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.