How To Care For A Shrimp Plant

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Question: On a trip to Disney World we saw a landscape bed of “Golden Shrimp Plant”, can the plant be grown indoors and will it flower? Or should it be used outside in sun on a patio or deck area?

The display at Disney as a landscape plant was lovely… but everything looks great there! Alicia, Rome NY

Answer: Growing plants indoors does not need be confined merely to old stand-bys. They can may also include exciting variations, such as the showy flowered “Shrimp Plant” – also the name (yellow) Beloperone guttata or Justicia brandegeana (salmon-red).

Due to its habit of winter-long blooming, the golden yellow shrimp plant, as it is more commonly known, can be grown as a houseplant during the winter and equally pleasing for bedding purposes in the summer season.

Shrimp Plants – How To Grow and Care

Beloperone (be-loh-pe’-roh-nee) guttata native to Mexico and grown less frequently than it deserves.

It is used sometimes in Southern USDA Zones in landscape beds as a ground cover, where the flowers attract hummingbirds, but in Northern sections it is grown as a house plant.

shrimp-plant-red

From the Acanthaceae family, related to the Acanthus, though much more slender, its arching, tubular, 2-lipped flowers on long curving spikes flower heads, with yellow or salmon colored or brick-red overlapping bracts look like a prawn or shrimp, earning the plant its common name – shrimp plant.

Growing 18 inches tall the plant requires a rich, well-drained soil and delights in full sunshine and considerable warmth. Shade reduces blooms and allows the green stem on plants to stretch. It is propagated by cuttings or by seed, although it is difficult to raise from seed.

Grown For Its Flowers

The “shrimp” is grown primarily for its flower heads producing a profusion of overlapping floral bracts, tipped with small white flowers with purple-spots, each having two slender petals and long yellow stamens, amid bright green leaves.

The chief effect is made by the long-lasting, unique flower bracts. The flowers last only a few days but the flower heads last for a long period of time. This makes the plant to appear in bloom all year round.

Pruning The Shrimp

Pruning the shrimp plant will help keep plants bushy and low. The best time for a good pruning, a heavy pruning is in early spring. Remove dead flowers and stems to keep the plant more of a compact bush form.

If allowed to “grow wild” and with age, plants can get ragged looking, leggy, gangly and weak.

This can be handled by pinching back the tops to induce branching, and with several pinchings very fine specimens may be had.

Winter / Summer Care

During winter the shrimp plant likes lots of sunlight. It will do well in sunny east, south or west windows.

shrimp-plant

It should be given plenty of water when flowering, and good drainage is absolutely necessary. It likes a warm, moist temperature which should not be lower than 55 degrees.

In summer your “shrimp” can enjoy a vacation in the garden and continue to bloom. You may sink it, pot and all to the rim, in a sunny location.

From time to time the pot should be rotated so roots will not go through the drainage hole and become embedded in the soil. Because of the restricted root system, the plant cannot be entirely forgotten but will need more frequent waterings than plants growing in the ground.

In the fall, take up the pot, cut the plant back and repot it. Or perhaps you will have a supply of new plants and will not care to over-winter the old one. However, it will continue to bloom for several years.

Propagation

New plants are be easily propagated by stem cuttings at almost any time of the year. The average cutting should be about five inches long, made with a slanting cut just below a leaf bud or node, drip in a rooting hormone powder.

Place 3 to 5 cuttings in a 4 inch pot using a potting mixture such as a 50-50 mixture of sand or perlite and peat moss, which is excellent for rooting.

Insert the cuttings into the moist soil, place the cuttings in the shade and kept moist until well rooted. When ready for repotting, the plant can be planted into a six-inch pot, which will be ample size for its full growth.

Plants rooted in summer with the tips pinched out will promote a bushy plant with more flowers, producing nice plant specimens for winter use.

If you take the plant inside that has been outdoors during the summer, check the plant over good for insects.

To remove plant pests, wash with a gentle spray from a hose, making certain that the underside, as well as top of leaves, is washed with water. Clean the outside and bottom of the pot. If insects are still visible, spray with a mild insecticide solution.

Plant lice seem to like the shrimp plant, but can be controlled by spraying with malathion or neem oil for plants.

Almost invariably the best side of a plant is that which is toward the light, and this is noticeably true of the shrimp plant. For best result’s in keeping a potted plant uniform in shape in a window, is by turning the pot 180 degrees about once a week.

Problems and Pests

Leggy Plants – Constantly pinch and prune, start new plants from cuttings.

Pale Leaves – Usually the plant is lacking food.

Drap or Pale Flower Heads – Plants need more light, move to a brighter location.

Yellow Leaves – Often a sign of over-watering OR Look for red spider mite if the soil is dry.

Earning its name from the graceful flower heads, this easy to care for and grow evergreen plant displays blooms in mass making it a part of any year round color option.

Image: Salmon Red source

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