1208 Pachystachys luteaCommon Names: lollipop plant, golden candles, golden shrimp plant Family: Acanthaceae (acanthus Family)
Lollipop plant is a tropical evergreen sub-shrub typically getting no more than 3 ft (1 m) tall with just a few branches spreading to 2 ft (60 cm) or so across. It has opposite, ovate to lance shaped leaves with conspicuous sunken veins. The 3-6 in (8-15 cm) long leaves end in slender pointed tips. The inflorescence is a bright golden yellow “candle” that stands erect about 4 in (10 cm) tall at the tip of each flowering branch. The showy candle is actually many overlapping bracts from which tubular, deeply two-lipped white flowers protrude. The bracts grow in four ranks, making the somewhat cone shaped spike appear four sided. The individual flowers are about 2 in (5 cm) long and at any given time several can be seen poking out of the bract. Each flower lasts for just a few days but the showy bracts persist for several weeks throughout the growing season.
Pachystachys lutea is native to tropical Peru. It is a popular garden flower in South America.
Light: Lollipop plant needs bright light. Outdoors grow in full sun to partial shade. Indoors, it should get the brightest location you have. Lollipop plant does well under bright artificial light. Moisture: During the growing season, water lollipop plant frequently and don’t let the soil dry out. This tropical plant likes high humidity, too, and benefits from frequent misting. Reduce, but don’t stop, watering in winter. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12. Lollipop plant should be grown in a greenhouse or indoors as a houseplant in areas where frosts could occur. Cool, drafty conditions will cause leaf drop. Lollipop plant does best with a temperature of 70°-80°F (21°-27°) in summer and 50°-60°F (10°-16°) in winter. Propagation:Softwood top cuttings from non-blooming shoots are easily rooted, especially with bottom heat.
Except in frost free areas, lollipop plant is grown as a flowering houseplant or a specimen for a warm greenhouse. In the ground it can get 3 ft (1 m) or more tall and almost as wide across, so you will probably be pruning it as a houseplant. Be sure to water frequently, fertilize monthly during the growing season, and keep its environment humid. Lollipop plant is difficult to maintain as a houseplant, but if you mist it frequently, keep it warm and in a bright sunny spot, you just might be rewarded with its cheerful golden candles for much of the spring, summer and autumn. Put your lollipop plant out on the terrace or patio for the summer; just don’t let it dry out.
Many of the lollipop plants sold in garden centers have been treated with a growth retardant to keep them small for use as containerized houseplants. They look much better short and bushy, than tall and gangly. If you are successful in keeping yours alive through an entire year, you will find that it begins to grow much taller when it comes out of winter dormancy. You should prune it back heavily after flowering to encourage branching and maintain a desirable size.
The genus Pachystachys, with about a dozen species, is closely related to Justicia, the genus that includes the plume flowers or jacobinias (J. carnea and hybrids) and the popular shrimp plant (J. brandegeana). The striking cardinal’s guard (Pachystachys coccinea), with bright red flowers protruding from green bracts, was formerly included in the genus Justicia.
Steve Christman 1/12/14