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How to Grow and Care For Shrimp Plants

Native to Mexico, Shrimp plants are part of the Acanthaceae family and Justicia genus. Justicia comprises nearly 700 species with more yet to be identified. Their common name, the Shrimp plant, comes from the inflorescences or chained bracts that can resemble shrimp in some species.

Blooming shrimp plant bushes with red, orange, white shrimp plant flowers.
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Native to Mexico, Shrimp plants are part of the Acanthaceae family and Justicia genus. Justicia comprises nearly 700 species with more yet to be identified. Their common name, the Shrimp plant, comes from the inflorescences or chained bracts that can resemble shrimp in some species.
They are primarily grown for their dramatic bracts, inflorescences and blooms ranging from shades of cream, yellow, orange, fuschia, and pink. Shrimp plants are all evergreen perennials with some species having a bushy growth habit. 
Pro Tip Icon
Shrimp plants can be aggressive growers and invasive!
Be wary that Shrimp plants are prolific growers and can be considered weeds. They are native to Mexico and have been naturalized in Florida.
In this guide we’ll cover more about what the shrimp plant is and how you can plant and grow it to success!

About Shrimp Plants

Shrimp Plants, scientifically known as Justicia brandegeeana (syn. Beloperone guttata), is a bushy evergreen shrub native to Mexico. They are generally grown outdoors because their beautiful blooms can last for months at a time, however, they can also make for great indoor plants. They grow up to 3-4 feet tall with a bushy growth habit.
The stems and leaves are downy while the leaves can be variegated and grow off the stems in clusters. 
There are several varieties of shrimp plants with the most common being golden shrimp plant, red shrimp plant, and Mexican shrimp plants.

Mexican Shrimp Plant

Mexican Shrimp plant, or Justicia brandegeeana (syn. Beloperone guttata), is one of the most popular species of Justicia family that produces chained and colorful, bright red chained bracts with white blooms giving them their other common name, the red shrimp plant.
This shrimp plant’s essential oil has also been shown to possess antitumor, antiviral, and antidiabetic activity

Golden Shrimp Plant

Purple Shrimp Plant, or Cerinthe major ‘Purpurrascens’, is also sometimes known as honeywort or blue shrimp plant. They grow leathery gray, green foliage and produce red to bluish-purple bracts with small purple flowers that resemble shrimp.

Landscape Uses for Shrimp Plants

Given their bushy growth habit, shrimp plants make for great edge plants, garden borders, or hedges. They are also often used for foundation planting and mass plantings. Due to their dramatic bracts and inflorescences, they can add a true pop of color to any landscape and garden as an ornamental. 
They plant well with Canna Lilys, Shampoo GInger Lily, Passion flowers, Hibiscus, and other tropical sun to partial shade loving perennials.
Shrimp plants attract pollinators like humming birds and butterflies, and are deer resistant
When grown in containers, they can make great corner plants on a patio.

Mexican Shimp Plant Care Guide

Botanical Name
Justicia brandegeeana
Common Name
Mexican shrimp plant, shrimp plant, or false hop
Family
Acanthaceae
Difficulty
Beginner
Plant Type
Evergreen flowering plant
Growth Rate
Fast growth rate
Bloom Time
Mid summer, Late summer
Mature Size
Up to 4 feet tall, up to 3-4 feet wide
Fertilizer
Balanced, liquid fertilizer before new growth in spring time
Sun Exposure
Full sun to partial shade
Water
Moderate requirements
Humidity
Moderate humidity - 40%+
Soil Type
Prefer moist, humus-based well-draining soil
Spacing
24-36” - 2-3 feet outdoors
Soil Ph
Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Propagate
By seed, softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings
Temperature (Ideal)
60-85 degrees Fahrenheit
Window Locations (Ideal)
South-facing windows, West-facing windows or east-facing windows
USDA Hardiness Zones
9, 10, 11
Companion Plants
Canna Lily, Passion Flower, Viburnum, Hibiscus, Coral Plant, Zingiber (Gingers), Shampoo Ginger Lily, Musa (Bananas)
Toxicity
Not known to be toxic, but best be cautious.
Where to Buy
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How to Grow Shrimp Plants

Shrimp Plant with red and yellow flower
Image Source:Photo by joannatkaczuk on IstockShrimp Plants grow well in subtropical climates of zones 9, 10, and 11!
Shrimp plants are generally low maintenance and can be grown outdoors year round in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. They grow really well in states like Texas, Florida, and southern California. They do prefer warm and humid climates, so if you live outside of these hardiness zones, you’ll likely want to grow in a container so you can overwinter your plant when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
In zones 8 and sometimes 9, during the winter, the shrub dies off but roots can survive to push up new growth the following spring.
They are mostly drought tolerant and thrive in full sun to partial shade. They grow best in loamy, humusy, or sandy soil that is well-draining so that their soil can stay lightly moist, but not overly soggy. 

When & How To Plant Shrimp Plants

Whether you’ve found your shrimp plant at a local nursery or you’ve grown your own from cuttings or seeds, it’s best to pick a location in your garden that offers part sun, part shade. These plants do best with morning sun, afternoon shade. 
The best time to plant your Shrimp plants would be in the early spring once temperatures reach above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
When transplanting your Shrimp Plants, make sure to space them 2 to 3 feet apart to allow enough growth. Shrimp plants will grow up to 3-4 feet and they grow fairly quickly.
They prefer to grow in loamy, humus-like soil. If planting outdoors, you can always supplement with mulch, compost, peat moss, or shredded tree bark to encourage moisture retention.

Growing Shrimp Plants in Containers Indoors

Shrimp Plants have stunning bracts and inflorescences and are generally low maintenance making them a great option to grow as an ornamental houseplant.
We recommend you plant your Shrimp plant in a larger container from 8-10” and on to give its roots enough space to grow. The smaller the container, the smaller the plant will likely grow as the roots become bound in the container. 
Make sure to plant into containers with drainage holes to allow excess moisture to drain. If you already live in a highly humid environment, consider planting in a terracotta or clay pot to further increase moisture evaporation. If you live in a dry environment, you should consider a plastic pot as those retain moisture better.

How to Care For Shrimp Plants

The Yellow Queen Shrimp plant is found in Mexico
Image Source:Photo by Ecocandle on IstockShrimp plants love consistently moist soil, and bright indirect sunlight.

💧 Water

Shrimp plants prefer consistently moist soil, but despise wet feet. A safe bet is to wait until the topsoil is dry and water again. If you live in a hotter climate or planted your shrimp plant in a sunny location, you’ll need to water more frequently.
When growing indoors, as a general rule of thumb, you’ll likely end up watering it once or maybe twice a week. 
Once winter comes around, reduce your watering as the plant goes into dormancy.

☀️ Sunlight

Shrimp plants grow well in full sun to partial shade, but the most ideal is a mix of sun for a few hours in the morning with shade in the latter half of the day. 
If you’re growing in warmer hardiness zones like zone 10 and 11, you will want to plant your Shrimp plant in partial shade to give it respite during the blazing summer sun and heat.

If growing indoors, you can place a few feet away from a South-facing window to avoid direct sunlight. You can also grow near East-facing window (most ideal) or West-facing window which receive sunlight for half of the day. Avoid North-facing windows which receive the least mount of light. Light is a key factor to make sure your shrimp plant blooms and has dramatic colors.

You can always supplement with a grow light if your home doesn’t have enough light.

🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

Being tropical plants, Shrimp plants do best in warm climates and moderately humid environments. The most ideal temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t let temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for too long as this will stunt the growth of your shrimp plant.
If you need to increase your humidity indoors, you can use a small humidifier, group plants together, or place a pebble tray filled with water near your plant. Indoors, you can also grow your Shrimp plant in commonly humid areas of the house like the kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom if there’s enough light.
If growing outdoors in a zone below 8 or 9, you’ll want to consider growing your shrimp plant in a container so you can overwinter indoors. You can also opt to grow it as an annual. 

🌱 Best Soil for Shrimp Plants

Shrimp plants are forgiving when it come sto soil, but they grow best in loamy, well-draining soil. If you’re growing outdoors, you can supplement with compost or mulch to make your soil more humus-rich.

If you’re growing in a container, you can use most commercial houseplant mix supplemented with peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark.

🌻 Fertilizer

Shrimp plants aren’t heavy feeders, but if you want to encourage growth and blooms, we recommend you fertilize them in the early spring with balanced, slow-release liquid fertilizer at half strength. You can switch to using regular liquid fertilizer during its active growing season during the summer.
 If you’re growing Shrimp plants outdoors, you can also consider using slow-release pellets.
Make sure to stop fertilizing in winter during its dormant months. 

😎 Pruning and Maintenance

Shrimp plants are fast growers that will do well with a regular trim to maintain a clean, bushy appearance at least once a year. The most ideal time to consider doing a full prune is early spring before its active growth season starts to encourage a quick recovery. We recommend pruning leggy stems or any unhealthy growth to rejuvenate the shrimp plant in a fuller form.
Avoid trimming off more than a third to half of the plant which will impact the amount of blooms you will see in the following season. The flowers develop on the ends of the stems and take a prolonged time to redevelop, so you’d likely see less blooms the following season. 
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Propagate Shrimp Plants Through Softwood Cuttings

The most common and easiest way to propagate Shrimp plants is through stem cuttings. 
To do so, prepare a sterilized knife or gardening shears and a new container with well-draining, nutrient dense potting mix.
Cut off a stem 4-8 inches in length and make sure to include at least 4-6 sets of leaves. 
  • Remove the leaves from bottom half of the cutting and dip the cutting inro rooting hormone (not required)
  • Plant your cutting into a new soil and container and make sure to water deeply.
  • You’ll want to maintain humidity for your stem cutting. You can do so by wrapping a plastic bag around the plant. 
  • Maintain consistently moist soil and warm temperatures and the cutting will root within 6-8 weeks after which you can transplant them outside or into a larger container.

How to Grow Shrimp Plant From Seed

Shrimp plants produced wonderful flowers that can be harvested for seeds. However, we recommend that you procure seeds from a reputable grower (checkout Neverland’s vetted independent merchants) instead to make the process easier.
Once you have the seeds, soak them in water for 24 hours.
  • Fill your seed tray or container with seed-starting soil mix (tends to be high in peat moss)
  • Water the tray to moisten the soil and plant one or two seeds in a container about ½ to 1 inch deep.
  • Cover the planting tray with plastic tray or wrap to create a greenhouse like effect.
  • You want to maintain warm temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place your seeds in a spot that receives 6-8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Water to maintain consistently moist soil.
  • It’ll take one to three weeks for these seeds to germinate.
  • Once the plant reaches 6-8inches in height, transplant them into larger containers or outdoors. Make sure outdoor temperatures are above 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit and all dangers of frost have passed.

Common Shrimp Plant Problems

Shrimp Plants has red to pink-bronze bracts look like a shrimp
Image Source:Phot by magicflute002 on IstockShrimp Plants has red to pink-bronze bracts look like a shrimp

My Shrimp Plant leaves have tiny brown, tan or black spots.

This is typically a sign of leaf spot and fungal disease. Over time, the spots can grow and merge together to form “blights” or blotches. Severely diseased plants will show stunted growth and will start to drop leaves.
Fungal disease is caused when the plant is overly moist for a prolonged period of time. This is typically a sign of over watering or over misting your plant. These symptoms can also lead to root rot if improper watering conditions are left untreated. 
To prevent this you’ll want to ensure that you are spacing your plants appropiately at least 2-3 feet away when planting to allow for proper air circulation. You may want to let the topsoil dry in between waterings to ensure that the plant isn’t sitting in soggy soil.
To treat fungal diseases like leafspot, we recommend using sterilized shears to trim off unhealthy growth and follow up with a fungicide treatment such as a neem oil spray/soak or insecticidal soap spray.

My Shrimp Plant bracts are pale or green

If your Shrimp plants bracts are pale, this is likely a sign of too little sunlight. Bracts of shrimp plants tend to carry dramatic hues from bright red to pink to yellow. You’ll see them turn green as a result of the plant needing to produce more chlorophyll to extract more energy from the little sun that it’s receiving.
Bright colors and blooms do best in an environment with bright, indirect light. We recommend moving your plant if possible to a brighter location.

Common Shrimp Plant Pests

Close up photo of shrimp plant flower
Image Source:Photo by aimintang on IstockClose up photo of shrimp plant flower

Spider Mites

Spider mites are ectoparasitic arthropods that feed on plants. They prefer hot weather along with dry conditions, and they feed on a wide range of plants. Spider mites can be red, yellow or orange, depending on species. They are tiny, but they can be seen with the naked eye.Spider mites attack plants through their leaves, sucking the nutrients out of them. They leave stalks behind as they feed. While feeding, spider mites create webbing, and drain the life from plants causing leaves on infested plants to turn yellow and brown. They can cover and kill an entire plant within a week or two if left uncontrolled in your garden.
If this is your first time managing spider mites, read our in-depth guide on how to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants.
How to spot a spider mite infestation on my Shrimp Plant?
Spider mite damage is different from that of cutting insects. There won’t be a hole in a leaf, but rather large discolored areas made up of tiny dots or stippling. You may notice that your plant leaves are covered in a web-like substance as previously stated or you may notice small specks on the leaves, or if the infestation has gone further you might see leaves or whole portions of your plant start to curl and wither.
To treat spider mites, quarantine your plant to prevent spread. You can wash your plant with water to clear our some of the infestation initially and then use insecticidal soap or neem oil to spray your plant and wipe off spider mites. Repeat this process daily until the infestation is gone.

FAQs on Shrimp Plants


Does Shrimp plant need full sun?
Shrimp plants can grow well in full sun or partial shade. If you’re growing in warmer zones that have scorching heat, we recommend partial shade. Ideally your Shrimp plant should receive at least 4 hours of sunlight everyday.
Do Shrimp plants grow well in pots?
Shrimp plants can grow in pots and make for wonderful additions to patios or front yards! Growing in a container is a great option if you’re growing outside of zones 9, 10, and 11. You’ll want to plant in a larger container - 8 to 10 inches in diameter will work well.
Why is my Shrimp plant dropping leaves?
Usually plants experience leaf drop due to environmental stress. This is likely due to your environment being too dry. Check that you’re keeping soil consistently moist and that you increase your watering schedule during hotter summer months.
Are Shrimp plants invasive?
Shrimp plants are considered to be aggressive, invasive growers and a weed. 
🔥 Join 52,560+ other plant parents.FREE Shrimp Plant Cheat Sheet!
Access this guide anywhere, anytime! Pop in your e-mail, and we'll send you a quick Shampoo Ginger Lily cheat sheet.
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