Shrimp Plant Needs a Good Pruning Every Year

Oh my yes, this plant is very appropriately named.  This beauty with the shrimp-like flowers gives a tropical feel to the garden and blooms like crazy, almost all year long here in Southern California.  Shrimp Plant needs pruning once a year to prevent it from becoming a twiggy, spindly mess with flowers much smaller than we prefer them to be.  We want jumbo prawn flowers, not mini shrimps!

Shrimp Plant, whose botanic name is Justicia brandegeeana, has such a vigorous growth rate that I’ve found it greatly benefits from a hard shearing every winter.  They flower like crazy, almost non-stop here in Santa Barbara if the winter is drier and warmer and they aren’t cut back.  Like any other plant which flowers madly , they need to be pruned down to rest and rejuvenate.  9-10 months of flowering is hard work after all.

shrimp plant pruning

This pic was taken in July, & as you can see, the plant is covered in flowers.

I’ve seen Shrimp Plant classified as both an evergreen subshrub or evergreen shrubby perennial.  Whichever classification you choose, it gets very thin if not pruned back, at least here anyway.  The leaves turn yellow then black and fall off in the cooler weather making it even more sparse.  Even though it’s totally bare and looking downright ugly when I cut it all back it’s so worth it to get all those blooms.  In my book, it’s an easy choice.

My shrimp plant needs a good pruning. It took me 3 months to wrap this video up so you’ll see a few costume changes:

There’s really no artistic skill required when pruning a Shrimp Plant.  You could actually use the hedge clippers and the plant would be fine.  That’s what I would do if I had a hedge of this plant because doing it the way I did it in the video would be too tedious, unless of course you enjoy that sort of thing.  This method also applies to other fast growing perennials which need a hard pruning at the end of the season.

shrimp plant pruning

This is the plant in early Jan. As you can see, it’s leggy, the flowers are getting smaller & sparser & the leaves are turning yellow & falling off.  The leaves will drop in cooler temps by the way eventually turning black.

Pruning them is very simple – here’s what I do:

1- I prune from the outside in & start by taking the outer circumference of stems down to 2-3″ above the soil.

2- I then work my way into the center of the plant leaving the stems in each “row” a bit taller than the previous 1.  The center stems are left the tallest because this looks the best & it’s how the plant naturally strives to grow.

3- I remove any excessively thin or stems with gnarled growth so the plant has a better form.  I take all cuts slightly above a growth node.

Besides this big pruning I do every winter, little else is needed throughout the year.  I do an occasional snipping if any of the stems start to cover the mailbox, jut out into the walkway or if I feel like doing a little deadheading.  I’ve found that the flowers fall off on their own and they bloom like wildfire whether I deadhead or not.

shrimp plant pruning

The new growth emerges from those nodes as the weather warms.  You can also see how I pruned the stems in increments leaving the middle tallest.

shrimp plant pruning

Not the prettiest pic but here’s an example of the stems I completely prune out.

The hummingbirds absolutely adore this plant.  Almost everyone who visits my home oohh’s and aahh’s over this plant when it’s blooming.  As you can see, the flowers are very unique.  And yes, they do look like shrimps!

Happy pruning,

Signed by Nell Foster


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  1. Hi Kathy – I don’t know what zone you are. They’re hardy to around 30F. Early spring is probably the best in your climate. Nell

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