The Enigmatic Shrimp Plants

Panama Queen
Aphelandra sinclairiana

I have a great liking for the Shrimp Plant family, the Acanthaceae. The family has some of the most exquisite and colorful inflorescences of any family. Some of the species are common in horticulture, some are good landscape plants, and some of the most colorful are neither one at all. At Pinecrest Gardens, we have several species in the family, and I would like to experiment with many more. There are some generalities to be made about growing these plants, and some of the most consistent are their needs for water, bright light and frequent fertilizing with extra iron in their diet.

Red Feather
Aphelandra squarrosa

Many of the species in the family are quite colorful, but most would be considered tender tropicals, sensitive to drying wind, intolerant of frost. The plants can be petite growers of a few inches tall, and some, like the hefty Barleria micans, can grow to small trees several meters tall with arm-thick main stems. Even in the warm subtropical climate of Miami, several of the most colorful species will freeze to death at temperatures below 40F. 

Giant Yellow Shrimp Plant
Barleria micans

Double Orange Shrimp Plant
Justicia spicigera 'Sidicaro'
a durable and rewarding
landscape plant for warm areas
With colorful names such as Flamingo Queen, Zebra Plant, and Red Feather, there are species to fit almost any garden motif. The plants have wildly colored inflorescences and make accent plants easily. In massed plantings the visual effect is hard to beat. The various species root easily from cuttings, and with a few stem-end pinches to induce multiple growths, the plants make small specimens rather fast.    

Pink Flamingo
Jacobinia carnea

Yellow Shrimp Plant
Beloperone guttata
 With a little care and attention to pruning, this family has something for almost every gardener. Take a look at purchasing a few different species for your home garden if your climate permits planting such species in the landscape. As houseplants, they make a great tropical look in a bright window. Be careful to keep humidity levels high, keep the plants moist, and use potting soil made for African Violets. Slow release fertilizer such as Dynamite or Osmocote mixed into the soil will keep the plants well fertilized.
Philippine Violet
Barleria cristata
a sturdy and versatile landscape
plant, with several color forms

As with all my blogs, I say that with so much diversity available, there is no good reason to have a garden which looks like everyone else's garden. A bit of online plant hunting will usually provide some good sources for new plants. Experiment with some new plants, and you might be amazed that with a bit of knowledge, some new plants, and an open mind, growing a great garden is easier than you think. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens   


  1. So glad you did a post on this genus Acanthaceae...there are so many wonderful species! With more folks like you talking about them, it allows the home owner to get to know more about the spectacular plants! I have three species and am excited to get my hands on more. :) I also use Acanthaceae in my clients landscapes as much as possible. Thanks Craig! Keep up the amazing work at Pinecrest Gardens!

    Happy Gardening & best wishes,

    1. Glad to hear you like this Family as well ! It has so many good species in it, and they're so adapatble to landscaping that they should be far more common in gardens. We can only hope that people will catch on and start asking nurseries to grow them. Thanks for reading the blog !

      Craig Morell
      pinecrest Gardens