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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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Thank you for showing how to prune the shrimp plant. I haven’t pruned the ones next the house I am living in. They have gotten quite leggy so I am going to prune them. Our winter is just getting underway on the northern east coast so I think now is a good time to prune them. Thanks for your video it really helped.
Thank you for showing how to prune the shrimp plant. I haven’t pruned the ones next the house I am living in. They have gotten quite leggy so I am going to prune them. Our winter is just getting underway on the northern east coast of Florida, so I think now is a good time to prune them. Thanks for your video it really helped.
You’re so welcome Carol. This plant grows so fast & blooms so much that it really does need at good cut back. It keeps the plant in much better health, a more desirable shape & brings on abundance of flowers later in the season. Nell
I didn’t realize until after I purchased a few of these plants that the “Shrimp” are actually not flowers at all. They are called brats. The flower is the little white things and that’s what the hummingbirds like. = )
Exactly Kathy! The colored parts are actually bracts, the same with Poinsettias or Bougainvilleas. I call them flowers because that’s what most people do & it’s easier for them to find this post. Nell
I visited my sister last month and she has a golden shrimp plant that is so beautiful. I love it but could not find anywhere here at orange county, CA. I get to watch your video and your plant is so so pretty, can you advice where to get these shrimp plant and how to grow it in container? Thank you!
Hi Lisa – Any nursery or garden center which carries Monrovia plants can order it for you if they don’t have it. Give Roger’s Gardens a call & see if they have it in stock. As far as container growing, any good organic potting soil with a bit of compost mixed in will do the trick. Nell
Lois Thomas says
I bought the Shrimp plant with the base braided, I have only pruned some limbs that looked dead. It is always putting the flowers out, but is just a spindly tall plant with the flowers..I was always afraid to trim it back in the fear it would not come back…Should I just let it grow like that, or cut the whole plant back and hope it returns…Thank You, this has helped so much in the care of the plant.
Hi Lois – I gave my Shrimp Plants a good pruning back every winter because they grow & flower so much & are rangy by the end of the season. That being said, I’ve never grown a braided one before but imagine you would give it the same treatment. Cut the stems back to about 6 – 12″ above the braid & see how it does. Otherwise, it will just continue to be spindly. If it’s growing as a houseplant, wait until early spring to do it. Nell
Thanks Nell, would never have imagined that you could be so hard on a plant, but results speak for themselves. I’ll be doing this from now on. Thanks so much for the video and photos. Cheers from Kariong, near Sydney Australia.
Nell Foster says
Hi Lesa – You’re welcome. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind! These plant flower so much for a long period of time so they need to be cut back & rest so they can do it all again. Greetings to you in Australia from the Arizona desert, Nell
I have a shrimp plant growing outside in Naples Florida. (Southern Florida) . Should I cut it back Now at Thebes’s end of April when I go back north or wait till I come back to Naples in October?
Thank you so much for the answer. I love my Shrimp plant!
Nell Foster says
Hi Lynn- I love them too! For you it’ll probably be better in October or November. Prune it back after the flowering is done for the season. Nell
I recently was gifted a shrimp plant that’s been loosely trained in a tree form. Generally I prefer less manicured looks and I’d love to see it grow into a big, lush shrub, but have been hesitant to just cut off the training ties and let it go! Surprisingly, I can’t find anything online to tell me anything about this sort of transition. As it’s April (and I’m in New Orleans – Zone 9), I expect I should wait until it gets colder (around late November here) to do any major pruning as you show here! Do you have any tips for how I should go about this?
Thank you so much for editing this video over so many months! Not many people take the time to do this, and it is Much appreciated!
Nell Foster says
Hi Saki – You’re welcome! Pruning back after the blooms are spent is the best way to go, whether that be Nov, Dec or Jan. I’ve never done this, but think if you give it a good pruning back to say 12″ from the ground, it would grow back more as a shrub form & not a tree from. Nell
Is it necessary for some leaves to remain after pruning?
Nell Foster says
No Sara. New growth will eventually emerge from the nodes whether leaves are left on or not. Nell
Deni Yackle says
I am so glad to have found you, I have my shrimp in a pot in my green house. It started as a twig from a friends mother from Florida who passed away a few years ago I reside in upstate South Carolina and have been afraid to do anything to it as I would kill it. It has grown from a 4 inch pot now in a 18 inch pot and I have it tied up so it does not fall over.
Do you think the best time to trim it will be when I winterize the greenhouse, that is normally in November?
Thank you for your video and help.
Nell Foster says
Deni – Consider doing a lighter pruning it at that time (if needed) & doing the bigger pruning in late winter/early spring. Nell
Kathy Brown says
I live in Wake Forest, NC (near Raleigh). Can I leave my shrimp plant out all winter? It stays on the porch where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade. I have pretty much decided that moving it inside the garage would be a better option. I have done this for several years with an asparagus fern and it comes back bigger and fuller each year. Also should I prune it I move it in or should I prune it in the spring? Or now (except that it’s blooming like crazy)?
Nell Foster says
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