The shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana, syn. Beloperone), hailing from Mexico, is an easy-to-grow soft-wooded shrub (ht 1-1.2 m) with clustered reddish-brown overlapping bracts which resemble cooked prawns! It will flower in sun or part shade, and in a protected warm position may flower all year, though it is at its best in summer and autumn. There is a cute dwarf form of this plant that only gets to about 20 cm in height. The yellow-flowered version (Justicia brandegeeana 'Lutea') has lime-yellow bracts, which associate very well with lime-leaved plants such as Duranta 'Sheena's Gold', the golden version of Salvia elegans or Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'.
The red version looks good with dusky leaves (such as those of Persicaria 'Red Dragon) or rusty-brown colours: in foliage as is found with some shrubby or rhizomatous Begonia cultivars, or the unusual velvet blooms of Salvia confertiflora. Justicia brandegeeana needs regular light pruning to remove spindly growth during the growing season, and hard pruning in late winter to promote a compact form. It may layer a bit and can self-seed, but so far, this has not happened in my garden. These plants belong to the broad Acanthaceae family, a most useful group for the Sydney climate, especially for shady spots in the garden, and are so resilient to our increasingly hot summer weather.
Exciting new cultivars now are around, including pink-flowered, lime-bracted 'Fruit Cocktail' and a form with white-marbled leaves and the traditional reddish-brown bracts. For a while I was enamoured of the tall, bright red-flowered 'Big Red', but I found it too rampageous, and it didn't seem to bloom as well as the old-fashioned ones.