Guest Column

Kathy’s Gardening Guide: Shrimp Plants


The Shrimp Plant, or Justicia Brandegeeana, is also known as the Mexican Shrimp Plant or “false hop.” Native Americans believed Shrimp Plants provided protection from enemies, particularly during wartime. Shrimp Plants have been used in ceremonies in Caribbean and South American countries. Today, early research suggests that chemicals in these plants may have medicinal uses. Although Shrimp Plants are native to Mexico, these tropical beauties grow well in Florida.

A Shrimp Plant has green, oval leaves and can grow to be 2 to 6 feet tall. They are available as shrubs or standards (a “lollipop” shaped form similar to a small tree with a bare trunk and round ball of leaves and blooms at the top). Shrimp Plants love the heat but need regular watering! They may tolerate a bit of shade but prefer areas of full sun for best growth. Light pruning will remove long stems to prevent them from sagging and keep the plant looking full.

Shrimp Plants earn their name from the elongated shape of their flower, resembling shrimp in the sea! They feature drooping blooms in pink, purple, and white and are closely related to the Golden Shrimp Plant with yellow blossoms. The blooms of a Shrimp Plant grow from “bracts” at the end of a stem. The bracts are initially white but turn pink with exposure to sunlight. Bracts continue to grow in a chain-like pattern until they fall off, reaching anywhere from a few centimeters to almost a foot in length!

Shrimp Plants give off a “shrimpy” smell to attract pollinators to small white flowers growing out of the bracts.

Once Shrimp Plants begin to bloom, they will produce flowers continuously throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In our north Florida area (planting zone 9), the plants will lose their leaves in the cooler months of the year but come back the following spring.

Because of their constant colorful blooms, Shrimp Plants are an excellent choice for any sunny location in a landscape. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard, so place them where you can watch for these fluttering visitors!

Happy planting!

Flower of the Week: Golden Shrimp Plant

Please email Kathy at for any questions or gardening tips you would like to see in the future. For more information & ideas, visit Kathy’s Creative Gardens & Nursery, 196 N. Roscoe Blvd. The phone number is 904-655-7373.