Justicia floribunda

Plant of the month: January

Also known as: Brazilian fuchsia, firecracker flower

Family: Acanthaceae

Native to: eastern Brazil

Blooms: late autumn to early spring.

Habitats: subtropical forests

Where to find it at the BBG&G: Subtropical House

Justicia floribunda is a bushy evergreen, tender shrub which grows to a metre in height and spread. It was given an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993 for its reliability and good greenhouse performance. Clusters of tubular, two lipped red and yellow flowers smother the foliage during the bleakest months of the year. These flowers in its native habitat are very attractive to hummingbirds, which pollinate them whilst drinking the nectar. It can tolerate some cool temperatures just above freezing but does best with a minimum winter night temperature of 13C as in our Subtropical House. Although it can tolerate some shade, it flowers profusely if given some direct sun during the winter. Its simple leaves are tiny and glossy. It is easily propagated by softwood cuttings during spring and summer. The genus Justicia honours James Justice; a prominent eighteenth century Scottish horticulturalist and gardener.