There are two tropical plants that go by the name of shrimp plant and are fairly easy to find. They’re still considered sort of oddities, because of their unique bloomage. The two most popular are the Pink or Red Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) and the Yellow Shrimp plant or Lollipop plant (Pachystachys lutea). It is so surprising to me that these two very similar plants do not share the same genus, but their genera are in the same family (Acanthaceae). When I was in Hawaii, there were yellow shrimp plants that were growing in hedges about 6 feet tall and about 8 feet wide! Very cool.
As you can see, the Yellow Shrimp plants are more woody than the other shrimp plants. Even my small Yellow Shrimp plant (pictured below) is much woodier than my other shrimp plants of similar size. So, there are noticeable differences between the shrimp plants of these two different genera. Also, the leaves of the Yellow Shrimp plant are darker green, more glossy and more deeply veined.
I have started a collection of shrimp plants, including five different varieties. All of them are from the Justicia genus, except for the yellow shrimp plant. The Justicia genus has several other cool tropical plants that can be container grown, such as the Brazilian Plume (J. carnea), the Firecracker Plant (J. spicigera), and Purple Shrimp Plant (J. scheidweileri). Each of these plants differs pretty substantially from the other Shrimp plants that are in my collection.
One species that I have in my collection came from Hawaii, where I saw it growing in the wild, not far from the beach. It is the White Shrimp plant, also called the Squirrel’s Tail (Justicia betonica). This is probably the rarest of my shrimp plants, in terms of being raised in a container. The plants that I saw blooming in Hawaii were the only thing growing in a large shady area and all of the blooming tops were about 4 to 5 feet tall. I’m not sure how likely mine is to bloom in a crowded container, but the plant has been growing well over the past two months.
Another cool shrimp plant in my collection is the Mexican Plume (J. fulvicoma), which I got from the Bustani Plant Farm. I just noticed yesterday that it has begun to bloom. The usual bracts that are so recognizable among shrimp plants are green for this plant and the actual tubular flowers that come out of the bracts are brightly colored in orange and yellow.
The last of my five varieties is a cultivar called “Fruit Cocktail” (J. brandegeana ‘Fruit Cocktail’). This one has more yellow-green bracts, with pink tubular flowers. Mine was blooming when I purchased it, but I forgot to get a picture and now it is out of bloom.
Soon I’ll have to add a Purple Shrimp Plant. They are a very fun plant to collect and really easy to care for during our long, hot summers. They enjoy being in full sun, as long as they are watered about once a week. The White Shrimp Plant is more sensitive to light and would prefer a shadier location. I have my pot of four different shrimp plants in a semi-shady location and have to keep an eye on the leaves of the White Shrimp plant, which wilt more easily.
Which shrimp plants do you grow?