Post pictures of your garden or share landscaping ideas.

Essential Tips to Care for Shrimp Plants

Essential Tips to Care for Shrimp Plants

Shrimp plants are non-fussy and require little maintenance. Here are some tips to grow these plants that are popular for their showy bracts.
Sonia Nair
Though shrimp plants are not invasive, they may spread fast in frost-free regions with plenty of sunlight, water, and humidity. Grow these plants in containers to prevent them from spreading.

The shrimp plant is in no way related to shrimp. The name is derived from its showy, overlapping bracts that form spikes, which look like shrimp. The bracts can be salmon pink to orangish-red in color. You may come across different species that are called shrimp plants. However, it is Justicia brandegeeana (or Beloperone guttata), which is very popular in this name.

The color of the bracts deepens as they grow to full size. The flowers develop inside the bracts, and are mostly whitish, elongated, and thin. Though the flowers last for a short term, the colorful bracts last much longer, and the plant appears to be in bloom almost always. Nowadays, numerous shrimp plant cultivars are available with different bract colors and other features. Otherwise known as false hop, the shrimp plant is native to Mexico. However, the plant is now grown in different parts of the world, especially the tropical regions.

The shrimp plant has weak stems that carry spikes on their tips. The spikes are droopy, with a length of around two to four inches. Minute white hair can be seen on young stems and the underside of the leaves. The plant retains colorful bracts throughout the year, with short resting periods. Without proper care, the plant may become leggy and spread in an irregular fashion. Given below are some guidelines for growing shrimp plants.

Shrimp Plant Care

Grow shrimp plants in a bright location where they will get direct sunlight. These plants are found to grow well in partial to full sun. In locations with cool summers, shrimp plants can be grown in full sun. However, you have to plant them in locations with partial shade, if the summers are too hot in your region. These plants need well-drained, loamy soil. The pH of the soil can be anywhere between 6.1 to 7.5. Shrimp plants can be easily grown in USDA zones 8 to 11. Those living in other regions may also grow them in containers that can be shifted indoors during cold weather.

Watering and Feeding
Though these plants cannot survive in soggy soil, they need a small amount of moisture. So, water them thoroughly, as and when the surface of the soil gets dry. Frequent watering may be required during summers. You may also use mulch to retain moisture. Overwatering as well as underwatering may cause leaf loss. It is better to avoid overhead watering that may lead to fungal attacks. Even the bracts may rot, if exposed to water.

Use a high-phosphorous liquid fertilizer to feed the plant once in a few months. Feed the plant frequently during the growing season - spring to summer. Dissolve the liquid plant food in the water that is meant for the plants, and apply once a week. Feed the plant occasionally with a special fertilizer for boosting flower production. Sometimes, lack of nutrients may lead to yellow leaves that may drop prematurely. In that case, feed the plant once a week.

Without proper pruning, shrimp plants may turn leggy and weak. Pruning induces blooming too. Heavy pruning can be done once a year, during early spring. You can pinch off the stem tips, dead bracts, and diseased parts throughout the year. In that case, the plant will remain compact and bushy, and will produce bracts continuously. You may grow new plants from the pruned stem cuttings. For this purpose, use cuttings with a length of around 10 centimeters. Remove the bracts, dip the ends in rooting hormone, and plant them in moist soil or a good potting mix. Shrimp plants can be grown during any time of the year.

Pests and Diseases
Overwatering and a soggy soil may cause fungal diseases, which can result in root rot. Overhead watering may cause fungal leaf spot disease. In that case, the leaves develop brown spots that enlarge in size and appear as blotches. Leaf loss and wilting may also occur. Microscopic nematodes in the soil may attach themselves to the roots of the plant, and cause wilting and stunted growth. Greenfly may infest these plants and suck the sap. In that case, the leaves may turn distorted and sticky. If infested with red spider mites, the leaves turn yellowish with webs on the underside. Lack of sunlight is one of the main causes of pale bracts, whereas the leaves turn pale due to lack of nutrients.

Growing Indoors
Use fast-draining potting soil mixed with a small amount of peat moss, for growing shrimp plants in containers. Make sure that the containers have proper drainage holes. These plants can be grown indoors, provided they get sufficient bright light. They can be grown as patio plants or can be placed on sunny windowsills. During winters, shrimp plants must be moved indoors. Being tropical plants, they like humidity. So, you may place the containers on damp pebbles or peat. The preferred room temperature is 65°F to 75°F. These plants may not tolerate temperatures below 55°F. If exposed to low temperatures, the foliage may turn yellow or brown.

Potted shrimp plants have to be fed more frequently than those planted in-ground. Repotting has to be done every spring, and all you need to do is to change the potting mix. You may also prune the plants before moving them indoors during winter. In that case, repot them during early spring, when new growths emerge. You may also move the plants to larger-sized pots, once in every few years.

In short, shrimp plants are not fussy, and are easy to grow. Provide them with sufficient sunlight and a well-drained, moist soil. Avoid overwatering as well as underwatering, and feed them occasionally. Prune these plants to maintain their shape and to boost blooming.