GARDENING: Best shrub sparks discussion

THERE are often debates in the garden community over which plant is better the shrub or the dwarf shrub.

Whether the plants in question are Agapanthus, Citrus or even Roses there is always a lively debate as to which is best? But there is a dwarf shrub blooming across Central Queensland that does prove that good things do come in small packages.

The plant variety that I am talking about is the Dwarf Ixoras and they are providing a stunning floral display at the moment. In my mind the Dwarf Ixora has looked the best flowered better and has had less insect problems this summer than most other shrubs. With their glossy, deep green leaves and spectacular heads of scarlet, orange, yellow, pink or white flowers, a position could be found for this plant in almost any garden.

Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column
Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column

Ixora is a large genus of about 400 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and the islands of the Pacific. These shrubs are used for massed bedding displays, hedges and screens, and can be also be grown in containers. Commonly known as the Jungle Geranium or Jungle Flame the Ixora has been grown locally for more than eighty years. I have recently seen a photograph of a garden in Wandal in the 1920s that had a very small Ixora in full bloom in the garden. It was believed that these plants came from a relative in Townsville. Sadly no tree, shrub or rose in the original garden remains and today the garden consists of a lawn and a couple of Mango trees in the backyard.

Two recent new release hybrids that are worth planting in the garden are Ixora Pink Superb and White Superb.

These new plants produce larger flower heads than the simular Ixora Pygmy Pink and the white flowering Ixora Peggy. Both these new hybrids are a little bigger growing to about one metre high.

Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column
Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column

It would be easy to think that the Ixora will require thousands of litres of water per year to survive, yet surprisingly, most Ixoras will use less than three litres of water per week.

It is best to water your Ixora in early morning so as little water as possible is lost through evaporation or by drip irrigation. This will also help keep the plants as healthy as possible while the local water quality is poor. When growing Ixoras in Central Queensland, you will find that they need regular water during the warmer months and very little during the cooler months. Ixoras need humus-rich, moist but freely drained, friable soils.

I would recommend a light pruning of the Dwarf Ixoras after flowering in late autumn or winter, to maintain a neat shape. The cooler times of the year are the best for pruning, as the plant does not need to be watered as much. Spent flower heads should be removed immediately. Propagate from cuttings in summer or from seed in spring.

Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column
Gardening photos for Neil Fisher's column


Most nurseries will tell you that the biggest selling varieties of Ixoras are the dwarf hybrid varieties. What has endeared these plants to gardeners around the state is its ability to be trimmed, shaped or hedged. All the hybrids will be massed in flowers during the warm times of the year. The dwarf varieties to look for include:

Ixora Sunkist is a delightful Ixora with the added advantage of being dwarf and compact. A genuine miniature shrub that produces masses of heads of scarlet flowers during the summer months. It is suited for semi-shade and ideal for tubs, gardens, rockeries or a sunroom.

Ixora Golden Superb is a new addition to the series of compact Ixoras that have been available on the market for a number of years. It is a very hardy plant for Central Queensland, with superb large yellow flowers, and will grow approximately half a metre high and in similar conditions to the other Ixoras.

Ixora Little Willy the first of the miniature Ixoras available to local gardeners and proven to be one of the best and hardiest shrubs for CQ gardens. It produces masses of fluorescent orange flowers that will engulf the plant.

Ixora Peggy is a pure white form of the miniature Ixora and makes an excellent edging plant to a formal garden. I have found this plant to perform at its best in a sunny well-drained position.

Ixora Pygmy Pink should be one of the most colourful small shrubs for local gardens. It grows to around half a metre high with masses of bright pink flowers.

Ixora Sunshine is a low growing shrub to 75cm x 75cm, with profusion of yellow flowers. I have used this plant in many garden designs over the years and have found it to perform well in most soil types.

Ixora Twilight Glow, a spectacular shrub, with two-toned apricot and orange flowers appearing during the warm months of the year. Being of similar size and shape to the very popular Ixora Sunkist and Sunshine Yellow, it will be a perfect new addition to the garden.