Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

A Yellow Gem

I found this little gem by its lonesome on a shelf in the corner of an itty bitty hardware store mixed amongst some fuchsia and coleus. It immediately caught my eye with its upright stature and brilliantly colored flower. I’d seen similar plants in different colors elsewhere and knew them as Justicia brandegeana. The store owner told me it was called Shrimp Plant. I had also seen them more costly, so I quickly snapped it up without a second look and was happy to be taking mine to its new home.

As I ceremoniously carried him to his new home I noticed the tag with the care instructions, and then I noticed the scientific name…Pachystachys lutea. It certainly looked very similar. They are both in the same plant family Acanthaceae. The confusion came in because both are called Shrimp Plant. Because of the way the bracts are aligned and the actual flowers protrude, it makes it appear as a shrimp, hence the common name, Shrimp Plant, even more so if you come across a salmon colored variety of the brandegeana.

My new friend, the Pachystachys actually is native to Peru which makes them well tolerable of the heat; however they are actually shade plants. It would be great to see several of these blooming in some of the dark corners of my yard. Right now it is doing well in its original pot in the bright light of the fall sun but in the shade of my backyard awning. They can grow up to 5 feet tall in optimal conditions (the shrimp) can eventually get up to 7 inches.  They can be propagated by stem cuttings and will keep their bushy habit with regular trimming. It usually blooms from spring through fall however can bloom all year if kept indoors in the cold seasons.

It does like to be watered every other day and when I’ve let it go more and it begins to droop, a good soaking and he’s standing upright within a few hours. They definitely attract hummingbirds as I’ve been “hummed” by an impatient one or two while I’ve been tending to it and the surrounding area. In the winter I plan to bring my Shrimp Plant indoors to avoid the cold and let it dwell happily as a houseplant and return him to the outdoors in the warmer weather.

Pachystachys lutea. (photos by Patricia Brantley)
Pachystachys lutea. (photos by Patricia Brantley)

Pachystachys lutea up close.
Pachystachys lutea up close.

Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 8:47 AM

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