Gardenia: Plant Care & Growing Guide

The Gardenia Plant is an evergreen shrub that is typically the hardiest in USDA Zones 8-11. It is known for its potent and fragrant creamy white flowers with its thick glossy leaves. 

It was named after Alexander Green, who brought the gardenia to South Carolina in the late 1700’s. No matter the season, if you have gardenias, your neighbors and passersby are sure to notice due to their distinct smell.

Gardenia Plant Care & Growing Guide 

1. Planting

The best time to plant your Gardenia is in the fall or spring. It is best to plant them in acidic, humus-rich soil with the pH level being 5.0-6.0. This provides a good opportunity for drainage. (If you are not sure of the pH level of your soil, it is easy to get a soil test at any gardening or hardware store.)

Be sure to plant your Gardenia in a hole while the soil is amended with compost – like bark – to help with drainage. Gardenias are not a fan of competition with other plants, so make sure they have room to spread out and grow. After you plant your Gardenia, do your best not to disturb its roots.

Outdoor Gardenias do much better raised in beds where soil can be converted easily and where drainage is better. Indoor Gardenia’s are a bit pickier: just make sure they aren’t left in standing water.

2. Feeding

Only feed your Gardenia once in the spring, and once again during the mid-summertime. You can apply a small dose of fertilizer – but make sure it’s meant for acid-loving plants. Gardenia’s also may thrive from regular doses of used coffee grounds. Coffee grounds provide a slight dose of acid to the soil. If you do not have coffee grounds, you can use fish emulsion or blood meal. This can also help raise the acidity of the soil.

3. Water and Mulching

These plants need at least an inch of water to them per week, whether that be from rainfall or a hose. To make sure they get the right amount of water, be sure to apply the mulch for your Gardenia two to four inches deep. This helps keeps the moisture in the soil as well as control weeds that fend off water as well.

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Remember – do not let plants become dry completely before you water them. Be sure to water them regularly. If you are inconsistent with the water, your Gardenia’s buds and leaves may drop off.

4. Winter Protection

When the leaves start to turn, and before the first heavy frost of the year, be sure to apply a heavy layer of mulch around your Gardenia plants to protect their roots from the cold. Keep in mind that plants experience cold and frost damage at 15 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, so it is imperative to cover your Gardenia’s roots with a breathable fabric or any other breathable material made for plants during the colder nights. 

Gardenia Plant Care Growing guide 1

5. Pruning

If you see heady, milky white flowers that turn an yucky shade of brown, it doesn’t mean that your Gardenia is dying. It just means that the blooms have faded. The best part about Gardenia is that the plant tip can be pruned just after flowering. Just make sure that you do not prune your Gardenia any later than August.

If you do, there is a possibility that you could decrease next year’s blooms by removing buds that are already in formation. However, if your Gardenia is growing under the right conditions, little to no pruning should be needed.

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6. Propagation

If you are looking for one of the easiest shrubs to root, Gardenia is one of them. All you have to do is simply cut off the tip end of a branch in the middle of summer. Afterwards, be sure to strip off any blooms and a few lower leaves, and just stick them in a bottle of water. By doing so, roots will show in just a few days, and transplanting can be done within a month. 

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Growing Gardenia Indoors

If you are keen about growing Gardenia indoors, remember that the plant grows best in heat and humidity. Indoors, you will need to mimic those conditions fully. Be sure to place your plants in a room where the temperature stays anywhere from 55 to 75 degrees.

Provide plenty of bright light in the room, but remember to keep your Gardenia out of direct and hot sun. if you need to raise the humidity in the room, fill the pots you keep your Gardenia in with pebbles and water, or by using a humidifier to mist them.

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Common Gardenia Problems and Solutions: 

Yellow Leaves – Yellow leaves are common when Gardenia are grown in areas with soil that contains hard water. Leaves may turn pale green or yellowish between their veins. This indicates chlorosis (when a plant is starved for iron) – in which case, it would be in need of an iron fertilizer supplement.

This method to treat this, however, is simple. You just add water-soluble sulfur or an aluminum sulfate to the ground about three feet away from the plant. Once the pH level of the soil is adjusted and what you desired, be sure to keep it in proper range using a slow-release fertilizer – particularly one that specializes in acid-loving plants. 

The other man problem with Gardenia’s are whiteflies and Aphids. They can be plagued by these pests, due to the sap they release called honeydew. This leaves a sticky residue. The solution to this is easy: wet down your Gardenia with soapy water or even insecticidal soap, and rinse the plant with clear water. 

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Gardenia’s are a beautiful plant that you can place almost anywhere. They can be used as hedge plants along walkways, sidewalks, or entryways, and even used to add some decoration to fences. Be sure to place your Gardenia where their fragrances can be enjoyed and appreciated. 

Potted Gardenias are perfect for outdoor porches and patios (that way they can be sheltered from harsh sunlight and winds), however, you can also move this plant indoors if you so desire. 

Gardenia’s are a beautiful plant to add to your garden. It is extremely versatile, being able to move from indoor to outdoor depending on the climate and what you would like to do with the plant. Just remember – make sure to put your Gardenia where it’s boisterous aroma can be appreciated by all.

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