Commonly known via a range of names such as Purple Shrimp, Blue Shrimp, Rose Pine Cones, Maracas Brazilian Fireworks or simply, Brazilian Fireworks Plant, Porphyrocoma pohliana is a tropical evergreen plant that is a prolific bloomer in the tropics. It is a member of the Acanthaceae, a family consisting of many ornamental flowering shrubs used widely for landscaping in Singapore and similar climates.
I remember seeing this attractive plant being offered for sale in Singapore a while ago, but it has since disappeared once again. Native to South America, Porphyrocoma pohliana grows as a shrub that can attain a height of about 30 cm. It features very ornamental leaves that are deep green which are adonred with silver veins. The plant also produces extremely showy terminal spikes which are covered with long-lasting deep pinkish-red bracts. The true flowers of Porphyrocoma pohliana are purple in colour and they contrast quite starkly with the overlapping bracts.
One may wonder why this plant is has the ‘fireworks’ word in its common name. In one of my searches on the Internet, the fireworks part was said to have been derived from two sources. One is the appearance of its deep red flower bracts that develop purple flowers, creating an explosion of color. Second, as flowers fade, it can shoot its small black seeds across the surroundings where it grows. Porphyrocoma pohliana is said to be able to self-seed readily and may become a weed in your garden!
Interestingly, it is one of the shrubby Acanthaceae members which can be grown from seeds which are offered for sale by mail order nurseries. Like other Acanthaceae members, it can also be grown from stem-cuttings. It should be grown in a fertile, well draining soil mix that is rich in organic matter. Like many shrubs, it is necessary to prune Porphyrocoma pohliana regularly to ensure that it retains a compact growth habit.
Many Internet resources say that Porphyrocoma pohliana is an indoor plant because it is a shade-loving plant. However, the apartment gardener is to be advised that this plant is not suitable for growing long term inside your apartment. Conditions there are far too dark for the plant to grow. The best area in an apartment for growing Porphyrocoma pohliana is either on the balcony or corridor where it can receive filtered sunshine or bright indirect light for at least 6 hours daily. Outdoors, this plant can be grown in the shade, but not in full or direct sunlight. Strong sunshine can bleach the leaves. To date, I have not seen anyone in Singapore being able to grow this plant successfully. Plants that were put on sale (probably imported) look great but once brought home or left on the shelves in the nursery but they decline gradually.