Ixora plants are woody evergreen shrubs with a wonderfully exotic and tropical look. They produce masses of crimson flowers practically year-round and require very little maintenance. If you live in an area like southern Florida, with a warm, subtropical, or tropical climate, this is a plant that deserves your attention.
Read on to learn how to grow a beautiful Ixora shrub in your garden.
What Is An Ixora Shrub?
Although there are a great many different species in the genus, the most popular amongst gardeners is Ixora coccinea. These plants have wonderful common names like Jungle Flame, Jungle Geranium, and Flame of the woods. They are evergreen shrubs of the Rubiaceae family.
Ixora shrubs typically have a rounded shape and may grow broader than they do high. They can ultimately reach about 15 feet (4.5m) tall, although this does depend on the variety and the growing conditions.
Jungle geraniums originate from South Asia, in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India. There they grow in moist forest and thicket environments.
The dark green foliage is bronzey when young, with each leaf measuring 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) long when fully developed. The glossy leaves are whorled or oppositely arranged, with smooth (entire) margins.
Although the flower color of wild I. coccinea is a deep crimson, flower color varies from yellow, through orange and pink to red, and even white in horticultural varieties. The flowers are produced in clusters known as cymes that measure up to about 5 inches (12.5cm) across. Each individual flower measures about an inch (2.5cm) across and has 4 petals.
The flowers are long-lasting, remaining open for at least 5 weeks or more, and what’s more, this plant flowers pretty much throughout the year. The flowers are followed by small, round purple fruits (drupes), but they are not particularly showy.
How To Grow An Ixora Plant
Ixora plants are best grown from semi-ripe cuttings in the summer. They can be grown from seed, but germination can take a long time and is never guaranteed.
The ideal soil for these plants should be neutral to slightly acidic and rich in organic material. Unfortunately, alkaline conditions cause chlorosis of the leaves, and even planting along pavements can be detrimental to these shrubs.
Ixora plants like a moist, humid environment, and should be kept well watered in dryer environments. They do, however, require well-drained soil. These plants should be watered more sparingly in the winter months.
These plants can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Full sun will result in the best flowering, but a little shade during the afternoon will be appreciated.
These plants have been successfully grown outdoors in USDA Zone 9B, but 10 and 11 are safer bets. Flame of the woods is a tropical species that is a little drought tolerant but prefers a humid environment. It does well in coastal areas but is not adapted to direct salt spray or basic coastal soils.
In colder areas, this plant can be maintained as an indoor container plant, provided it receives enough light.
Care and Maintenance
Ixoras are fairly slow-growing plants. Pruning can increase the plant’s flower production and create a denser growth form.
Although it is not strictly necessary, they can be pruned at any time of the year to remove any wayward branches or cold-damaged growth. Unfortunately, unselective shearing may reduce the plant’s flower production, but Ixora hedges can still show plenty of color.
These plants are mostly very disease and pest-resistant, requiring little intervention from the gardener. They can, however, be susceptible to aphids, scale, and mold.
A strong spray of water from the hosepipe may be sufficient for controlling pests, or you can use an organic pesticide like neem oil to keep the critters at bay. Chlorosis is a typical issue in coastal areas with basic soils.
This plant makes a fine specimen but also works in borders, hedges, or as a screen. The dwarf forms make good container plants.
Ixora coccinea is used in traditional Indian medicine. They have a multitude of reported uses including as a treatment for skin conditions, nausea, chest conditions, hypertension, and dysentery.
Ixora shrubs attract many birds, butterflies, and other insects. These plants are also non-toxic to pets.
If you live in zones 10 or 11 and want a free-flowering shrub with a number of different landscaping uses for your garden, Ixora is a great plant. What’s not to like about a showy evergreen that needs very little attention from the gardener? The only possible stumbling block to success if you live in the right climate is the alkalinity of your soil.
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