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Tropical Plant Given Mississippi Medallion
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
If you want your landscape or patio to look like French Martinique, the jewel of the Caribbean, you should try growing this year's Mississippi Medallion award-winning yellow shrimp plant.
The yellow shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea, is the first tropical plant to receive the Mississippi Medallion award. These plants will bloom all summer and are so easy to grow you will be amazed. You may start hearing the tropical sounds of steel drums in the distance.
Yellow shrimp plants have dark green, oval-shaped leaves and grow upright topped with spikes of blooms. The plant starts blooming by sending up a 4- to 5-inch yellow bract followed by narrow, tubular white flowers that are between 1 and 2 inches long.
Plants like the bougainvillea, poinsettia, bromeliads and heliconias are grown specifically for exotic bracts, but are often difficult to get to bloom. Yellow shrimp plants, however, flower all summer as they bloom on new growth. The yellow bracts stay attractive for months and are ideal for cutting and using in the vase. Cutting them simply generates new growth and more blooms.
Even though we grow these for their bright yellow bracts, hummingbirds will find the white tubular flowers irresistible. The swift flyers will dart here and there competing for the delicious meal.
The yellow shrimp plants are great specimens for containers on patios or can be planted in the border for a sweeping splash of yellow. Try planting several in front of bananas or upright elephant ears for a really tropical look.
Since they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, a complementary colorful choice would be large yellow shrimp plants in the back and violet-colored impatiens in the front.
Yellow shrimp plants prefer fertile well-drained soils, so work in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter along with 2 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. A slow release 12-6-6 fertilizer containing minor nutrients would be a good choice.
Since they are prolific bloomers and bloom on new growth, side-dress with light applications of fertilizer to keep them growing vigorously. In containers, feed with a dilute, water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every other week.
They are also easy to protect during the winter by moving them to a frost-free location. When you bring it out for the spring, you may want to re-pot and cut it back for a quick flush of growth and blooms.
Another big plus for the yellow shrimp plant is how easy they are to propagate. To propagate, cut an 8- to 10-inch long stem and strip off the lower set of leaves. Place in moist potting soil or sand, keeping one to two sets of leaves above the soil line. Place cuttings in the shade and they should root easily. This may be useful next fall if you planted yours in the landscape and want to over-winter some for the next spring.
The Caribbean Islands give us some of our most beautiful, tropical plants to grow in the landscape or around the patio or porch. You will be hard-pressed to find ones easier to grow or showier than the Mississippi Medallion award-winning yellow shrimp plants.