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How to Grow Shrimp Plant — Justicia

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Justicia is a tropical shrub that bears tubular, two-lipped flowers surrounded by bracts. Flowers appear in spikes or panicles. Justicia has lance- to oval-shaped leaves. Plants grow from 12 inches (30cm) t 5 feet (1.5m) tall depending on the variety.

Justicia can be planted in mixed borders in tropical regions, Where temperatures are cool in winter, Justicia is grown as a houseplant. Two species, Justicia brandegeana and J. carnea, are most commonly cultivated.

Justicia is a genus of about 420 species of evergreen perennials and shrubs. Justicia is native to a wide range of tropical regions worldwide.

Get to know Justicia

  • Plant type: Tropical evergreen perennials and shrubs
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 14-15
  • Hardiness: Tender; where temperatures fall below 45°F (7°C) grow as a houseplant
  • Height and width: 12 inches to 5 feet (30cm-1.5m) tall and 24 inches (60cm) to 4 feet (1.2m) wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Ovate to elliptic leaves, often boldly veined
  • Flowers: Slender, tubular flowers which have narrow, arching lips and conspiculous bracts
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Uses: Mixed border in tropical regions; houseplant
  • Common name: Shrimp bush, shrimp plant, plume flower
  • Botanical name: Justicia
  • Family name: Acanthaceae
  • Origin: Tropical and subtropical regions worldwide
Brazilian plume flower, Justicia carnea
Brazilian plume flower, Justicia carnea

Where to plant Justicia

  • Light outdoors: Grow Justicia in partial shade.
  • Light indoors: Grow in bright filtered light.
  • Soil outdoors: Oudoors grow Justicia in fertile, moist, but well-drained soil.
  • Soil indoors: Use a soil-based potting mix.

When to plant Justicia

  • Set container-grown Justicia outdoors any time of the year in tropical regions.

Planting and spacing Justicia

  • Space Justicia 24 inches (60cm) to 4 feet (1.2m) apart.

How to water and feed Justicia

  • Water Justicia freely during the growing season; in winter, keep the soil just moist.
  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks.

Justicia care

  • Tip prune young Justicia plants to promote bushiness.

Growing Justicia as a houseplant

  • Grow Justicia in a warm room with brigtht light and high humidity.
  • The growing medium should be rich, soilless, and evenly moist.
  • If a plant ceases to flower in witer, allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.
  • Fertilize every two weeks in spring and summer.
  • In spring, cut the planc back by half, and occasionally pinch out growing tips to keep the plant compact.

Justicia pests and diseases

  • Whiteflies and spider mites can be a problem indoors.
  • Bacterial and fungal leaf spots and rust may occur.

Justicia propagation

  • Sow seed in spring.
  • Root softwood or semi-ripe cutting with bottom heat from late spring to midsummer.

Justicia varieties to grow

  • Justicia brandegeana, shrimp plant. Grows to 36 inches tall and nearly as wide; has weak stems; leaves are oval, soft, hairy and 3-inches long; flowers bloom in drooping, 6 inch spikes at the ends of stems; flowers are whtie; the lower lip is spoted in red and overalpped by heart-shaped pink, golden bronze, or yellow-green bracts that look like the shells of shrimp. Cultivar ‘Yellow Queen’ has buttery yellow bracts.
  • J. carnea, Brazilian plume flower. Can grow to 6 feet in tropical region, half that indoors; oval to oblong 4 to 8 inch leaves with prominent veins; flowers are rose-pink to purple and surrounded by white to pink bacts; blooms throughout the year in dense 6 inche spikes at the ends of stems.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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