Sunday, December 8, 2013

Justicia carnea 'Radiant'

 Justicia carnea 'Radiant' syn 'Huntington Form' (Acanthaceae)
My thanks go to two Sydney gardeners, Helen from 'Tropical Breeze' and Deirdre from iGarden who pointed me in the right direction as to the correct name of this form of the 'Brazilian Plume' shrub. When I bought a plant of it at a garden show earlier in the year it was unnamed and I was attracted to the purple maroon leaves and stems. However it is not that uncommon as just this week I saw dozens of this form for sale at a plant trade market.
Unfortunately it does what a lot of the Justicia species do and that is it has spindly open growth with just a plume of flower at the top. The way around this habit is to plant several together, preferably in a shady warm spot or just keep tip pruning it from a young age to make the shrub more bushy. Pruning and fertilizing after flowering also helps. This tendency of Justicias of showing off the flowers and not hiding them amongst foliage is to attract birds which they do quite well, especially the honey-eaters. This form grows to about a metre or so unlike the straight species which can reach two or more metres.
Justicia is named to commemorate the horticultural legacy of Scot James Justice (1698-1763) who was a principal clerk at the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh before pursuing his horticultural career and publishing The Scots Gardiners' Director (sic) in 1754.
Quite eccentric by all accounts and very extravagant, he was the first man to grow pineapples in Scotland.

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