If Hydrangeas Can't Take The Summer Heat, Try This Tropical Look-Alike Instead

If you love hydrangeas but you happen to live in a climate that's just too hot for the perennials to thrive, there's no reason to despair. There's a fantastic flower that will provide the same frilly aesthetic you desire without the need for cooler temperatures. The Ixora plant, also called flame of the woods or jungle flame, is a warm-weather evergreen perennial shrub that produces bright clusters of star-shaped flowers. Unlike cold-tolerant hydrangeas, which can become stressed and wilted during heat waves even with extra watering, Ixoras love high temperatures.

For those who live in hardiness zone 9 to 11, Ixoras are a beautiful tropical dupe for hydrangeas. Ixora coccinea, in particular, mimics the appearance of traditional hydrangeas and is available in shades of deep pink-red. As soon as you experience these gorgeous, easy-to-care-for blooms in person, your hankering for hydrangeas will be gone. But it's important to know how to plant and care for these beautiful plants.

How to plant Ixoras

Once you've selected your plants, it's time to prepare for planting. Ixoras prefer full sun and well-draining acidic soil. If your soil doesn't naturally meet the plant's requirements, you'll need to add some compost or other organic material to increase drainage. You may want to do a test to measure the pH of your soil. If your soil is neutral or alkaline, you can boost the acidity by applying a product containing ingredients like sulfur or sulfates or try adding unbrewed coffee grounds to your garden.

As soon as you have found a sunny spot and prepared your soil, you're ready to plant. Dig a hole just deep enough for the plant's roots and cover it with a thin layer of the removed soil. Water the new plant deeply, being careful to water only the roots and avoid dripping water onto the foliage. Ixora plants are prone to fungal infections, but these can typically be prevented by keeping their leaves dry. This means avoiding overhead methods of watering, like lawn sprinklers.

Ixora care

Once you've provided the preferred soil and sunlight conditions, Ixoras are quite low-maintenance shrubs that require very little care. While Ixoras prefer well-draining soil, it does require consistent moisture, so plan on watering your plants before their soil ever feels completely dry. This will typically look like one deep watering per week outside of particularly hot, dry spells of weather. The hotter and dryer it gets outside, the more frequently you'll probably need to water these plants. Just keep checking their soil for dryness. 

Each spring, you'll want to feed your Ixora shrubs with a slow-release fertilizer. Each shrub can be expected to grow up to 15 feet in height. This shrub is evergreen and can bloom year-round, though it will experience a main bloom during summer. Unlike hydrangeas, it is non-toxic to pets in small amounts. If you'd prefer to keep the plants smaller, you may prune them to your desired size or shape, but pruning is not required for health. Just keep in mind that frequently pruned Ixora plants generally won't produce as many hydrangea lookalike flowers as those that grow to their full size.