If you have a small garden in your home, then Ixora is one of the best to enhance the liveliness of the space. With its bright red flower clusters, this flowering bush looks stunning outdoors or indoors.
Also known as Chethi, Thechi, or Thetti in Malayalam, Ixora was once very common in almost all households of Kerala as a native plant. It goes very well with other indigenous plants like Hibiscus (Chembarathi), Nandyarvattam, and Mandaram.
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Plant Type: Evergreen Bush / Dwarf Bush
Common Species: Ixora Coccinea, Ixora malabarica, Ixora chinensis
English: Jungle Geranium, Flame of the Jungle
Malayalam: Chethi, Thechi
Hindi: Rugmini, Kangan
Now, Chethi comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors which you can buy from most plant nurseries. However, the most common species is Ixora
As a bush, it grows to a height of 1 to 1.5 meters. There are also dwarf varieties barely reaching 30 cm. These small plants are good for indoors as well.
In all, there are more than 500 types of Ixoras including cultivars and species.
Indigenous to south Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Although there are hundreds of varieties available, the following are the most common ones I have seen so far:
The flowers are tubular and occur as dense inflorescence at the terminal. Each flower is about 2 cm wide and has 4 sepals. There can be 30 or more flowers in a cluster which lasts for a few days.
The foliage is evergreen with dark green oval-shaped leaves.
The flower lobes are oblong with pointed tips. There are also some varieties with rounded lobes like the one below.
Apart from being grown widely as an ornamental plant, Chethi has several other uses too.
From earlier times, people used to eat the fruits and flowers of wild Ixora Coccinea. So it is edible and believed to be rich in nutrients.
Also, the different parts of the plant including flowers were traditionally used to treat ulcers, fevers and for relieving pain. Recent scientific studies also found that the plant has the ability to handle the harmful free radicals (antioxidative) in the body. It may also be used to treat other problems including gastrointestinal troubles and inflammations.
In Kerala and other parts of India, Chethi is an important Pooja flower. It is also often added to Prasada in temples and given to worshippers.
This flowering shrub suits well in gardens as well as indoors. Pruning works well for Chethi and it looks great when planted along the sides of walkways. It is also suitable as a hedge plant.