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 coccinea – the red variety which occurs in the wild also.
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.
Common Flower Colors
Although there are hundreds of varieties available, the following are the most common ones I have seen so far:
- Bright Red
- Reddish Orange
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.
Popular Uses & Medicinal Values
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.
As a Pooja Flower
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.
Tips for Growing & Caring
- Climate: As a tropical plant, it grows well in hot and humid climates with good annual rainfall.
- Planting: Stem cutting is the preferred way for propagating Ixora plant. Saplings are also available from almost all plant outlets.
- Soil: Grows well in slightly acidic or neutral soil. The plant loves well-drained and moist soil rich in organic matter. Plowing the soil with cow dung powder and dry leaves may help.
- Light: The plant loves to grow under full sun although some protection is needed from the scorching heat. If you are planting it indoors, try to keep it near windows receiving ample sunlight.
- Watering & maintenance: Keep the soil moist, especially during the initial days after planting. Not much care is needed afterward as it is a low-maintenance plant.