Justicia carnea [jus-TEE-see-ah, KAR-nee-uh] is popularly known as the Brazilian Plume Flower. It is also known as Jacobinia carnea, and is a part of the Acanthaceae family along with the Aphelandra squarrosa (Zebra plant) and Crossandra.
This flowering plant is a perennial native to the Atlantic Forest eco-regions in eastern Brazil.
Justicia carnea is commonly cultivated and grown as an ornamental potted plant. The unique flower clusters and bright coloring has made it a popular choice among landscape artists and amateur gardeners as well.
The plant has various other common names including:
- Flamingo flower
Back in the day, the flower was boiled and used to solve anemia problems.
The resultant liquid would turn crimson red.
This lends the plant some interesting names such as “Blood of Jesus” and “Hospital too far”.
Justicia Carnea Plume Flower Care
Size & Growth
In its native habitat, the Justicia carnea plant grows upright and may reach a height of 3’ – 5’ feet tall.
The spread is equally glorious and can take up 12” – 15” inches of space.
The plant produces dark green leaves around 8” inches in length.
Whether added in garden beds or pots, the plant adds a colorful tropical touch and are easy to grow.
Flowering and Fragrance
The unique and beautiful tubular flowers of Justicia carnea are the highlight of the plant.
The perennial plant puts on a never-ending show of radiant flowers from early spring to fall. The plume flowers grow atop a crown of foliage in large dense clusters.
They range in colors such as red, orange, mauve, magenta, apricot, and pink.
The spectacular rosy plumes of the flamingo colored flower are distinctive and attract hummingbirds for pollinator gardens. The flowers are slightly fragrant and mostly sterile.
Light & Temperature
The Brazilian-Plume is native to mainly tropical areas in South America, meaning it thrives in warm and slightly humid climates.
The plant is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 8b through 11.
It does not tolerate low temperatures at all. This is why you should avoid potting them if you live in colder areas.
In the summer, temperatures above 77° degrees Fahrenheit (25° C) are perfect.
In the winter, temperatures between 60° – 64° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 18° C) are ideal.
In some areas, the plant may tolerate temperatures as low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).
As for light exposure, keep the plant away from the full sun.
Part shade is the ideal growing condition for Brazilian-plumes.
Water Needs and Feeding
Tropical habitats mean constant moisture.
During the growing season, the plant should be watered thoroughly with room temperature water.
Be careful about the moisture in the soil, avoiding letting it dry completely. When the Jacobinians are newly planted, water them daily for a few weeks.
Once the roots have established, adjust watering to three to five days apart.
In winter, you might have to spray the leaves with water, especially if the air is dry.
When it comes to fertilizing, an NPK balance of 5-10-5 will work well, encouraging blooming and strong growth.
Use liquid fertilizers, slow-release or granulated formulas. Make sure to follow the package instructions carefully.
Too much fertilizer is damaging for your plant. The package will tell you exactly how, when, and how much feed to use.
Soil & Transplanting
These tropical plants are not very fussy about soil. They can easily tolerate acidic to slightly alkaline sandy, loamy, and clay soils.
Two of the most important soil considerations include fertility and drainage.
Rich, well-drained soil retaining ample moisture is the perfect home for Brazilian plume flowers.
The plant is transplanted in the spring. Prepare the existing soil by breaking it up with a spade or hoe.
Add organic matter or compost in the soil and place the plant.
Backfill the soil gently, filling the empty space around the root ball and then press it down with your hands.
Grooming and Maintenance
While not necessary, prune the plants freely to maintain the desired shape and size.
Pinch Justicia carnea plants back after they’ve flowered. This encourages better flowering and bushier and denser new growth.
Also, remove old flowers to keep the plant healthy. This also helps prevent self-seeding, which normally takes up a lot of the plant’s energy at the expense of flowering.
How to Propagate Flamingo Flower
Brazilian-plume flowers are best propagated from softwood cuttings.
- The cuttings are taken from the parent plant in the spring after the plant has bloomed.
- The cuttings should be placed in individuals pots and put under glass or shaded location, away from direct sunlight.
- For a few weeks, the cutting should be watered every day to promote root development.
- Feed the soil when the cutting is new to encourage better growth.
The plants cannot be propagated with seeds.
Justicia Carnea Pest or Diseases
Luckily, the unique flowers of Jacobinia carnea and its foliage are free from major pest and disease concerns.
However, watch out for nematodes and spider mites.
Caterpillars may be an occasional problem, chewing down on some of the foliage.
This is not a big concern as it won’t kill the plant and you will find a solution at your local gardening center.
There may be some problems if the air is too dry in winter.
It creates the perfect environment for aphids and dried sod.
Prevent this by spraying the leaves with water.
Brazilian Plume Flower Uses
The very tropical looking Brazilian plume with its bright inflorescence is definitely a unique addition to gardens.
The shrubby habit of the plant is well-suited for both containers and outside planting.
They look terrific in properly shaded outside areas such as porches, patios, driveways, and entryways.
The plant looks great along garden borders and near building foundations.
Pot the specimen and bring it indoors to add a bright touch of color to your interiors.