Tropical Flowers for Temperate Gardens -- Yellow Shrimp Plant
It has always been one of Grumpy's foremost goals to introduce his readers to great flowers named for the freshest seafood. Therefore, I present to you this wonderful, nonstop bloomer that is often seen in Florida gardens, but should be seen in all -- yellow shrimp plant.
Also known as lollipop plant, yellow shrimp plant (Pachstachys lutea) is semi-tropical, but don't let that stop you from trying it this year. I have always contended that both tropical and semi-tropical plants deserve much wider use in temperate summer gardens for two reasons. One, they usually flaunt gaudy flowers and foliage (if they didn't, people wouldn't plant them). Two, they love hot weather. No matter how hot it gets, they continue to bloom while many temperate plants either go dormant or fry.
Why Should I Plant Something Named for a Tasty Crustacean? That's a very good question, Mrs. Clinton. After all, you can't actually eat this plant in a salad, so what's the point? Well, yellow shrimp plants gets its name for the upright, yellow cones of bracts that appear atop its stems. Small, white flowers emerge from these bracts and attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. The cones are about 3-4 inches long and very showy. They self-clean (something I wish my cat would do), meaning that as soon as a cone gets old, it drops off by itself and is replaced by a new one. No deadheading or grooming needed. The show continues from spring until fall.
Though I call yellow shrimp plant a perennial, it's actually a tender shrub. In places where it's winter-hardy (Zones 9-10), it grows 4-5 feet tall and wide. That sounds big, but you can easily keep it smaller and bushier through occasional pruning, which does not diminish flowering.
What Yellow Shrimp Plant Needs Grumpy first planted yellow shrimp plants in front of his new house more than 15 years ago, so he knows how easy they are to grow. What they need are full sun and moist, fertile, well-drained soil. To keep flowers coming, feed them every couple of weeks with a water-soluble, bloom-booster fertilizer. If they get a little leggy, spend 5 minutes from your busy week to cut them back. They won't mind. I'm sure some bugs like yellow shrimp plant, but I never had any pest problems with mine.
Where to Get Yellow Shrimp Plant In temperate areas with cold winters, yellow shrimp plant is often grown in containers and taken inside for winter. Therefore, if you want to find one locally, look first in the houseplant section of your garden center. Or ask your garden center to special-order some. If that doesn't work out, you can always order by mail from Logee's Greenhouses.