Pachystachys lutea

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February 1, 2008

Depending on where you’re from, you may know Pachystachys lutea, common name golden shrimp plant or lollipop plant, as an indoor foliage plant, annual bedding plant or tropical outdoor shrub. The plant, which originates in South America, usually reaches 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide in warmer areas (USDA Hardiness Zones 9b-12).

In warmer climates it can be used as a hedge plant for borders and in mass plantings. In cooler locations where it’s used as an annual or indoor pot plant, it typically grows 12-18 inches tall.

The common Pachystachys lutea produces a four-sided inflorescence with bright-yellow bracts from which tubular white flowers protrude. These flowering racemes are produced on the ends of sturdy stems above dark-green, deeply veined 4- to 6-inch leaves.

If you’re looking for something different, consider the P. lutea Athena series from GroLink, which contains Red and White. Red, which is part of GroLink’s Landscape Elite program, produces red to pinkish bracts that contrast well with pure-white flowers with red throats. White develops off-white to yellowish bracts that contrast well with its bright-white flowers.

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Plants are available as unrooted cuttings or as rooted liners (105- and 72-cell trays). Cuttings or liners should be stuck into a well-drained growing medium with a pH of 6.0-6.5 and electrical conductivity of 0.6-0.9. One pinch should be made when rooted cuttings are transplanted.

Plants should be grown at 68°F-75°F with a high humidity (65 percent or higher). If the temperature goes below 60°F, leaf drop can occur. Plants should be grown in full sun to light shade.

Feed at every watering with a 20-10-20 fertilizer at a rate of 150-200 parts per million nitrogen. Application of a time-released fertilizer is recommended either incorporated into the medium or top-dressed at planting.

A 4 1/2-inch pot planted with one liner finishes in five to six weeks. A 1-gallon container planted with one to two rooted cuttings finishes in six to eight weeks.

There are no serious insect or disease problems. Watch for scale and spider mite on plants grown outdoors. Indoors, look for aphid, whitefly and spider mite.

For more: GroLink, (800) 451-6319; www.grolink.com.

Specifics

Name: Pachystachys lutea Athena series.

Crop timing: A 1-gallon container planted with one or two rooted cuttings, given one pinch at transplant, finishes in six to eight weeks. A 4 1/2-inch pot planted with one rooted liner finishes in five to six weeks.

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Grower benefits: The Athena series is easy to grow and has few pest and disease problems. It offers a tropical ornamental look whether grown as an indoor flowering pot plant, outdoor plant, combination component or for the landscape.