Justicia Carnea 'Brazilian Plume Flower'
(An Online Dealer where you can purchase this plant is listed near page bottom.)
Justicia carnea is one of my favorite genus of flowering plants. It is also called Flamingo plant, because of the striking 'plumage' and coloration. The family Justicia has so many lovely colors to choose from, and all with deep green, glossy leaves, a benefactor of this mostly shade loving plant group. The Pink Shrimp plant, as it is sometimes called, is a fantastic garden bed plant, especially those of us who can grow it outdoors year round.
Justicia carnea blooms from a light pink to a deep, almost crimson pink. They start out green, and within a week the green buds give rise to slender pink plumes that arise from them. A day or two later, they begin to arch, and many more open, creating a beautiful shower of delicate plumes. It usually begins to bloom in the middle of summer, and lasting into fall.
Justicia carnea is native to the tropics, but mine have withstood 30° without even leaf damage, so who knew? Northerners should bring it inside in climates where it snows. But zones 9,(throw a sheet over it if frost threatens) 10 and 11 can grow it outside.
It needs a loamy soil with a good amount of compost and peat added. Protect it from strong sun by placing it under large canopy trees that protect it from anything but dappled sunlight. Then the plant will grow to it's full size, as tall as 4 feet and just as wide.
Justicia can be propagated by stem cuttings. and root division after the clump begins to expand. For more on how to properly root stem cuttings, see the page Stem cuttings. Do fertilize it well, from the beginning of summer until late fall. Then allow the plant to rest, and cut back on the watering.
In the fall, scratch the surface of the soil∼bed the plume flowers are in with a hand rake, being careful not to damage too many of the pale feeder roots that sit on the surface of the soil. Then add some well rotted compost to the top layer of the soil, about 1 and a half inches or so, and water well. In zone 9 add a 2 or 3 inch layer of eucalyptus mulch to the top of the compost, to protect it until spring. Water the whole thing very well, and you are ready for colder temperatures and the arrival of spring.
Brazilian plume flower does like to be kept slightly moist, and will lend you more flowers if you respect this. Allow the soil to just slightly dry before watering again.
Fungus and Pest Problems
If your plants live in a very humid environment, with low air circulation, they can sometimes catch fungal diseases. Best to pull those leaves off and throw them in the garbage. Then treat the plant as I do for brugmansia, as seen on the page Shrub and tree fungal diseases. Look through the photos and see if it's what your brazilian plume flower has.
Pink Shrimp plant, as well as most justicia; are susceptible to iron deficiency. If your plant ends up with dark green veins and lime green leaves, this may be your problem. You can remedy this easily and quickly. Here's how: Plant Nutrient & Mineral Deficencies. Photos to help you identify there too.
I have never had any pest issues with justicia, except for spidermites on a few occassions. They are hard to control, so get on top of them quickly. Bayer Insect Disease and Mite Control is a product I use often to kill them, and is a chemical, not organic, so follow directions carefully.
It is a bit on the delicate side, so plant it out where it will get protection from strong winds, and away from pets and the kids, who are fascinated with the brightly colored flower heads. Within a few years, with proper care, this plant will spread and create a lovely flowering bed for you to enjoy.