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What is a Lollipop Plant?

By Terrie Brockmann
Updated May 16, 2024
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The lollipop plant, or Acanthaceae Pachystachys lutea, is an evergreen tropical shrub. It is native to Central America and parts of Peru, and gardeners in tropical and subtropical gardens usually raise it as a perennial garden specimen. In other regions, it typically is an annual plant, raised in containers, or kept as an indoor houseplant. It is a mound-shaped plant that generally grows from three feet to five feet (about one to one and a half m) wide and tall. Often people call it the golden or yellow shrimp plant because the bright yellow bracts of the flower stalk resemble yellow shrimp.

The plant usually is a small- to medium-sized shrub that has narrow, shiny leaves that are generally evergreen. Most gardeners raise the plant for its showy flower spikes that resemble yellow candles, which often is another name for it. Bright yellow bracts rise like candles and bear white flowers between the bracts. Sometimes the lollipop plant is confused with the shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeana, which also resembles shrimp with its pink or reddish bracts. Each species typically attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, and gardeners often plant both of them in hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

The tropical plant generally is not hardy in areas that get hard frosts. It might survive light frosts, and sometimes if a light frost kills the foliage, the lollipop plant regrows from the base. In areas that get hard frosts, the gardeners usually plant it in containers or use it as a houseplant. Once the days and nights are above 60°F (about 15°C), growers usually move it outside. Many gardeners in colder regions grow it as an annual.

While it is a tropical plant, the lollipop plant typically prefers partial shade to full sun. In the full sun, the leaves often wilt or turn yellow. It also prefers well-drained soil that is consistently moist, but not boggy or clay-like. The lollipop plant does not do well in alkaline soil or with salt water. Gardeners usually should avoid watering it with softened water.

The lollipop plant propagates itself with seeds and underground runners, although growers also may use softwood cuttings to generate new plants. To save the seeds for planting, a gardener often has more success if he or she allows the seeds to dry naturally on the plant before harvesting them. To ensure continuous blooms, most gardeners trim the bracts to encourage the plant to branch out and flower more. The blooms usually remain on the plant for a quite a while before fading.

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Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Sep 28, 2012

I don't think I have ever seen a lollipop plant, but love to plant flowers and shrubs that have yellow flowers. It seems like it is much easier to find pink and purple flowers than yellow ones.

How long do these stay in bloom? Most of my perennials never stay in bloom long enough, so I am wondering if they bloom for a few days or a few weeks?

By LisaLou — On Sep 27, 2012

Once when I was visiting a garden center in a much warmer part of the country than where I live, I saw these lollipop shrubs. I love evergreens because I get tired of seeing brown all winter long. The green is always so refreshing in the middle of winter.

When I found out that they didn't get all that tall, I thought I would try growing them in a couple of containers. I don't know what I did wrong, but they didn't do very well. One of them died before the year was over, and the second one is starting to lose a lot of its leaves.

I think maybe these would do a lot better if they can be grown outside in the soil instead of being in a container. If someone else has had good luck growing these in a container, I would love to know how you did it.

By SarahSon — On Sep 27, 2012

If you are like me and like to have hummingbirds and butterflies visit your garden, the lollipop plant is a must have. I was surprised that so many hummingbirds were attracted to this when it was in bloom.

I also have a butterfly bush that both hummingbirds and butterflies like, but I must say, the lollipop plant is just as attractive to them. I didn't think hummingbirds would be as attracted to this because it has bright yellow flowers, but I think they go by the smell of the flower more than the actual color.

A plant doesn't have to be red in order for a hummingbird to come and feed on it. It is unusual to have a flowering evergreen plant, and this is one that is easy to grow and fun to have around.

By honeybees — On Sep 26, 2012

I wished I lived in a climate warm enough that I could grow this as a perennial. My winters are much too cold for this, and the only way I can grow this is if I have it in a pot and bring it indoors.

I have two of these in pots on my front porch, and keep them outside when the weather is warm enough. As far as evergreens go, I like them because they don't get too big, but still stay green all year long and make a nice statement when they are right next to the front door.

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