Shrimp Plant or Justicia brandegeeana: A spectacular tropical plant for pots and flower beds
The tropical Shrimp Plant or Justicia brandegeeana is an excellent choice for planting in flower beds as well as pots and without special care, it can really become a natural “ornament” in gardens and balconies.
Perennial and evergreen shrub native to the tropics of Central America includes two main species:
The species Justicia brandegeeana originating from Mexico with reddish hues and grow up to one meter and the species Pachystachys lutea originating from Peru, bright yellow in color and height that can exceed two meters.
The two species include hundreds of sub-varieties between them and numerous hybrids with bracts in various intense shades.
The name Shrimp Plant is due to the appearance of a shrimp a small bifurcated white flower, surrounded by bracts (transformed leaves) in red or yellow shades.
The height of the plant in the most common varieties ranges from 60cm to 1.50 meters with lateral growth of about 90cm
The slender stems develop strong branching and the oval leaves are dark green in color and grow in clusters, varying in size depending on the variety.
It is suitable for individual plantings mainly in semi-shaded flower beds, as a central plant in protected entrance flower beds but also for cultivation in planting containers in gardens and balconies, where it can also be combined with other green or flowering species or grow in tree form with continuous removal of the low shoots.
Soil: Without having special requirements, it prefers calcareous soils and its soil should have good drainage.
Position: Belongs to the species cultivated in semi-shade conditions. It should receive enough morning or afternoon sun but be protected from continuous radiation, especially during the summer.
Exposing it to the sun more than it needs results in the discoloration of the leaf bracts, which turn white, while white spots are also created on its green leaves.
Strong air, hot or cold, also does not favor its growth.
It is resistant to high temperatures but not too extreme cold. During the winter, if temperatures below 10°C persist for a long time, it should be protected with the special antifreeze fabric for plants or moved indoors.
Watering: It needs enough moisture, like most tropical species.
It should be watered 2-3 times a week during spring or arid autumn, while during the hot periods of summer, it needs watering every 2 days, depending of course on the prevailing weather conditions.
Leaf drop is the most common indication that the Shrimp needs more water.
Pruning: As the plant grows in height, its foliage thins out, and in order to maintain its beautiful appearance and compact shape, it requires systematic annual pruning, during which approximately half of the length of the shoots is removed. The most suitable time for its pruning is immediately after the end of flowering or early spring when the temperatures have returned to normal levels.
The removal of withered flowers, throughout the flowering period, also favors the creation of new ones.
Fertilization: Like all species with a prolonged flowering period, the Shrimp needs fertilization to keep it healthy.
Use a small amount of liquid enhancer for flowering plants every 2-3 weeks from the beginning of spring to the beginning of autumn, avoiding fertilization during periods of summer when temperatures are particularly high.
Shrimp Plant or Justicia brandegeeana blooms in early summer and often has another bloom in early fall.
The flowers last for many weeks and the bracts that enclose them have a white hue at the beginning of their formation which then changes to reddish or yellow, depending on the species.
It is propagated by seeds, but it takes more than 6-8 weeks to germinate, which is why cuttings or division of the roots, in the spring, are the most convenient ways.
In nurseries, you will find Shrimp in various varieties to add this very beautiful tropical plant to your garden or balcony.