Native to Mexico, Justicia brandegeeana [jus-TEE-see-ah, bran-dij-ee-AN-uh] is an evergreen shrub and part of the family Acanthaceae of plants that include:
Justicia brandegeeana produces white flowers extending from red bracts resembling shrimp.
Thanks to the shrimp-like appearance of the flowers and bracts, it goes by several common names:
- Mexican shrimp plant
- Shrimp plant
- Shrimp flower
It’s a relatively low-maintenance plant and may last for 10 to 20 years when properly cared for.
Justicia Brandegeeana Care
Size and Growth
The Mexican shrimp plant can reach up to 3′ feet tall with spindly branches covered in oval-shaped leaves.
The spread is often about equal to the height.
After it exceeds 2′ feet, the foliage becomes less dense.
The green leaves typically measure about 1.5″ to 3″ inches and grow in clusters toward the ends of the branches.
With optimal sun, the leaves start to develop speckles of white.
Flowering and Fragrance
This plant blooms twice per year, starting in the summer.
It produces white bracts slowly growing and changing color throughout the bloom.
The bracts start white and gradually turn pale pink to deep red or salmon.
The long, white flowers grow from the bracts and feature speckles of red near the throats.
The flowers and bracts last for several months before a short period of rest and a second bloom.
The flowers have a slight fragrance and tend to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Light and Temperature
Justicia brandegeeana grows best in the shade in humid, tropical areas such as its native regions in Mexico and the southwest parts of North America.
In less humid areas, it requires more sunlight.
The sun helps bring out the colors in the bracts and leaves.
Too much sun bleaches the colors.
It’s winter hardy to USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.
The roots may survive in USDA zone 8 if protected from freezing temperatures with a layer of mulch.
In cooler regions, grow the plant indoors behind glass.
It should receive moderate sun throughout the day.
If placed outside in a cool region, bring it indoors for the winter.
It cannot survive temperatures below 45° degrees Fahrenheit (7° C).
Watering and Feeding
The Mexican shrimp plant is drought-tolerant and low maintenance.
Water it occasionally throughout the summer and fall.
During the winter, it only needs water when the leaves start to droop.
Fertilizer isn’t needed at any time of the year.
Soil and Transplanting
Grow the plant in well-drained sandy or loamy soil.
Transplanting isn’t necessary for mature plants.
However, younger plants may occasionally need a larger pot as the root system grows.
Transplant in the spring before moving the plant back outdoors.
The Mexican shrimp plant needs grooming to maintain its shape.
As the branches grow, it becomes spindlier, and the branches may not support themselves.
To maintain a denser shrub, trim it back after the end of the flowering period each year.
Keep it to about 24″ inches or less to retain its shape and create bushier growth.
How to Propagate Mexican Shrimp Plant
Propagate Justicia brandegeeana using stem cuttings or division.
The division of clumps provides the easiest solution for propagating outdoor plants.
- Dig up the plant and remove it from the soil.
- Cut the root system into two or three sections.
- When replanting the divided sections, space them at least 3′ feet apart.
Division also works for potted plants and helps prevent the Mexican shrimp plant from becoming pot bound.
- When taking cuttings, ensure each cutting contains four sets of leaves.
- Before placing in soil, dip the cut ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone.
- Keep the soil moist, and the plants should take root in six to eight weeks.
- After the young plants appear sturdy, transplant to larger pots or plant outdoors.
Mexican Shrimp Plant Pest or Disease Problems
If the leaves start to drop, the soil may be too wet or dry.
- Root rot and fungal leaf spotting also indicate wet conditions.
- Check the soil and adjust watering.
- Remove sections of the plant containing fungal growth.
- If the fungal growth spreads, consider propagating using stem cuttings.
The plant may also suffer from occasional infestations from whiteflies or spider mites.
Treat these pests with neem oil insecticide (Amazon) or take the plant outdoors and spray it with cold water.
Learn more about Neem Oil Insecticide Recipe options.
Along with pests and diseases, care must be used when choosing a location for the plant.
It’s considered invasive in several regions in North America, including parts of Florida and Texas.
When left to grow outdoors, it may overtake other plants and continue to spread.
Check the invasive status before planting outdoors or grow as a potted houseplant.
Suggested Justicia Brandegeeana Uses
The Mexican shrimp plant adds a bushy mound of red, white, and green growth.
Grow it outdoors to add color to the landscape or keep it in a pot on the porch where it has plenty of space to spread.