How to Grow and Care for Shrimp Plants

A well-grown, compact shrimp plant of Beloperone guttata, which may also be marketed as Drejerella guttata or Justicia brandegeana.
A well-grown, compact shrimp plant of Beloperone guttata, which may also be marketed as Drejerella guttata or Justicia brandegeana.

Shrimp plant - Beloperone guttata

This plant is one of sixty tropical evergreen shrubs from central America that belong to the family Acanthaceae.  The name comes from the Greek belos, an arrow, and perone, a bond, and refers to the arrow shape of the leaves as they emerge from the stems.  Only one species, Beloperone guttata, which comes from Mexico and was introduced as recently as 1936, is commonly grown as a house plant.  It is popularly known as the shrimp plant because the dull pink bracts that shield the white flowers resemble a shrimp's body.  It is a highly ornamental and amenable house plant which likes plenty of light, will tolerate full sun and enjoys the company of other plants.  The flowers are produced fairly continuously during the growing season, which lasts for as much as 10 months a year.  When not in flower in winter, the shrimp plant will benefit from resting for a few weeks in a cool room.

There is also a rarer variety with yellow bracts, Beloperone guttata 'Yellow Queen'.

Buy plants which have a good rich color to their bracts and are of a compact size and shape.  Plants should not have blackened bracts, yellowed and dropping leaves or any trace of mildew in the center.  You may sometimes find this plant marketed under the names Drejerella guttata or Justicia brandegeana.

The yellow variety of Beloperone guttata.
The yellow variety of Beloperone guttata.

Proper care guide

Atmosphere:  Shrimp plants will tolerate most atmospheres, but they enjoy good ventilation.

Cleaning:  Unnecessary.  Remove dead bracts by pinching off with thumb and forefinger.  Do not use leaf shine.

Feeding:  Use standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks from late winter to early autumn only, but then cease feeding so that growth slows down.

Humidity:  Shrimp plants enjoy standing on damp pebbles or in a dish full of damp peat.  Never spray overhead when in flower, as this will cause the bracts to rot.

The true flower of the shrimp plant  is white.
The true flower of the shrimp plant is white.

How to prune for shape

1. A badly shaped plant should be clipped back in spring, before it comes into flower.
1. A badly shaped plant should be clipped back in spring, before it comes into flower.
2. Make cuts just above a leaf stem.
2. Make cuts just above a leaf stem.
3. A well-shaped plant with flowers and bracts.
3. A well-shaped plant with flowers and bracts.

Light:  Plenty of bright light with some direct sunlight is essential for satisfactory production of the colorful bracts.  When resting in winter, place the plant away from the window.

Potting and re-potting:  Use a soil-based potting mixture with the addition of a one-third portion of peat moss.  Adult plants require re-potting every spring, normally to replace the spent soil rather than to enlarge the pot size.  However, shrimp plants can be moved into pots one size larger until the maximum convenient size--probably 6 in (15 cm)--has been reached.

Propagation:  Tip cuttings 2 - 3 in (5 - 7.5 cm) long will root easily in spring.  Place each cutting in a small pot containing a moistened mixture of equal parts of peat moss and coarse sand or perlite, enclose the pot in a plastic bag, and keep it in bright filtered light.  Rooting should occur in 6 to 8 weeks.  To produce  a bushy plant, pot 3 or 4 cuttings together in the potting mixture recommended for mature beloperones; water sparingly, and do not move the pot into direct sunlight for another month or two.

Pruning:  Clip back into a neat shape in spring or, of very straggly, cut right down to 1 - 2 in (2.5 - 5 cm) and allow the plant to start again.

Temperature:  Normal room temperatures in summer suit this plant, but not above 75° F (24° C), as too much heat makes for soft and spindly growth.  They are better kept cooler when resting in winter: 45° F (7° C) is sufficient.

Water:  Water sparingly - enough to make the potting mixture barely moist, and allow the top two-thirds of the mixture to dry out between waterings.

What goes wrong

Problem
Cause
Treatment
Bracts turn black.
Caused by overhead spraying.
Pick off blackened bracts.
Yellow leaves.
Too much water.
Allow to dry out until recovered. Then water less often.
Leaves drop.
Too dry or, in winter, too cold.
Test potting mixture and water if dry. If damp, move plant to warmer place.
Leaves pale.
Needs feeding.
Feed.
Bracts pale.
Needs more light.
Move to lighter place but not into direct sunlight.
Leaves yellowed with webs underneath.
Red spider mite.
Spray with derris, malathion or a systemic insecticide. Improve the humidity.
Leaves distorted and sticky, with green insects.
Greenfly.
Spray with pyrethrum or a systemic insecticide.
Lanky growth.
Too hot.
Move to a cooler place.

As an outdoor plant

Beloperone guttata prefers a rich, well-drained soil and colors best in semi-shade.

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Comments 4 comments

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I had one of these years ago and had forgotten all about how pretty they are. Thanks for reminding me!


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Nemingha, that is a really good hub. Very helpful for people wishing to grow these plants. Seems to me that you know a lot about growing them. You must have a lovely garden. Cheers Eileen. Take care.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

It look beautiful plant. Thanks for your tips. It useful for us.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

Nemingha what a beautiful plant these Shrimp bushes are when they are in full bloom. We also had one growing in the garden of our old house but did not take it with us when we moved.

You have motivated us now to get another plant.

Thanks for a great Hub Thumbs up :-)

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