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Brazilian Plume Flower Thrives In Tropical Shade
By Norman WinterMSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The Brazilian Plume Flower had been grown for years in the coastal counties of the South, but it was sold only sparingly above Hattiesburg. At long last some more serious quantities have started showing up in area garden centers further north. All I can say is a resounding "Hallelujah!"
Jacobinia magnifica used to be the botanical name, and I still think of it by that name. That great Board or Congress of Taxonomic Nomenclature decided some time ago that it was really Justicia carnea. The common names should tell you it is worthwhile. They include Brazilian Plume Flower, Flamingo Plant, Paradise Plant and King's Crown.
This tropical plant is native to northern areas of South America. The Brazilian Plume Flower is a member of the Acanthus family which means it is related to other outstanding tropical plants like the Crossandra, yellow shrimp plant, red shrimp plant, Mexican petunia, firespike, Persian Shield and Philippine violet.
The Brazilian Plume Flower is almost indescribable; none of my favorite books do it justice. There is a red-flowered form, but it is the pink one that holds most gardeners' attention. The bright pink, twin- lipped flowers are produced on large, fat spikes and hang downward in all directions. I realize I am doing a poor job of describing the flower myself.
One thing that just amazes me is that these spectacular blooms are borne on a plant that likes almost no sun. It is a shade lover. In warm climates it is an evergreen shrub that keeps regenerating growth and more blooms. Not only are the flowers exotic, but the handsome foliage is glossy and dark-green. We have a choice of growing it as an annual or growing it in a medium-sized container. As is typical of this family, the Brazilian Plume Flower easily roots from cuttings.
The plant does require excellent drainage. If planting in the landscape, work in three to four inches of organic matter to a depth of about eight inches. If you choose to grow them in containers, then spend the dollars to get good potting soil.
The Brazilian Plume Flower combines well with ferns or other blooming plants like Impatiens. It would look exceptionally striking combined with its cousin, the Persian Shield.
To keep your plant blooming means to keep it growing. I like to deadhead old flower spikes immediately when the blooms decline. Once deadheaded, it will start sending out new leaves followed by more blooms. This is a nice plant in that each week it gets bigger, which means you get more and more flowers with each new flush.
Since you want to encourage this growth, fertilizer needs to be part of your regular regimen. In a container, feed every other week with a half-strength, water-soluble 20-20-20 or something similar. In the landscape, side-dress monthly with time-released granules.
I have seen them get leggy in some of the coastal areas. This is easy to redirect by pruning to encourage lateral branching and hence more blooms.
By the time you read this, your garden center may have sold them all. I probably was the guilty culprit who bought them. But what you can do is ask them to get you some now or next spring. They will bloom until frost.