The old South Florida favorite ixora (Ixora spp.) is a year-round flowering plant that shouldn’t be put into the old-fashioned category. This sun-loving shrub bears clusters of four-petaled flowers in Central and South Florida.
Sometimes called flame of the woods, ixora is a member of the Rubiacea family which includes coffee, gardenia, firecracker vine, and pentas. While using scientific names to identify plants can be helpful in avoiding confusion between common names, figuring out how to pronounce a word written in Latin can be tricky. So if you find yourself struggling remember, ixora is pronounced “icks-SORE-ah.”
One of the best things about ixora is that it flowers throughout the year! Each flower cluster can last between 6 and 8 weeks giving your landscape long-lasting and lovely color. Ixora varieties offer a nice selection of colors including bright red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.
The leaves of this tropical perennial are bronze when young and shift to glistening dark green as the plant ages. A compact, densely-branching shrub, ixora is ideal for planting as a hedge, border, screen, or featured specimen—depending on which variety you select.
Some ixora types grow to 10-15 feet tall and 4-10 feet wide when unpruned, but they can handle shearing to maintain them as a smaller hedge. However, it should be mentioned that constant shearing will reduce ixora’s flower display. Smaller forms which only reach 4-6 feet are available, as well as petite cultivars.
This evergreen is moderately drought- and salt-tolerant. It can handle saline irrigation water, but does not do well with direct ocean breezes. Ixora is adapted to South and Central Florida; zone 9B seems to be its northern-most limit, as frosts or freezes will injure it. If you really want to grow ixora farther north, consider keeping it in a container where it can be moved indoors when temperatures drop.
An ever-blooming shrub that is easy to maintain sounds like a dream for many gardeners. The fact that ixora comes in a range of colors is a great bonus. For orange flowers look for ‘Maui’, which is thought to be more cold tolerant that other varieties, or ‘Prince of Orange’. The variety ‘Fraseri’ has orange-rose flowers while ‘Angela Busman’ has rose-colored blooms. For red flowers try ‘Nora Grant’, a durable and popular hybrid with pinkish-red flowers, or ‘Super King’, an older cultivar with deep red flowers and large flower clusters. ‘Sunset’ is a yellow-flowered variety with a touch of orange-red in open flowers. ‘Singapore Yellow’ and ‘Frances Perry’ also have yellow flowers. ‘Herrera’s White’ offers something completely different with, as the name suggests, white flowers.
Planting and Care
Ixora flowers continuously under ideal conditions. While full sun is necessary for maximum flower production, this plant—especially large-leaved varieties—can be grown in partial shade. And while ixora can be pruned anytime and will handle shearing, pruning will reduce your plant’s flowering.
This native of Southern Asia is not well-suited to alkaline conditions, particularly areas next to sidewalks or foundations, and new growth will appear chlorotic from iron and manganese deficiencies. Purplish-red spots on older leaves indicate a combined potassium/phosphorus deficiency.
When shopping for ixora, purchase plants that have a full appearance and multiple branches that will support many blooms. While this plant requires little care, be on the look-out for sooty mold, which usually indicates aphids or scale insects. Beneficial parasites and predators usually clear them up, but an application of insecticidal soap may be needed.
Perhaps this low-maintenance, high pay-off, plant would be perfect for your landscape.