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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
The shrimp plant is very easy to propagate though cuttings.
Other Care Tips and Personal Observations:
Justicia 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!