Justicia brandegeana (Shrimp Plant)

Shrimp plant

 

Justicia brandegeana, formerly known as Beloperone guttata, is an awesome plant to have at home. Just like the name suggest, the flowers, or actually the bracts, are positioned in a way that it looks like a shrimp.

 

Shrimp plant variagated

The actual flowers protrude from the bracts and can be different colors, though usually are white with red markings. The cultivar “fruit cocktail” has yellow bracts and red flowers (not pictured in this article). There are varieties that have yellow bracts, pick-orange bracts or dark red bracts. Some shrimp plants have variegated foliage. They can be grown as a shrub, or trained into a tree.

Darker variety shrimp plant

 

Justicia brandegeana originates from Mexico. It grows to about 3 feet, but can be maintained smaller with pruning. This plant is quite easy to grow. In it’s native environment it likes part shade. In a home it can tolerate lower light, but you will get the best results with higher amounts of light.

Requirements:

Watering needs:

Moderate watering is required. This plant likes to dry out between watering. Justicia brandegeana can be kept evenly moist in the summer, but the rest of the time you should let it dry out to prevent root rot. I have grown this with a hygrolon set up, where the soil moisture is kept almost constant and it seems to like that as well.Shrimp plant

Light:

Shrimp plant in the winterThis plant can tolerate lower light levels, though how well depends on the particular cultivar. It grows and flowers the best at full sun when grown in the north. I have grown this on a north facing garden window, though a normal north facing window will not be sufficient for flowering. East/west and south facing windows will produce the best results. The plant will get leggy with lower light, flower less and the bract color will be paler. Here is a shrimp plant flowering on a north facing garden window in the winter time.

Humidity:

The shrimp plant can tolerate lower humidity level and some neglect, but it will make it more susceptible to spider mites, aphids and mealy bugs.

Soil Type and Fertilizer:

I use generic potting soil, and add extra per-lite to make it lighter and faster draining. This plant is not very fussy about it’s requirements and quite easy to grow. It’s a moderate feeder, and you can use generic fertilizer spring to fall.

Propagation:

The shrimp plant is very easy to propagate though cuttings.

Other Care Tips and Personal Observations: 

Shrimp plantJusticia bandegeana is quite easy to grow, flowers constantly if enough light is provided, and has quite intriguing flowers. I do take it outside in the summer months where it gets 5-6 hours of direct sun. Be sure to slowly accustom your plant to higher light levels to avoid sunburn. Pruning is important for maintaining shape. The plant tends to grow long leggy stems, and likes to flower at the tips of those, so pruning will not only keep the shape and size of the plant good, but will also help with having more flowers. The shrimp plant is very easy and fun to grow :). I highly recommend it!

6 thoughts on “Justicia brandegeana (Shrimp Plant)

  1. Thanks for introducing this interesting plant. I think that I saw this type of plant in my grandmothers house, but I was a little girl at this time. It usually blooms at Christmas time. This plant had bright red flowers all over branches.
    I do not remember that this plant would be outside at summer time. Maybe it is similar to your Shrimp Plant.
    It looks that your mentioned plant is a evergreen shrub, which is from Mexico and can be found in Florida.
    What I like about this plant, that it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. I would like to see how this plant looks in reality.
    Thanks for great read and instructions how to grow this particular Shrimp Plant.
    All the best, happy writing, Nemira.

    1. Hi Nemira,

      Yes it is a great looking plant. This specific one and all its cultivars bloom year round, and most heavily during the summer when there is more light. It’s getting more and more popular and I’ve seen it now and then offered in commercial nurseries. You can almost certainly find it in you local conservatory if you’d like to see in person. They usually keep them as a bush, while you often find the tree trained ones in nurseries.

      All the best,
      Vesi 🙂

  2. Hello their the fist time that I saw these type of plant I worked at a five star hotel. its mind blowing to see how these plants look just like a shrimp . I believe that’s why they are call shrimp plants. They really do remind you of food. Any way nice article

  3. Hi Vesi,

    Interesting. I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen this plant in our area. Either in bright yellow/orange or in pale pink but, I never really knew its name. The ‘petals’ (if I’m not mistaken) resembles much with a bougainvillea. So, it seems that it can also be an indoor plant which will make a very nice decoration. Thanks for sharing this. Next time I’ll know what to call it. =)

    All the best!

    Rocky

    1. Hi Rocky,

      Yes, both this plant and the bougainvilleas have bracts that are very showy, and small not so attractive actual flowers. I am growing both of those indoor and they give me so much joy year round. They are very easy to grow. When I sit down to have coffee and breakfast in the morning it always feels like I am in an outdoor tropical garden. I am always surrounded by blooming plants, even in the coldest, darkest winter days.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Vesi

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