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Shrimp Plant Delights

This article was first published on 19 Aug 2016.

Justicia brandegeeana

Justicia brandegeeana

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

When you look at the flower structure little explanation is required as to how Justicia brandegeeana gets its common name, the shrimp plant.

Native to Mexico but naturalised in parts of Florida this tough little shrub is well suited to being a container plant and can flower all year round if it’s growing happily.  Only reaching a height of about 1 metre, but smaller in containers, this soft stemmed shrub is fairly open with a slightly weeping habit due to the large flower heads.  The latter are sequences of tubular white flowers each enclosed by reddish coloured bracts with a lighter tip. This causes the blooms to resemble highly stylized shrimp.

The shrimp plant needs bright light. Full sun or part shade is suitable but flowers will fade out more in full sun.  Water when actively growing during the summer months and keep a little drier in the winter months.  Plants can withstand long periods in very dry conditions.  Pinch out the growing tips regularly to keep the plant bushy and compact or prune back to maintain form and reduce the size.

Stem cuttings readily take with the aid of a little bottom heat but finding stems without flowers to propagate from can often be difficult.  Established plants may layer where stems meet the soil.

Justicia brandegeeana can be seen growing in the central house of the winter garden glasshouse situated in the lower botanic garden.

Stephen Bishop is curator of the winter garden glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden.