Gardens

Orbs of colour

Orange, almost scarlet, flowers are the most popular variety of this shrub, although in recent times pink, yellow and white have become as popular. The leaves are of different sizes (varying between 3 to 6 inches) and flowers in large clusters that bloom in summer. Each bunch of flowers can have up to sixty flowerets.

These plants are easy to grow and maintain, as they require very little attention. They can grow up to a height of 12 feet but are more commonly stopped at 4-6 feet in home gardens. One can maintain any height by trimming the plants regularly; in fact it is a popular fence or hedge plant in Thailand. The plants are used in topiary work too (to form shapes) since you can cut and prune them when the flowers start to become smaller or when the bush seems out of shape or wild, if you are maintaining a hedge or topiary.

Ixora plants need regular watering but too much water and slushy soil are a strict no-no. They prefer acetic soil, which is common in India, as well as manure or fertilisers twice a year. It is best to plant these shrubs in areas where there is no construction work, or when such construction is completely over, since alkaline from cement and building materials can stunt their growth.

Once you have located the right spot for the plants, just add two handfuls of manure mix to the soil when planting the Ixora. Use leaf mulch/dry leaves to cover the roots during the height of summer for the plants to retain moisture and to protect from too much sun.

The plants grow well in pots, so it is easy to bring them indoors as well —when in full bloom they add a splash of colour to any space. Although they can be indoors for short periods, they do better in bright sunlight.

Ixora plants are normally very sturdy, but when and if the leaves start turning yellow or the plant is withering, it’s a sign that they need some pest control. A common problem is an attack by small green insects, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap spray or neem oil spray.

Ixora is a beautiful addition to any garden. Its flowers are also used in Ayurveda, and often for pujas and to decorate homes. So if you are looking for a new plant to add to your garden or balcony, look no further.

The writer is a Chennai-based environmentalist and landscapist. Mail her at propertyplus@thehindu.co.in.


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 6:41:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/gardens/orbs-of-colour/article6686010.ece

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