Christmas candles? Reminiscent of the tufting of old fashioned candlewick bedspread? It has also the unromantic name overseas of shrimp plant, a reference to the shape of the flowers. The white justicia has been bringing me a great deal of pleasure in recent weeks. We have always had the pink and yellow forms but I thought we had lost the white until I found it looking a little ragged and squashed by surrounding plants. I moved it and it hasn’t looked back. It can be a bit of a straggler so I constructed a discreet little bamboo frame to hold the plant together.
There are over 400 different justicia species, mostly from tropical to warm temperate Central and South America (think Brazil, amongst others) but J. carnea appears to be one of the showiest and is the most common in cultivation in this country. It has a very long flowering season across the summer months. This plant is only a metre tall at this stage but left to its own devices, I expect over time it will reach the 2.5 metres of the pink and yellow ones we have.
There aren’t many plants which will flower profusely in heavy shade. Most plants need sun to bloom. So it makes an ideal larger woodland plant with one proviso. The information online says it will not take below 7 °C. I don’t think it is that sensitive. We can get colder than that here and it has never shown damage but clearly it is quite cold sensitive and is regarded as a glasshouse plant in many areas of the world.
Justicias belong to the acanthaceae family.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.