Dwarf gardenia (‘Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’’) is the smaller version of the very popular flowering plant. it is a great choice if you don’t have a lot of space in your garden or prefer indoor plants that don’t take a lot of space.
The plant grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall and covers up to 3 feet in breadth. It’s lovely fragrance also makes it a crowd pleaser. That said, the plant is best known for its blooms which present themselves mid to late summer.
Because it is native to Asia, it is accustomed to tropical weather and not frost hardy. So, it is a good idea to make sure you can give it the warm place to grow.
Dwarf Gardenia Plant Care
Dwarf Gardenia Light
The dwarf gardenia thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. Ideally, you want to put it somewhere it gets a lot of light. But, the one thing it cannot stand is direct sunlight.
While it can tolerate a little bit of the sun’s rays, leaving it there day in and day for hours at a time will give your plant sunburn.
As such, the best place for your dwarf gardenia is somewhere it receive lots of light on most times of the day but have enough shade to protect it during between 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m. when the sun is most intense.
You also want to give it special care during hot summers when the sun’s rays can become very harsh.
In your garden, the best spot for it is either facing south, west or east. That said, in the first two locations, make sure it gets enough coverage.
Indoors, the same is true. But, when placing it in south or west facing windows, keep it at least a few feet away (3 to 6 feet) from the window. Or, you can use curtains or other types of cover to filter the light coming in.
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Dwarf Gardenia Temperature & Humidity
Dwarf gardenias do best when the temperature stays between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Preferably, it stays in the upper half of that range during the daytime and within the lower half during nighttime.
The plant comes from tropical regions in China. As such, it is not frost hardy and prefers moderate to slightly warm temperature.
This makes it hardy to USDA zones 8 to 11. Here, they are perfect as ornamental plants and work just as well as hedges. If you live in colder areas of the country, you’ll be better off growing the plant in containers.
This way, you can take it outdoors in late spring and summertime then bring it back in around fall. As long as the outdoor temperature stays above 60 degrees it will be find outside. Do keep in mind that nighttime temperatures will drop from that of daytime. So, do consider that as well.
For the rest of the year, it will be happy as a houseplant since most homes keep have temperatures that are ideal for them.
Do note that by keeping them indoors, you can shift their blooming season. Outdoors, dwarf gardenias bloom during spring and summer. But indoors, this may get delayed until the winter.
In addition to temperature, they like humidity. As such, you can use mulch to help increase moisture. However, this can be a little tricky because of how mulch affects its microclimate.
The reason is that as much as your dwarf gardenia likes humidity, it also likes to keep warm (as mentioned above). Why?
Mulch keeps the plants under it cooler when the weather is hot. And, warmer when the climate is cold. As such, how much mulch to use and when to use it will depend on the current climate conditions. The key is you want to find the right balance so as not to bring the temperature of the soil below 50 degrees.
If that happens, it can cause your gardenia to produce smaller leaves that may also turn yellow.
Watering Dwarf Gardenia
Dwarf gardenia does best when the soil is kept consistently moist. But, like other plants, you do not want to overwater it. Too much water or watering too often can cause your plant to die.
If you see the older leaves turn yellow while the younger ones become paler or whitish in color, it is a sign you’re probably watering too much. If your watering is on point, check to see if the soil is acidic enough.
Similarly, you want to keep moisture off the leaves. This is a mistake many new gardener do by spraying tons of water soaking the entire plant. If the water does not dry from the leaves fast enough, it puts them as risk of fungal infections. And, you’ll soon see corresponding spots on your gardenia’s foliage.
Once winter arrives scale back on watering.
Another thing to note is that dwarf gardenias that are grown in pots will need more water during the warm months than those grown in the ground. As such, you want to adjust for this. The best way to do so is to check the soil for moisture before watering.
On the other hand, container gardenias likewise do better when you allow the soil to dry more during the winter (compared to those in the ground).
Dwarf gardenia like fertile, well draining soil that’s slightly acidic. Ideally a soil pH of between 5.0 and 6.0 works best.
Additionally, the plant likes moist, not wet or soggy soil. A good benchmark would be about an inch of water per week. A good way of easily keeping track of this is to get a rain gauge. This simple (and cheap) device lets you measure how much rainfall there is.
And, depending on what it says, you can supplement it by watering or lay off if there has been enough rain for the past 7 days.
Because there are a few important points to consider with soil, you’ll want to take some time to check your garden before planting dwarf gardenia into the ground.
The easiest place to start is by doing a soil test. You can use an affordable home soil test kit to see what your garden’s soil pH is. If it is higher than 6.0, use sulfur to lower the pH.
Similarly, you want to dig a large enough hole to put your plant. Since this si the dwarf version, it won’t take as much space as its bigger sibling. Nevertheless you still want to give it enough root to allow its roots to spread out.
Keep in mind that gardenias are surface rooting. As such, they don’t appreciate being planted too deep into the soil.
The only exception to this is if you have clay or other kinds of heavy soil that needs to be amended. In this case, you can use a crude but effective way of “modifying” the soil to make it drain moisture better.
If this is the case, you’ll want to dig a bigger, deeper hole. Then, fill the extra space underneath with a peat based potting mix and coarse sand. This will improve drainage significantly. Another option is to use gravel.
Alternatively, you can grow your dwarf gardenias in containers or raised beds.
The advantage of growing your dwarf gardenia in pots is that you get to control the soil. it is also the best option if you live somewhere the temperature drops under 60 degrees in winter. The pots allow you to easily move them indoors or outside as needed. You can likewise set the container on to of casters so you can just push it around instead of carrying it.
Here, a peat based potting mix works great. Also, do pick a slightly larger pot since the plant’s roots like extra room.
Pruning Dwarf Gardenia
Once its flowers start to fade, it is time to start pruning. Deadheading will promote further blooming. When you do so, cut them off just under the leaf node.
Similarly, you want to trim off damaged leaves as well as those that are yellow, brown and diseased. You can do this regularly since you’ll likely need to inspect the plant regularly for insects, pests and disease (see the section below).
While you’re at it look for sections of the plant where stems are overcrowded. You’ll want to prune these as well in order to improve air circulation. Doing this also helps improve light penetration to the entire plant. Together, it reduces the potential of fungal disease (by helping excess moisture dry) to which the plant is susceptible to.
Dwarf Gardenia Propagation
Dwarf gardenia are best propagated via stem cuttings. The best time to do so is when your plant has matured. And, during early spring.
Here’s how to propagate dwarf gardenia.
- Take a stem cutting of about 3 to 4 inches long. Cut just below the leaf node.
- Allow the stem end to callous (dry up).
- Dip the stem end into rooting hormone. This will speed up the rate at which it roots.
- Prepare a container and fill with fast draining potting mix. You can use regular potting mix and add perlite to increase drainage.
- Plant the stem cutting.
- Water and place keep under warm, humid (70-80% RH) conditions with bright, indirect light.
- Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
- Once it begins to root, you can decide when you want to transplant them.
Dwarf Gardenia Transplanting & Repotting
You’ll only need to worry about repotting your dwarf gardenia if you’re growing it in a container. If such the is the case, be prepared to do so every 2 or 3 years depending on how fast it grows.
Once it becomes rootbound, it is a sign to move to a larger pot. If left as is, your plant’s growth will slow down. At times it will become less healthy as well.
When repotting, make sure to replace the soil with fresh potting mix. You can make your own mix or use an azalea soil mix.
Dwarf gardenia are not toxic to humans. But, you still do want to be ware of them around your children as they can pose choking hazards.
That said, they are a no-no for pets. These plants are poisonous to animals. They contain chemicals including gardenoside and genioposide. When ingested they can cause diarrhea, vomiting and irritation.
Pests and Diseases
Unlike other plants we’ve covered dwarf gardenia is susceptible to insects, pests and disease. As such, this area of plant care is something you’ll need to be ready to deal with in exchange for its beautiful, fragrant flowers.
Pest infestation is something you’ll always want to be on the look out for. Thus, it is key that you regularly inspect the plant for whiteflies, scale, mealybugs and aphis.
In case you find any make sure to apply treatment right away since pests are known to infect other plants near it. If your dwarf gardenias are in containers, immediately separate them from other plants. Then, check the others to see if they’ve been likewise infected.
Here, insecticide soap, neem oil and horticultural oil are all helpful depending on which pests appear. You’ll also want to be consistent with treatment since it will take at least a week before the infestation goes away.
Besides pests, diseases are likewise an issue. These often happen from overwatering or moisture not drying. Similarly, cold temperature is another culprit.
Like gardenias, dwarf gardenias are susceptible to leaf spot, powdery mildew, sooty mold and a few other fungal infections. You’ll need to use fungicides to treat most of these issues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. As such, you may end up having to remove the plant to keep it from affecting the rest.