By Ralph E. Mitchell
I visited Bok Tower Gardens late last year and spotted a patch of exotic-looking flowering plants in a shady nook. These plants were about six-feet tall and formed clumps of similar size. Atop many of the stem tips was a plume-like yellow flower that lit up the shady area. This beautiful evergreen perennial turned out to be the yellow jacobinia.
Now the jacobinia I spotted was Justicia aurea, a yellow-flowering species. There is also Justicia carnea which comes in a variety of color selections including orange, apricot, white, red and even a
pinkish-rose, flamingo-like color. Justicia carnea actually carries the common name of flamingo plant. Regardless, this native of tropical America is an ideal shade-loving flowering plant with large, green six-inch long leaves oppositely arranged along each stem. Several three to seven-foot stems emerge and make a robust clump of about three-feet wide. Flowers form on new growth and the six to ten-inch plumes are made up of a cluster of tubular flowers. These flowers even have a slight fragrance which adds to their appeal. Jacobinia have up to four flowering cycles during the year, but generally few flowers in between.
As mentioned before, jacobinia does best in part shade to shade planting sites. It is very hardy and will recover from any frost damage. Jacobinia looks best in a mass planting but can be adapted to large containers and will benefit from rich, well-drained soil and mulch kept away from base of the stems. The long stems sometimes become top-heavy and bend over. This will open up the clump a bit and cause new growth to fill in the center. Prune out dead flower heads as they occur. Early spring pruning will help new growth develop and subsequently a proliferation of flowers – new growth equals flowers. Mature plants will benefit from heading back the older branches. This rejuvenation will produce a better looking, fuller plant. One note to coastal areas, jacobinia is not salt tolerant.
If you cannot find jacobinia at area garden centers, check local family-run nurseries. Mail-order sites on-line are another option for smaller specimens. If you can find a local in-ground source, propagation is very easy as Jacobinia roots readily from cuttings. Jacobinia is a plant worthy of a spot in your yard. Take advantage of this shade-loving plant that puts on a show to boot! For more information on all types of plants suitable for shade, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or email@example.com.
Gilman, E. (2014) Justicia carnea, Jacobinia, Flamingo Plant. The University of Florida, IFAS
Missouri Botanical Garden (2021) Justicia aurea, Plant Finder.
Warner, K. (2017) Jacobinia. The University of Florida, IFAS – Nassau County.