Flowering shrubs

Shrubs like hibiscus and ixora can add beauty and colour to your garden, says Kiran Narain

Most of the medium or small gardens get a riot of colour from winter, summer and monsoon annuals but look rather forlorn when none of these is in bloom. When planted judiciously, some of the flowering shrubs can lend beauty to such gardens. Two easily available shrubs are hibiscus and ixora.

Hibiscus is a prolific flowering shrub, commonly grown in parks and garden. It doesn’t require much care. Several varieties have been developed having beautiful flowers of different colours and shapes ranging from white, yellow, orange and scarlet to pink.

Hibiscus rosasinensis, popularly known as Jaba Kusum, is a commonly grown variety as it is supposed to have medicinal values. However, the Hawaiian varieties are more popular due to the variety of colour and size they offer.

A year-old plant starts bearing flowers and a two-year-old bush is fully grown. While ball hibiscuses like ivory gem (white) and enchantress (scarlet) come in double forms, Bell hibiscus have flowers dangling like a bell some with fringed petals.

Hibiscus can be grown in pots and tubs as well — starting with a 6 inch pot containing a good soil-based potting mixture. The plants can be moved to larger pots every year or two.

Moderate watering is required during the active growth period which should be reduced further during the rest period of the plant. Ensure that the top half inch of the mixture dries between watering.

Hibiscus is easily propagated by cuttings planted in spring or monsoon. Six to nine inches long hard wood cuttings can be taken in July or February-March and planted with rooting hormones in a nursery bed or pots having lots of sand. Rooted cuttings taken in February-March can be planted at their permanent site during the rainy season and cuttings taken in July can be transplanted in September.

Ixora: Originally found in tropical Asia and Africa, ixora is now a common garden shrub. It can sometimes grow into a small tree with rough, gray branches, glossy leaves with brilliant flowers of various sizes. The flowers range from white, yellow, orange to deep red and remain fresh for a long time. They can be used as cut-flowers even though they do not have long stems. Ixora flowers almost throughout the year but are at their best during monsoon.

The scarlet ixora or ixora coccinea is the most popular variety of garden shrub as it is of a manageable size. It barely reaches more than a metre and half in height and has brilliant scarlet flowers which grow in compact heads. These are followed by glossy black seeds.

Ixora rosea is pink in colour, bears large round heads of flowers, which darken with age. It reaches a little over one metre in height and the bush is rather untidy.

Ixora griffithsii bears huge orange clusters sometimes 20 cm across in size. It is a young bush, only half a metre or so high, may produce two dozen flower heads. Due to its compact size, it is frequently grown in tubs and may be a good choice for a terrace garden.

A little well rotted farmyard manure and some sand added to the garden soil and frequent watering during summers is generally all it requires. Shelter from frost may be required in case of young plants. Pinching of tips can make the plant bushy. Propagation is done by cuttings or air-layering.