Golden shrimp plants are popular landscape items in tropical areas. Blooming year-round in masses of gold bracts flecked with small white flowers, it's easy to see why gardeners love them. For some reason, they never caught on to the same degree as houseplants. There's really no reason for this. Given the right warmth and light, and a little snipping here and there, they can be wonderful and exotic additions to your collection. Be aware that the true golden shrimp plant is the Pachystachys lutea. It's closely related to the Justicia brandegeana (syn. Beloperone guttata), but not as cold hardy or drought tolerant.
Light: Bright shade or morning sun. Avoid mid-day sun.
Water: Keep soil continuously moist throughout the year, but reduce watering in winter. High humidity is preferred, so mist leaves regularly.
Temperature: Above 60ºF is preferred in the summer. In winter, above 55º is best. Avoid drafts and air-conditioning vents.
Fertilizer: Feed in spring with slow-release pellets or weekly during growing season with liquid fertilizer.
Golden shrimp plants root easily from cuttings. Use a rooting hormone
to increase the odds of success.
A full-size golden shrimp plant is about 2.5 to 3 feet tall, although they tend toward leginess as they age. Repot younger plants every spring, going up one pot size. If they're kept as perennials, refresh older pots with fresh potting soil
every spring, but don't increase pot size.
The P. lutea is the only suitable Pachystachys for indoor cultivation. There is another species, the P. coccinea, but it's a much larger plant that's really only suited for use as a medium shrub. The closely releated Justicia genus, however, has several plants that are similar to the golden shrimp plant, especially the J. brandegeana, which is typically sold as a "shrimp plant." All feature colorful, scaled bracts and smaller flowers.
Golden shrimp plants bloom best in the spring and summer, but a well-cared-for plant will bloom all year. To encourage bushiness and blooms, snip off dead bracts and occasionally trim the plant, cutting one-third of the branches back to the stem to encourage new growth. Untrimmed, these plants will become leggy and top heavy and unattractive. The most common problem with golden shrimp plants is lack of water and warmth.