Shrimp Plant – Justicia brandegeana

Shrimp Plant, native to Mexico, is a small evergreen shrub easy to grow as a house plant. Its flowers are carried over a long period and are attractively coloured. For many years its botanical name was Beloperone guttata. You may still find it listed as such in some nurseries and in some books. It has small, soft and slightly hairy oval-shaped bright green leaves and slightly woody stems.

Flowers and flowering

The most attractive feature of this plant is its showy shrimp- or prawn-shaped bracts that surround the small, true white flowers. The bracts are a red-orange colour, almost the colour of a shrimp.

The greenish-yellow bracts of the variety ‘Alba’ contrast with the strong colours of the ordinary Shrimp Plant.

White tubular flowers appear in succession along the flowerhead, between the bracts.

The stems of the Shrimp Plant get leggy after a while so cut them back fairly hard in spring, to keep a compact bushy shape. The plant will reach 30-38cm (12-15in) in about two years.

Display ideasShrimp Plant - Justicia brandegeana

The flowers of this plant are unusual in shape and texture and look best in simple and natural containers.


1. Take tip cuttings in spring or early summer during the annual prune. This encourages new growth and a bushy shape.

2. Cuttings should be 5-8cm (2-3in) Ion

3. Remove any flower-heads that may be on the cuttings and snip off the lower pair of leaves.

4. Plant 3 or 4 cuttings together in a pot filled with a mixture of equal parts of peat and sand or Perlite.

5. Cover the pot with polythene. Keep in a warm place in bright filtered light.

6. When new growth starts, transfer to a soil-based compost with added peat. Pinch out tips from time to time.

Plant Problems

Blackening flower-heads occur when bracts are attacked by fungus, caused by the bract getting wet.

Treatment: Nip off the blackened bract and destroy it. In future, be careful not to get water on the bracts.

Pale and dull-looking flowerheads indicate lack of light.

Treatment: Move to a brighter spot.

Loose straggly growth is due to too much warmth or too little light. Treatment: Move the plant to a cooler or lighter position.


Shrimp Plant is very easy to care for and will provide you with flowers for most of the year. Prune it back severely if it becomes too leggy. Replace it when the basal stems get woody.

  • Potting: Use a well-draining potting compost incorporating loam, coarse peat, grit or Perlite. Move the plants into a pot the next size up when they become pot-bound.
  • Water moderately throughout the year, allowing some drying out of the compost between applications. Shrimp Plant needs a good level of humidity, so stand the plant on a tray of moist pebbles. Avoid misting as this can blacken the flowerheads.
  • Feeding: Use a liquid fertilizer every two weeks from March to September. If flowering in winter feed once a month.


  • Light: For flowerheads with good bright colour give this plant bright filtered light, but avoid placing it in direct hot summer sun. In winter direct sunshine will not harm it and will probably encourage winter flowers.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures will suit it during the summer. In winter ensure that the minimum temperature is 13°C (55°F).

The true flowers of the Shrimp Plant are long, white and tubular. They are surrounded by the coopers, bracts.

When to buy

  • Buy Shrimp Plants in spring or summer from garden centres and some supermarkets.
  • Choose low-growing plants with some flowerheads already showing. A pot with several plants grown together will make for a better display.
  • They last for several years but after about 3 years become a bit straggly. Renew them with plants grown from cuttings.

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