The shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeeana, makes me think of an early evening summer cocktail party with an exotic guest list and finger foods (yes, including shrimp cocktail). With soft oval green leaves that lead up to red bracts that gently change to a salmon color as it exposes its white flower, it's easy to see why the Justicia received its common name. Like the unassuming but alluring guest at the party the shrimp plant is one of the most unusual forms, but it doesn't necessarily scream out at you. Not only is the shrimp plant one of the most visually intriguing plants but it is generally low maintenance and drought tolerant as a landscape plant -- score.
Flickr photo by Random McRandomhead
The shrimp plant is an ornamental shrub native to Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. It thrives in the shade in warmer tropical areas. If utilized as a potted houseplant, give it a little direct sun at low intensity intervals to get a recurrent bloom. It prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soil. You can let the soil go slightly dry to the touch of your hand in between watering.
It can sometimes get long and spindly but with regular pruning can maintain a bushy and perky habit. There are different cultivars available with different bract colors but no matter the cultivar, it still makes me want to plan up a cocktail party. Go ahead and play with your 'food', pot up a shrimp plant and let it hang out at your next soiree.