phosphorous liquid fertilizer to boost growth during the spring season. Mix the fertilizer with water and apply once a month.
If you notice yellowing leaves, try feeding the plant on a weekly basis instead. Slow-release pellets are also a good way to feed the plant during the growing season.
Grooming and Maintenance
Shrimp plants can become weak, and ultimately wilt, if they are not trimmed from time to time. Poor pruning makes the plants leggy and robs it of its true beauty. More importantly, dense growth makes the plant prone to pest attacks.
Pruning also induces branching and flowering. Cut off the stem tips and remove all dead bracts to ensure that the plant stays healthy and produces prolific blooms. Heavy pruning is only recommended during the start of the spring season.
Propagation and Repotting
Transplanting is generally not required in the case of shrimp plants, but if you want to move a potted shrimp plant to your lawn or garden, avoid doing so during the winter season.
To grow a shrimp plant, you can use the stem cuttings from mature shrubs. Cut a branch of about 4 inches long and plant it gently in the desired spot. Make sure the soil is moist; otherwise, it will not grow. For the best results, use a rooting mix before planting the cutting in the soil.
Pest and Diseases
Shrimp plants are susceptible to attack from the red spider mites and other common garden pests. Look for these tiny nuisances on the underside of the leaves.
Red spider mites can be treated with miticide spray. However, avoid using insecticides unless absolutely necessary. In most cases, pest attacks are a result of poor plant maintenance. You can also use diluted neem oil for pest control.
Therefore, you might be able to get rid of them by watering and feeding the plant properly, as well as removing all dead leaves and flowers on time.
Design Ideas for Shrimp Plants
Justicia brandegeeana is an exotic plant, and it usually looks best when planted as the highlight of any lawn. It is a must-have for tropical-style gardens and is a fine choice for indoor plants too.
They are popular for hedge plantation and are one of the most sought-after options for patio plants as well.
For a stunning look, plant this shrub near the walkways where its drooping yet gorgeous flower heads can freely nod and sway in the breeze.
You might come across this pretty plant in various spas and similar recreation centers as its distinct shrimp-like bracts provide an impressive view from up close.
Shrimp plants pair well with similar ornamental shrubs such as lantana and tibouchina (commonly known as the Princess Flower). Plant them closely together in bunches for an eye-catching ‘flower fence.’
Whether you plant them in your backyard or bring their beauty indoors, shrimp plants are sure to uplift the aura of your house. These colorful charmers bloom all year round and make for an attractive plant even when grown on its own.
We hope this guide has helped you learn how to grow and care for the shrimp plants.