West Indian Jasmine: How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Ixora
Thinking of planting some West Indian Jasmine around your home or in your garden? The Ixora, is a plant with brightly colored flowers, that comes in a variety of different colors. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about planting, growing, and successfully caring for Ixora.
The West Indian Jasmine, also known as Ixora or Jungle Geranium, is a genus of evergreen trees and shrubs native to various tropical and subtropical areas. This plant is famous for its exceptionally bright flowers, which can bloom in warm climates throughout the year.
If you are considering planting some of these colorful flowers in your garden or around your home, then there’s several factors you’ll want to consider. These bright flowered plants can make excellent ornamental plants, but to grow them successfully, there’s some important steps to follow.
Let’s take a look at all you’ll need to know about Ixoras, including how to plant and grow them, their general history, threats you might find in your garden, and answers to some common questions.
West Indian Jasmine Overview
Plant Type Shrubs/Trees
Plant Family Rubiaceae
Plant Genus Ixora
Plant Species 562 variants
Hardiness Zone USDA 10-11
Soil pH Acidic
Plant Maintenance Low
Plant Height Up to 12 feet
Flower Color Red, Orange, Pink, Yellow
Plant With Low-Maintenance Plants
Don’t Plant With Cold-Loving Plants
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Plant Spacing 3 feet
Watering Needs 1x / Week
Sun Exposure 8-10 Hours
Attracts Bees, Butterflies
Pests Aphids, Mealybugs
Diseases Leaf Spot Disease
About West Indian Jasmine
Ixoras are dense shrubs that like hot (but not scorching) weather. Although they can grow to impressive sizes, most reach maturity at around five feet tall and four feet wide and can be trimmed to keep them small. However, owners of this plant should be aware of how slowly they grow and avoid over-trimming.
While this plant has many species, most people focus on a handful of commonly cultivated options, with Ixora coccinea being the most common choice in many areas.
History and Cultivation
Ixora is native to the southeastern areas of Asia. However, it has spread throughout the world’s tropical regions thanks to its general hardiness in tropical and subtropical regions. It’s cultivated for both decorative and functional purposes, with some traditional and folk medicines using the leaves and fruits to care for specific ailments.
Climate is the main issue affecting their growth and spread. As we’ll discuss later, it’s not fond of colder areas, and the parts on the ground will die quickly if the temperature drops too low. The roots may survive, but it grows so slowly that it takes quite a long time to return to normal.
The best way to propagate Ixora is with cuttings, preferably taken in spring when the plant is actively growing. This plant is hardy and tolerates aggressive trimming, so it’s usually easy to get the cuttings themselves.
To take a cutting, prepare a clean pot and add a soilless potting mix. We use these mixes because they drain better than regular soil and don’t have the kinds of pathogens that might kill your cutting before you can plant it. A pot about 6 inches deep should work fine for Ixora.
Next, find a non-woody stem on your plant to cut. New growths tend to root easier than older ones – this is why cuttings should be taken during the spring. Try to find a node along the stem. Nodes are bumps where leaves or flower buds attach. New roots can emerge from there.
Use alcohol-sterilized scissors or a sharp blade like a razor to take your cutting just beneath the node. The best cuttings will be around five inches long, give or take an inch, with a minimum of two leaves and one node present. Don’t make the cutting too long because it might dry out too fast later.
Once you’ve separated the cutting, split the middle of the node with another sterilized blade. This encourages the plant to grow roots from that area and improves the chances of success. After that, trim the leaves if they look too large.
While leaves are generally good on a plant, having too many will take energy away from the rest of the plant and prevent root creation. Your cutting will only need about two leaves for photosynthesis.
Next, apply some rooting hormones. Properly rooting Ixora is difficult, so you may need to try several cuttings and apply some heat to the bottom during the process to see success.
Once you’re done applying the hormone, use a pencil or similarly-shaped object to make a hole in your potting mix. Make the hole slightly larger than your cutting to ensure you don’t wipe off the rooting hormone when you’re planting it. Afterward, gently pat the soil into place around it.
Put some plastic around the bag, making sure there are still some openings for airflow. Put your covered plant in a warm area with filtered sunlight, then move it to full sunlight when you see new leaves appearing.
Keep the soil somewhat moist for several weeks. Once you feel resistance, the roots are developing, and you can move on to planting.
Propagating Ixora With Seeds
You can try propagating Ixora using its seeds. This can work better if you’re not used to taking cuttings or don’t have access to a plant to get cuttings from. You can plant at any time of year, but it’s better to do it in spring if possible. This gives it the longest growing season possible before winter comes.
To propagate from seeds, soak the seed in water overnight to ensure it’s moist. In the morning, fill a small pot with a good seed starter mix, ideally one that’s acidic instead of alkaline. Gently bury the seed in your starter mix and water it, then cover it with a plastic bag and put it in an area with moderate light. Try to keep it around 64 degrees.
Move it to full sunlight once you see the seed germinating. These seeds can take up to 12 weeks to germinate, so don’t get impatient if you don’t see anything happening after a few days. Many seeds won’t germinate at all, so it’s best to try growing quite a few at once.
The main problem with growing Ixora from seeds is that they aren’t readily available in most areas. You may need to order them online or from a specialty dealer.
Growing Ixora in Greenhouses
You can propagate Ixora at any time of year if you’re using a greenhouse configured for tropical climates. This may be the only way to grow it in colder climates. However, make sure your greenhouse still gets enough sunlight to make your plants happy.
Ixora is not suitable for growing in far northern climates, regardless of the temperature. If you don’t get at least 6 hours of sunlight throughout the year, the warm temperatures won’t be enough to make them bloom.
Once you’re ready to plant, dig a hole about ten inches deep and amend it as necessary. Try to get a soil pH of about six before you start planting. If you need to lower the pH, you can use strategies like mixing in peat moss to adjust it as necessary. This will also help stop the soil from compacting too much.
Make sure to remove sticks, rocks, and similar debris from your planting area. Once you’re done planting, cover with about three inches of organic mulch. This will help maintain moisture and protect your shrub from sudden temperature changes.
Most people plant Ixora outside, but you can also grow it as a house shrub. If you decide to go this route, use a six-inch pot for the first two years, then switch to an eight-inch container that you will use for the rest of your plant’s life.
The best soil for an indoor Ixora is an equal mix of perlite, all-purpose potting soil, and peat moss. Be sure to use more than just potting soil when planting an Ixora – by itself, soil compacts over time, so it won’t absorb water or drain as well.
This plant grows best around other plants. Although they work as hedges, don’t plant them too close to sidewalks, foundations, or pools. The main problem here is concrete, which has a high pH and makes the soil near it more alkaline. Ixora prefers acidic soil, so they won’t grow nearly as well if you plant them too close to a source of alkalinity.
This particular plant doesn’t require much care as long as it gets enough sunlight and airflow. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when growing these.
First, make sure you put them somewhere that has no cold drafts. These plants don’t like cold weather and could start suffering from even brief exposure to lower temperatures.
Second, avoid moving them more than necessary. This isn’t a problem if you’re planting them outside, but if you’re growing them in an indoor pot, try to leave your plant in place.
You don’t need to deadhead Ixora when its flowers start to fade, but pinching off the older blooms encourages the plant to produce more. This is helpful if you’re trying to get flowers throughout the year.
Otherwise, just make sure to remove any weeds, and your Ixora should essentially take care of itself.
There is one other option for caring for them. Like most woody shrubs, they can be shaped as bonsai. This requires much more care to achieve the desired shape, but it can produce a full head of blossoms atop the plant throughout much of the year.
As tropical plants, Ixoras perform best in areas that get plenty of sunlight. Six to eight hours a day is appropriate for most species, possibly with a bit of shade during the hottest parts of the day to prevent scorching.
You can also plant Ixoras in partially shady locations, but this isn’t as good as full sunlight if you want as many blooms as possible.
Some Ixora species tolerate shade better than the regular variety. A notable variety is the dwarf Ixora which rarely surpasses three feet. Dealers can tell you more about the exact light requirements for any cultivar they’re selling.
If you’re not sure what species you have, which can happen if you’re obtaining cuttings from someone who isn’t an expert, try to estimate things based on the size of the original plant. Plant in full sunlight if it’s taller than three feet. If it’s an older plant and hasn’t grown, you can try partially shady areas.
Getting full sunlight can be difficult indoors, and that’s one of the main limits on growing Ixora there. It can tolerate low light for some time, but it won’t flower nearly as often as some other types of flowers unless you have a suitable area to grow it. Some houses don’t have enough light to make growing Ixora viable.
This plant prefers moist soil. Outdoor plants do well with one deep watering a week, especially if you have mulch to keep the moisture in. This also helps keep pests and weeds away, though it’s more challenging if you’re planting other things with it.
Try to avoid using artificial barriers like landscaping fabric. While good fabric lets water through, it can still inhibit some airflow and ultimately reduce soil quality. Using mulch as a weed barrier is more effective, especially in outdoor areas.
Indoor plants may need watering more often. Most of this has to do with the container you’re using. Some containers let water out much faster than outdoor soil, so you might need to water it as often as every day. This is especially true during summer, where the added heat contributes to evaporation.
Water your plant somewhat less during winter months, to the point the soil is nearly dry. Don’t let it dry out entirely if you want to get as many blooms as possible, but reducing the watering frequency during winter helps match its natural growth cycles.
This plant is moderately drought-tolerant. It doesn’t grow or bloom as well if things are too dry, but it can survive without water for quite some time.
Ixora grows best in soils that have a lot of organic matter in them. This is one of the reasons why you might need to mix in peat moss or a similar substitute to adjust the soil rather than planting it directly into mixes that work well for other plants.
Try to keep the pH of your soil between 5.5 and 6.5 – somewhere right in the middle works best for many Ixora cuttings. Soil can lose acidity over time, so you may need to adjust it to maintain the best growing environment every few years.
Generally, Ixora with dull leaves is probably growing in soil that isn’t acidic enough.
Adjusting the soil of a well-rooted plant can be challenging, but there are ways to do it without digging up your plant. An acidifying fertilizer is often enough to get things to the right level. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, though. Applying too much fertilizer in one place could burn or even kill your plants.
If you want to adjust the soil for an indoor plant, try watering it for a few days with a mix of two tablespoons of regular vinegar per gallon of water. Test the soil regularly and stop using the vinegar mix once you reach the correct pH range.
Ixora strongly prefers warm temperatures. They grow best in areas consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even at the coldest part of winter. They can suffer if they’re anywhere close to places with cold drafts, including things like open windows or air conditioners.
If you’re growing these plants indoors, try to put them somewhere that gets plenty of sunlight but remains as far from colder or windy areas as possible. Its preference for warm temperatures is why you shouldn’t move it more than necessary, either. Simply carrying a plant can create wind chill over the leaves, dropping the temperature enough that leaves will fall off.
You can maintain the best environment by keeping it in a traditionally humid room or adding a small space humidifier. Most tropical plants enjoy such care, so it’s best to keep them together if you’re growing them indoors.
Ixora plants love heat, but they don’t enjoy scorching heat. If they’re getting too much direct sunlight when it’s particularly hot out, they may start withering. This is why a little shade during the harshest part of the day can be appropriate for them.
You can also reduce the potential impact of high temperatures by keeping them well-watered. As mentioned earlier, this plant tolerates drought reasonably well, but it won’t grow much in such conditions.
Greenhouses usually have the best environment for Ixora, so consider growing them in those if possible. You can get a small indoor greenhouse if needed.
Ixoras grow well with fertilizer for acid-based plants. Generally, anything that works on azalea should also work on Ixora with no particular problems. Products rarely call out Ixora on their labels, although you may occasionally find that in areas where Ixora are common.
Some people recommend fertilizing as often as every week during the growing season, but the correct frequency is always whatever the manufacturer says on their labels. Some fertilizers work best if you apply them two or three times a year, while others could see far more use.
Ixora requires minimal maintenance for growth, but some care if you want to maximize its appearance. There are two aspects to this: pruning and shaping.
For pruning, you can do it almost anytime. However, remember that these plants create their buds for the next blooms shortly after the current flowers open. If you prune while those are growing, you could end up removing them and stopping your plant from flowering at all. You can still do it if necessary, but try to avoid it.
The second consideration is shaping it. Ixora holds up well to shaping, making it a popular choice for outdoor hedges and decorative elements. It doesn’t grow too quickly once it reaches maturity, so you probably won’t need to trim it too regularly to maintain your preferred shape.
Pests and Diseases
This plant has no major pest or disease problems to worry about. We always recommend you keep some birds around your garden though, just for good measure. Ixora does have a few minor issues to keep an eye on.
The first issue is chlorosis from alkaline soils. Chlorosis is a condition where the leaves of plants turn yellow because they don’t have enough chlorophyll in them. This has several causes, but high soil alkalinity is the most common reason this manifests in Ixora.
Try to run a full-spectrum test on your soil if you see this, just to ensure it’s not caused by a lack of other nutrients. A healthy Ixora will have vivid, dark green leaves.
The next potential problem is sooty mold. This is usually an insect problem where pests like mealybugs or soft scales suck nutrients out from the plant and excrete a mix of water and sugary compounds that the mold fungus colonizes. This is treatable with a mild insecticidal soap spray. As always, follow the manufacturer’s directions for applying it.
Nematodes are a relatively minor problem, though they can harm your plants. Having several inches of mulch, but keeping it away from the trunk of your Ixora, is usually enough to deter them.
West Indian Jasmine has several practical uses. Its primary use in most areas is as a hedge or outdoor screen. Some people also use it along with foundations or in landscaping projects. While you can plant cuttings alone, indoors, or out, most people put at least several of these in a row when growing outdoors.
If possible, try to ensure you get seeds or cuttings from the same original plants. Otherwise, you might get some distracting variation in flower colors.
This plant also has some uses in traditional medicine, especially in the southeastern parts of Asia. Research proves that products made from Ixora have anti-neutrophil abilities. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, neutrophils are a type of white blood cell.
While we don’t want to get rid of white blood cells permanently, inhibiting them for a little while can help treat some reactions and disorders, especially near the skin.
Parts of the plant may also be used as astringents, appetite stimulants, or general anti-inflammatory treatment.
Finally, the small fruits are edible. They’re about 10mm wide when ripe and mostly tasteless. Ixora doesn’t grow many berries at once, so you’ll need to plant quite a few of them if you want to eat or use the berries regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Ixora Need Full Sun?
Most types of Ixora need full sun to maximize flower production. If you’re not growing them for the flowers, you can put them in partially shady areas. Large-leafed versions of Ixora handle shade better than versions with smaller leaves.
Does Ixora Grow Quickly?
No. Ixora grows slowly, so if you’re planting them together to build a hedge, they may take several years to intertwine properly. They can reach impressive heights if given time to grow, but most people trim them to approximately around three or four feet for cosmetic reasons.
Dwarf Ixora will reach their full height quicker than traditional varieties. Many people grow dwarf variants indoors instead of outdoors, but you can plant the miniature versions outside if you want a lower flowering shrub.
Is Ixora Toxic?
Ixora is not known to be toxic when taken or prepared in regular amounts. It is not widely toxic to humans, dogs, cats, or most other pets. The berries are generally safe and edible by humans when ripe.
However, like all medicinal substances, it could become toxic if you concentrate its elements or take too much at once. Researchers have not extensively studied this plant to the point that it can be determined if it can become toxic. The berries should be fine, but do not prepare Ixora as medicine without consulting a qualified expert.
How Can I Get Ixora To Bloom More?
Ixora blooms more when you put it through annual pruning, carefully avoiding the tips of the branches where new buds are coming out. If you need to do significant pruning, try to do it at the start of spring before it starts adding new growth.
Does Ixora Like Coffee Grounds?
Ixora likes coffee grounds if you’re using them to adjust the soil acidity to its preferred range. Coffee grounds help add acidity. As long as you keep the soil between 5.5 and 6.5, your Ixora should be happy.
Are Ixora Perennials Or Annuals?
Technically, they’re both. In tropical and subtropical climates, Ixora are perennials that can bloom throughout the year. Their robust flower production makes them better for decorative purposes than competing plants that only flower for a few weeks at most.
However, some people grow them as annuals in colder climates. In this case, they bloom around summer and some parts of fall, then die off once winter comes. This is somewhat more labor-intensive than growing them as perennials, but it is doable.
What’s The Best Way To Get Ixora?
The best way to get Ixora is usually by purchasing a professionally-grown cutting. You can make your cutting following the instructions earlier in this guide, but getting an established cut is much faster and easier than growing it yourself.
Ixora is much more widely available in tropical areas where they serve as popular decorative plants. It’s harder to find them in areas where they aren’t common, but large greenhouses might stock a few. Alternatively, you can ask a plant company to order or grow them for you.
You can buy Ixora seeds online. However, this is inherently risky because the seeds can be sensitive, and many won’t germinate at all. It takes weeks to see if the seeds are viable. This is fine if you are willing to take the risk, but getting an established cutting is far more reliable if you want to plant your Ixora as soon as possible.
What Does Ixora Smell Like?
Most varieties of Ixora have a relatively mild smell. Some people describe it as a mix of a light soap with a bit of citrus in it. Essentially, these aren’t plants you grow for the smell.
The exception to this is Ixora Odorata, which originally comes from Madagascar. As the name might suggest, it has a more pungent, sweeter smell than other varieties of Ixora. This variety’s flowers are always white, so keep that in mind when planning your garden layout.
What Do Ixora Flowers Look Like?
Ixora flowers vary in color depending on the variety you have. Standard colors include red, white, pink, orange, and yellow, with most bushes having only a single color on them. The star-shaped flowers have four petals each, arranged like a cross with slightly curved petals.
Ixora flowers bloom in clusters that can be up to a foot across, with each cluster having up to several dozen flowers in overlapping layers. Flowers usually last at least a month on the stem and may remain for up to eight weeks. Under ideal conditions, they’ll soon be replaced by other flowers. That’s one of the main draws for planting them.
Petals on normal Ixora are about two inches long. Some varieties have a larger flower, but they mostly don’t go any smaller than two inches.
West Indian Jasmine is a great hedge shrub in warm environments that support it. Though slow-growing, its vividly colored flowers and tendency to bloom throughout the year make it an excellent decorative option. Its denseness is also suitable for creating privacy, making it helpful on both sides.
However, this plant is somewhat harder to grow in colder climates. While you can put it in a greenhouse, you’ll be missing most of its value unless the walls are transparent enough to look through. This plant will work better as an indoor plant in cold areas, especially if you can maintain temperatures at 60 degrees or higher.