Quatrefoil - A four-petalled flower, or a leaf consisting of four leaflets

back to HOME
flower and garden photos


Justicia carnea

plume flower
( ACANTHACEAE )  plume flower

The genus Justicia, named after an 18th century Scottish gardener James Justice, consists of about 300 species of herbs, shrubs and tender perennial native to the tropics and subtropics of both hemispheres and extending into temperate North America.

Some common names for these tender perennials from Brazil and South America include: Brazilian plume, flamingo flower, Jacobinia, pine-bur begonia, pink jacobinia, pink tongues, king's crown and cardinal's guard.

They have been popular container and greenhouse plants since the early nineteenth century when they were raised in Victorian conservatories. Justicia is becoming more popular in northern gardens where they are often grown as an annual, or lifted into pots and wintered indoors.


In summer the plant covers itself with large, very showy spikes of flowers in shades ranging from white, pink, red, rose, magenta, orange, purple to coral/apricot. Dense clusters of tubular pink flowers shaped like tiny tongues make this plant unique.

The flowers are tubes, flared at the mouth and curving outward from the center of the spike on which the flowers are arranged. The pink to rose-purple corolla is about 6 cm long, slender and slightly ampliate upward. The upper lip is erect and curved over the anthers at the tip, lower lip is reflexed to almost a right-angle and clawed.

plume flower    plume flower

A perfect perennial for shaded and partially shaded areas, they are one of the best plants for bringing dazzling color to the darker areas of your garden. The smaller varieties grow in mounds about 2 feet high. Others are more shrub-like and may grow to 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide.

The large, rich-green, coarse leaves are prominently veined. The under surface is thinly puberulent, especially on nerves, much less so on upper surface of the leaves. Depending on the variety, they are oblong and pointed on the end and about 8 inches long by 2 inches wide. Stems are 4-angled (squarish) or grooved.


Easy to grow and propagate, they tolerate our summer conditions very well and offer outstanding performance in gardens and containers. Most often today, the justicias offered in local nurseries and catalogs are hybrids, the results of crossing J. carnea with other species.

Justicia can't be beat for adding bright patches of vibrant color to shady areas. Use them in pots and containers in shady entryways, porches and patios, or planted directly in the garden. The smaller varieties can be used as a colorful groundcover in shady areas. Larger varities make great background plants and can be used in mixed hedges.


Fertilize three times a year in spring, summer and early fall. Cut back lanky stems after blooming to maintain a neat shape. In warmer zones, once they are established in the right spot of your garden, they can survive for decades with neglect.

Justicia is very easy to root from stem cuttings. Make stem cuttings about 8 to 12 inches long and remove all but the top 2-4 leaves. Dust the root end of the stem with rooting hormone powder, making sure that at least 2 notches where leaves used to be are covered. Push the stems 1 to 2 inches into potting soil and keep moist until new leaves appear.



CULTURE / CARE

  • PREFERS RICH, WELL-DRAINED SOIL
  • PARTIAL TO FULL SHADE
  • WATER REGULARLY; DO NOT OVERWATER
  • GROWS: 24-36 INCHES TALL
  • SPACING: 12-15 INCHES APART
  • SUITABLE FOR GROWING INDOORS
  • BLOOMS IN SUMMER AND FALL
  • FERTILIZE SPRING, SUMMER AND FALL
  • REMOVE FADED BLOOMS
  • CUT BACK STEMS AFTER BLOOMING
  • PROPAGATION BY CUTTINGS IN SPRING
  • HARDY IN ZONES 9 - 11 (US)


CULTIVARS, SPECIES & VARIETIES

  • Justicia carnea 'Alba'