What plant does just about every landscape in Charlotte County have that provides colorful flowers, tropical foliage and variety of size that makes this shrub so popular? This shrub is the ixora of course! However, with our predominately alkaline soils, growing acid-loving plants like ixora can be difficult. With proper care, ixora should have dark green leaves and lots of flowers almost year-round. It may take some extra effort in our area to get the best out of ixora, but it can be done with some planning and maintenance. Look around at our area landscapes – it has been a gangbusting year for ixoras!
An acid-loving plant such as Ixora needs a soil pH of around 5 for best growth. A pH of 5 (on a pH scale of 0 to 14) is a fairly acid soil that we need to reach as close as possible. We really don’t have many landscapes with this preferred pH as most residential lots contain assorted fill tending to alkaline in nature. Accordingly, in the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ category of “Right Plant, Right Place”, keep ixora away from concrete foundations or walkways which will make the surrounding soil more alkaline. Also, if possible, screen out any concrete bits and pieces that could change soil conditions to a higher pH. While we generally recommend that woody plants be planted into the fill soils we have without amendments, it may be helpful in the long term to improve the soil in ixora beds to help lower the pH. Please note that a soil test will help you know the base pH from which you can make adjustments. Mix in thoroughly about one third organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Elemental sulfur, when used according to label directions, can also help lower the pH. This attempt to lower the pH will be an on-going challenge, however, as the residential-fill soils continue to neutralize the pH back to a more alkaline condition. Select a planting site that is well drained and away from water run-offs. Don’t use rock as mulch as this could also raise the pH. An organic mulch kept well away from the trunk is recommended.
Hand-in-hand with proper pre-planting considerations is proper fertilization. Fertilization will also help plants that are already established grow better. Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies such as yellowing leaves, smaller leaves and the death of buds may be the result of a lack of iron and manganese. Reddish-purple spots may indicate phosphorus and potassium deficiencies. Once ixora are established, use a slow-release granular fertilizers suitable for acid-loving plants such as azaleas as per label directions – perhaps once in May and once in October. During the summer use a foliar spray of liquid micronutrients as per label directions that can be found at most garden centers. Use according to the label directions and be careful to avoid getting it on concrete which will stain it.
Ixora come in many colors and cultivars. Some commonly available classic varieties include ‘Nora Grant’ with red flowers; ‘Maui’ featuring orange flowers; and ‘Herrera’s White’ with white flowers. There is also a nice selection of dwarf ixora that come in orange, pink, red and yellow. To help keep your ixora flowering nicely, stick to one annual pruning as too many repeated prunings will cut off the new flowers. Also keep major pruning operations to early spring just as new growth begins. Beyond making a great hedge, ixora flowers also have the added feature of attracting hummingbirds. Available at almost all garden centers, this “bread and butter” item will be easy to source. Consider your options and plan for some ixora in your yard today! For more information on ixora or other flowering shrubs for our area, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeler, G. Gabel, K & Schoellhorn, R. (2003) Ixora for South Florida, The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Caldwell, D. Ixora Shrubs are Litmus Test for Several Soil Nutrient Problems. Collier County Extension Service, The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F. (2015) Ixora coccinea. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2022) – Ixora. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.