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Gardenias are one of the best-smelling—and most beautiful—flowering shrubs you can plant. These exquisite tropicals aren't the easiest plants to grow, but their beautiful, fragrant blooms and glossy evergreen leaves are worth a little extra care and maintenance. Here's everything you need to know to grow gardenias.
- Botanical Name: Gardenia, cape jasmine
- Common Name: Gardenia spp.
- Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
- Mature Size: Three to eight feet depending on variety
- Sun Exposure: Part shade
- Soil Type: Rich, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 5.0 to 6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses
Plant gardenias in the fall, working organic compost into the soil and adding a few inches of organic mulch after planting. Smaller-sized varieties can be kept in containers; in growing zones colder than zone 8, it's best to plant them in containers so that plants can be brought indoors for the winter.
After your area's last frost date the following spring, feed your gardenia with a balanced azalea fertilizer, then apply fertilizer again in six weeks to promote blooming. You can also use an organic fertilizer designed for holly, azalea, or rhododendron.
Gardenias typically have an extended bloom period in early summer with occasional blooms later in the season. After blooming, prune away leggy branches and dead flowers. Be sure to prune before late summer and fall, when gardenias form new buds that will bloom the following year.
Water gardenias deeply once per week during dry periods in the summer. Be sure to water the soil directly to keep water off of the leaves and flowers, which can create leaf spots.
Best Growing Conditions for Gardenia
Gardenias grow best in acidic, well-drained soil. Choose a site with partial shade, ideally with bright morning light and afternoon shade. Plant them in a spot that's close enough to your porch, patio, or deck that you can smell their flowers' enticing scent.
Types of Gardenia
There are more than 200 types of gardenia. Different gardenia cultivars vary in size, from dwarf varieties that grow just a few feet high to larger types that grow to eight feet or more in height at maturity. Some newer varieties have been bred to be cold-hardy to zone 7a, but dwarf types tend to be more sensitive to cold.
There are a few different gardenia species, too. The classic white double-petaled gardenia is Gardenia jasminoides, but Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis) is another popular type.
You'll also find variation in the flowers, which can have single or double petals, and in flower color. While white gardenias are most common, they also come in pink, yellow, orange, and red.
How to Propagate Gardenia
Gardenias can be propagated with stem tip cuttings. You'll have best results in spring when the plant is actively growing. Here's how to take cuttings and propagate new gardenia plants.
What You'll Need
- Healthy, mature gardenia
- Sharp, sterilized pruners and knife
- Rooting medium (mix of equal parts peat moss, coarse sand, and perlite)
- Small plant pot
- Rooting hormone powder
- Clear plastic bag
- Fill a small plant pot with a rooting medium. Identify a healthy stem tip with several leaves.
- Using your pruners, make a diagonal cut six inches from the end of the stem. Remove the lower leaves, leaving at least two leaves at the stem tip. Use the knife to make two one-inch-long cuts on opposite sides just above the cut end of the stem.
- Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder, the plant the cutting in the pot so that the lower half of the cutting is below the soil line. Water well.
- Keep the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Keep soil evenly moist, and tie the plastic bag over the pot to create a humid microclimate.
- One to two months after planting, gently tug on the cutting. If it stays in the ground, new roots have formed.
- Transplant the cutting to a container with potting soil and care for the plant as usual.
Common Problems With Gardenia
Many gardenia issues are caused by improper conditions, so be sure to plant your gardenia in a site that meets its light and soil needs, and follow instructions on feeding and watering carefully.
Unfortunately, gardenias are also susceptible to plant diseases and other issues. Stressors like pests, drought, and overwatering can affect gardenias, too. Issues like these may cause buds to drop in spring before they've opened. Root rot can be caused by overly wet conditions or poorly draining soil and will present as yellowing, dropping leaves.
Powdery mildew can be caused by not leaving enough space for air circulation between plants or by overly wet conditions, including getting foliage wet during watering. Look for misshapen or discolored leaves and trim away affected areas at the first sign of an issue. Diseases and fungi can be spread by using unclean tools, so be sure to disinfect them with rubbing alcohol before and after pruning branches or cutting flowers.
How to Get Gardenias to Bloom
The best way to get gardenias to bloom is to plant them in a site with proper growing conditions, then pay close attention to their water and fertilizer needs. Issues like bud drop can't be reversed, but they can be avoided with the proper care.
Are gardenias easy to care for?
Gardenias aren't known for being low maintenance. They have specific light, soil, and water needs and are susceptible to pests and diseases.
How long can gardenias live?
With the right care and conditions, healthy gardenias can live for decades.
Can gardenias grow indoors?
Gardenias can be grown indoors with proper attention to light, water, soil, and humidity.