Shrimp Plant Care

How to Care for Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana)


The Shrimp plant, or Justicia brandegeeana, is highly coveted for its iconic flower clusters that closely resemble small crustaceans. The white and red flowers attract both hummingbirds and butterflies.

These small fry are naturally found in parts of Mexico and have since been widely populated in Florida. 

You may have heard these evergreen shrubs be pronounced as the Mexican Shrimp plant or the False Hop.

Regardless of which common name you prefer, this plant is easy to grow and can even accent your home with year-round blooms of pinks, whites, and reds. 

Keeping a Shrimp plant inside your home is relatively simple. But before you jump in head first, we suggest doing your research. Such information should encompass the different needs like temperature, light, water, propagation, and humidity.

To help you succeed, we’ve laid out the ins and outs of helping your Justicia bloom all year. 

 

JUSTICIA BRANDEGEEANA PLANT CARE SHEET

Evergreens, such as the Shrimp plant, are known for being resistant to drought. This is an amazing feature for someone who might be worried about one’s houseplant.

This does not mean that they won’t brown.

To keep your Justicia flowers full and vibrant, we recommend giving our plant care sheet a gander. 

 

Soil

Despite sporting a sea-dweller’s name, this species does not like salty soil. Instead, you’ll have the best results if placing it inside a pot that has sandy soil. Those with loamy soil will find their plants to be quite content.

This type of soil combines elements of clay, sand, silt and other organic matter. 

 

Light

The Mexican Shrimp plant can be kept outdoors during the summer months as long as you keep a close eye on how much sun they’re receiving. These Justicia do need plenty of sunlight, but not when it’s strong.

Light conditions shouldn’t be a great worry as they can handle anywhere from full sun or shade, just as long as it isn’t too intense or direct.  

 

Watering

Producing as many flowers as they do, Justicia brandegeeana does well when given plenty of water. Some plants are picky about how wet the soil can be. Not necessarily for the Shrimp plant.

In fact, you should try to add enough water to completely dampen the soil surrounding the roots. The only time that you’ll want to dial it down a notch is in winter when they don’t need as much moisture.

Another useful tip is to avoid spraying the plant overhead. This will result in the bracts rotting. 

 

Temperature

An important aspect to consider is that this plant is sensitive to frost, which may impact your decision on where to place it amongst your collection. If you live in a colder area, it might be best to keep it indoors.

They generally prefer a room that is between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius. Be careful to not let the temperature drop below 12 degrees Celsius and you’ll be fine.

If doable, also allow your Shrimp plant to have plenty of fresh air, which will promote healthy growth. 

 

Humidity

This evergreen bush is native to the tropical forests of Mexico, thus hinting that it would need a fair amount of humidity to thrive. The typical humidity for a Shrimp houseplant should be around 40 percent.

There are a few ways in which you can make sure to provide the correct level. A common favorite, and possibly the most efficient, are humidifiers. You can also spray the leaves to add your own humidity. 

 

Fertilizer

In order to get those lovely blooms, a regular feeding schedule should be implemented between the winter and autumn months. You should give thee plants fertilizer every two weeks with a commonly found liquid fertilizer.

It is recommended to slow down or cancel your fertilization use in other months, as growth can be too quick. 

 

Propagation

You can get a new individual quite easily. Shrimp plants are typically propagated through stem cuttings or division. Unsure of how successful you can be? Don’t worry. These Justicia are pretty easy! We will have more detailed instructions that you can follow later on in the article.

 

Growth

Depending on where you choose to place them, the Shrimp plant can range in how tall it gets. Those living in a tropical setting can grow five feet tall, though it takes a while for them to reach this height.

If you nurture them in a pot, then you’ll find that they tend to not exceed over two feet. 

 

Potting

Many homeowners think that the Shrimp plant adds a beautiful tropical touch to their home. Growing this flora indoors is beneficial since they don’t handle cold weather as well as other plants.

You should repot them every year to avoid the roots from becoming too cramped. Simply add a new layer of soil to the top and they’ll be quite content. 

 

KEEPING YOUR SHRIMP PLANT AS HAPPY AS A FISH UNDER THE SEA

One of the most recognizable features about the Shrimp plant is its ability to grow the iconic flower-like bracts.

In order to keep your Justicia blooming year-round, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the water levels.

Although not truly from the ocean, the Shrimp plant favors a good amount of water. 

 

THE INTRICACIES TO WATERING YOUR JUSTICIA BRANDEGEEANA

The first pointer that we can give about a Shrimp plant is that you never want to let it dry out all the way. Some plants require a complete reboot where water is added after the roots are dry.

This does not work for the Shrimp plant. You’ll want to keep the soil relatively damp, especially in the winter months. 

In terms of a routine, most Justicia owners would highly suggest that you water about once or twice a week for the warmer times of the year. You’ll want to increase this schedule in the winter where the soil must stay damp. 

 

TRICKS OF THE WATER TRADE

It is far worse for a Shrimp plant to be given too little water since this will heavily stunt any growth. Even so, you’ll want to also try to avoid overwatering. Knowing when you’ve given your plant too much water can prevent root rot. 

The trick for giving your Justicia the right amount of water is to evenly saturate the soil until the roots can get enough moisture. This will typically be about six inches of soil. If you decide to add liquid plant food, you can cut back on the amount of water that you use. 

One final note is to try to avoid watering your plant from overhead, especially when it is in flower. It may sound odd, but overhead spraying causes the bracts to rot, halting all growth. 

 

WHY AND HOW YOU SHOULD YOU PROPAGATE YOUR JUSTICIA

To save yourself the trouble, we have compared the different ways in which you can propagate a Shrimp plant. We found stem cuttings to be among the easiest methods. You can also choose to make new individuals through divisions. 

Before you go through with either method, we urge you to use clean, sharp scissors to avoid any hassle later on. 

 

STEM CUTTING PROPAGATION STEPS

 

  1. To begin propagation through stem cuttings, you’ll want to choose a healthy individual.
  2. Make several cuts directly below the leaf, about three to five inches in length. There needs to be at least two present leaves remaining on the stem. 
  3. Take the stem and carefully take away any of the leaves located on the lower half.
  4. The newly cut stems will then be planted in a container with new soil, the open end dipped in the soil. 
  5. Lightly mist the soil so that it becomes damp and then place the stem cutting and the pot into a sealable bag. 
  6. Choose a spot that gets bright, indirect sunlight and keep the soil slightly damp with occasional misting sessions. 
  7. Once you notice roots start to appear, remove the plastic bag and transplant the individuals into a larger container.

 

DIVISION PROPAGATION STEPS

 

  1. Choose a Shrimp plant that has outgrown its pot and needs to be replanted. 
  2. Carefully remove the plant from its current pot. 
  3. Divide the parent plant into two or three individuals by separating the roots. 
  4. Repot the newly divided Shrimp plants into pots with fresh soil. 
  5. Continue to keep the plant moist and place in an area with plenty of sunshine, being careful not to overexpose them to bright or direct light. 

 

THE PERFECT PRUNING TECHNIQUE FOR THE SHRIMP PLANT

The purpose of pruning a plant is to keep it healthy. Many also choose to cut back their household foliage because it simply looks good.

Some species are trickier to prune, becoming brown or dried out when too much is taken away. The Shrimp plant actually relies on routine pruning in order to stay healthy. So, how does one exactly go about doing this?

The best way to start pruning is to make sure that you have the right tools. We suggest that you invest in a good shearing tool if you don’t have one already. Keeping it sharp and sanitized is also key. Look over your plant, starting at the outer regions.

Make small cuts to the outermost stems, leaving the stems at the center of the plant, as they need to be the longest. This is where the natural growth occurs, so it’s best to leave these areas alone.

If you notice any dead flowers or dead stems, take them out. 

 

SIGNS THAT YOU SHOULD PRUNE YOUR SHRIMP PLANT

The most obvious signs that your Shrimp plant may need a good trim is when it becomes what’s known as “leggy”. This is where the stems start to grow out much longer than the rest of the plant. 

The typical Justicia will need to be pruned about once a year. Of course, any damaged or dead parts of the plant can be removed long before then. The goal of pruning is to encourage the plant to bloom. This can only be done if the plant is healthy. 

 

THE TOP 2 SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN A STRUGGLING SHRIMP PLANT

Fortunately, the Shrimp plant is an easy-keeper. This does not mean that there can be problems. Even if you’re extremely diligent, you may find some problems due to a deficiency.

To help you be prepared, we’ve listed the more common ailments that Shrimp plant owners see, and how to solve the issue before it gets bad. 

 

Telltale Sign #1: Yellowing leaves

 

Cause: This sudden change in color usually indicates that the plant has not had enough water. 

 

Remedy: The yellowing of leaves can be easily fixed. Simply wait a few days to water your Shrimp plant and adjust your watering routine until you find the right schedule. 

 

Telltale Sign #2: Leaves start to drop or hang down

 

Cause: Those who notice their Shrimp plant’s leaves start to exhibit this behavior should keep in mind that it can be caused by either dry conditions, or if the plant is too cold. 

 

Remedy: Moving your plant to a location that gets more sunlight may be a good start. If that doesn’t work, try watering more frequently. 

 

5 TACTICS TO GIVE YOUR SHRIMP PLANT THE BEST CHANCE

We know that you may be a bit overwhelmed. Not everyone has the green thumb and learning to care for flora can be a lot of information to take in all at once.

The following section is a personalized “cheat sheet” for any Shrimp plant owner that wants to have the basics down to ensure that their plant stays healthy. 

  1. Keep your plant moist through weekly watering sessions, being sure not spray overhead.
  2. Place these individuals in a room that is exposed to bright sunlight with no sudden dips in temperature.
  3. Make a point to cut down any damaged or dead parts at least once a year.
  4. Repot your Shrimp plant every spring in order to avoid the cramping of the roots.
  5. Use standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the winter and autumn months to aid in the growth of your plant.

 

SHRIMP PLANT FAQ

 

Are Shrimp plants poisonous to dogs?

These plants are not reported as toxic. If you see your animal or small child eating this plant, watch them closely for any adverse effects. 

 

Is the Shrimp plant perennial?

Justicia are in fact a tropical perennial that bloom year-round. 

 

Is the Shrimp plant invasive? 

These plants are considered to be both invasive and a weed. Naturally found in Mexico, these plants have been naturalized in Florida. The shrimp-like bracts and blooms are too compelling to avoid.

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