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Justicia

Acanthaceae
Deciduous, Evergreen, Shrubs, Semi-evergreen

This group of plants is grown chiefly for tubular, tightly clustered flowers or, in the case of Justicia brandegeeana, for showy spikes of bracts. Blossoms of all species attract hummingbirds. Leaves are paired, opposite each other on the stems.

Justicia brandegeeana
Justicia brandegeeana

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Justicia brandegeeana

Evergreen. Mexican native. Grows to 3–4 ft. high and wide. Apple green, oval to elliptic leaves to 2 1/2 in. long. Tubular white flowers spotted with purple are enclosed in overlapping coppery bronze bracts to form compact, drooping, jointed-looking spikes 3 in. long (eventually lengthening to 6 or 7 in.). Spike formation somewhat resembles a large shrimp. Blooms are produced mainly from spring to fall, sporadically the rest of the year.

Justicia californica

Semievergreen or deciduous. Native from the edges of southeastern California’s Colorado Desert to Arizona and northern Mexico. Grows to 6 ft. tall and wide, with arching, grayish branches and sparse, 1/4-in., roundish light green leaves. Clusters of tubular, bright red, 1 1/2-in.-long flowers give a good show from fall through spring. (‘Yellow’ has yellow blossoms.) Can freeze to the ground in winter but comes back in spring. Full sun or light shade. Little to moderate water. Summer-deciduous but will hold much of its foliage if irrigated.

Justicia candicans

Evergreen. Native to southern Arizona and Mexico. Erect growth to 3 ft. high and wide, with gray branchlets and dark green, heart-shaped leaves to 3 in. long. Clusters of 1-in., tubular, vivid red flowers from fall to early summer, with intermittent bloom later in summer. Full sun or light shade. Regular water.

Justicia carnea
Justicia carnea

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Justicia carnea

Evergreen. From South America. Soft-wooded, erect shrub grows to 4–6 ft. high and 2 1/2–3 ft. wide. Medium green, prominently veined leaves grow to 10 in. long. Dense clusters of pink to crimson, tubular flowers appear from midsummer to fall. ‘Huntington Form’ is a more compact plant (3–4 ft. high) with deeper pink flowers and leaves that are bronze colored on the lower surfaces. Cut back plants in early spring to encourage strong new growth.

Justicia spicigera (photo courtesy of Steven A. Gunther)
Justicia spicigera (photo courtesy of Steven A. Gunther)

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Justicia spicigera

Evergreen. From Mexico and Central America. Grows to 3 ft. high and 4 ft. wide, with light green, smooth or velvety leaves. Few-flowered clusters of 1 1/2-in. orange or orange-red flowers appear nearly year-round, peaking in spring and fall. Full sun or partial shade. Little to regular water.

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