How to Grow & Care for Gardenia Plants

Gardenias are well-known for their pleasant fragrance and beautiful flowers.

They’re very prevalent in the South during late spring and early summer because they enjoy the subtropical climate, where they originate from.

These evergreen shrubs are often characterized by their white blossoms and dark green leaves. Although, some varieties have other colors like yellow.

If you’re looking for beautiful flowers that make your home or garden smell amazing, try gardenias. Here’s how to care for them.

How to Use Gardenias

Gardenia Plant Care and Growing Guide

In addition to their beauty and lovely scent, gardenias are also long-lasting. If you take good care of them, you’ll be able to enjoy them for decades to come.

That said, you do have a few options of where you can grow them.

For Landscaping

Gardenias are perfect for hedges as well as borders. You can also plant them around fences as well as along walkways to brighten up those spaces with a tinge of nature.

Their variety gives you quite a bit of options, including choosing between those that are smaller or those that grow up to 8 feet high.

Their beauty, fragrance, and love for bright sunlight make them ideal for growing outdoors. Plus, they also attract bees, which is something you might use to your advantage if you’re trying to establish a pollinator garden.

In Containers

If you live outside of zones 8 through 11, growing them in containers may be a better option.

This gives you the ability to position them where they’ll be able to get as much sun as they need without too much of the mid-afternoon exposure.

Similarly, it allows you to move them to more sheltered environments when fall comes in order to avoid the cold temperatures.

Decks, patios, and porches are perfect spots for these container plants.

And, should you want to get something that’s bigger in size, you can go with the tree forms which do just as well in pots.

Indoors as Houseplants

Last but not least, there’s the option of growing them indoors.

As houseplants, gardenias are tough to care for. That’s because they like a lot of sunlight (but away from the hot, direct mid-afternoon sun), high humidity and warm temperature.

Together, this means that you’ll need need to find a perfect spot to put them.

This somewhat negates the areas where their beauty and fragrance can be most appreciated, including tabletops in the middle of the room.

As such, it’s up to you to find that “sweet spot” that balances both.

Gardenia Plant Care

How to Grow & Care for Gardenias

Gardenias trace their origins from Asia and it’s where you’ll still find a lot of them particularly in Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, and other countries in South Asia.

As such, they enjoy subtropical conditions like warm weather humidity.

That said, they also do like good air circulation. So, it’s a good idea not to put them too closely together.

They bloom in the spring which means that fall is the best time to put them into the ground in order to give their roots time to set their foundation.

Light

Gardenias like full sun, although they do well in part sun and shade as well.

One important thing to note is that they’re susceptible to too much sun, especially mid-afternoon sun during the warm summer months.

Too much intense sun can scorch their leaves and also cause their buds to fall off. So, if you see any hints o that happening, it’s a sign that you need to move it somewhere it’s a little more protected from the sunlight.

Thus, depending on where you live, you’ll need to adjust its location.

Outdoors

In generally cool climates, it won’t have a problem absorbing afternoon sun. You can likewise add mulch to provide it with a layer of protection.

In warmer climates, your gardenias will appreciate a location where they’ll receive morning sun and afternoon shade. This gives it enough sunlight exposure without the risk of the harsher afternoon heat.

Indoors

Indoors, gardenias need to be placed near a window, ideally facing south, so that they can get 6-8 hours of sunlight.

Temperature

Because of their climate preferences, these shrubs are often seen and thrive in hardiness zones 8-11. Although some more hardy varieties can tolerate zone 7 climates.

That said, if you live in colder zones, you’re not totally out of luck.

You can grow them in containers. This way, they can enjoy time outside during the summer and bring them back indoors or somewhere more sheltered come fall.

When it comes to temperature, they’re just as picky as they are lovely. They particularly like day temperatures that run between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. And, enjoy night time temperatures of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

If their climate needs aren’t met, they’ll hold back their buds and you won’t see them come to form.

Winters

As such, you’ll want to give them extra care if you live in an area with cold winters.

Growing them in containers is a good idea since it allows you to move them to somewhere with more shelter or indoors easily.

Another option would be to adding a thick layer of much when first frost arrives in fall helps keep their roots protected from the cold temperatures.

It’s likewise a good idea to cover them with insulated material as the nights get colder.

You want to make sure to do this yearly because gardenias start getting damaged once the temps go down to 15 degrees. And, it gets worse as the mercury drops.

Humidity

Being native to Asia and Africa, gardenias like high humidity (50-60 percent relative humidity). This is one of the things they’re particularly picky about. It’s also one of the reasons it’s tougher to grow them indoors unless you have a greenhouse or something similar that will allow you to control the conditions.

That said, there are a few ways you can increase the humidity in and around these plants without having to modify your home’s humidity levels.

  • Regular misting. This is an effective but tedious way to do it since you have to remember to do it frequently.
  • Let its container sit above a plat of pebbles in water. The water helps keep the area around your gardenias humid enough.
  • Use a humidifier. This is the most efficient as it allows you to precisely set the relative humidity to a particular level.

gardenia

Watering

Gardenias require an inch of water a week. This can come from rain, your water hose, or a combination of both.

The key is that they need to get a total of that much moisture every 7 days. This helps keep the soil moist.

But, it’s likewise important to remember not to overdo it. Being too generous with watering leaves soil soggy and damp. Both of which will mess with the growth of your gardenias.

Water is one of the things they’re finicky about. As such, you don’t want to give them too much or too little of it. Both of which produce unpleasant results.

Finally, use distilled water to help flush out any fertilizer salts that can collect. Doing so each month helps prevent these salts from building up and causing salt “burns” later on.

Soil

Gardenias like acidic soil (pH between 5.0 and 6.0), well-draining and rich in nutrients.

And, if you give it to them, they’ll show their appreciation with excellent growth.

As such, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested so that you know what you need to do to make your gardenias happy.

That said, if your garden isn’t blessed with the right soil, you can adjust its pH and add compost, which helps boost the organic matter content in it.

If you want a faster solution, try raised beds. This lets you modify the soil as needed easily without affecting the rest of your garden.

Finally, it’s worth noting that gardenias have shallow root systems that like to spread outwards. As such, they like their space and don’t like competition. So, leave some space between them and other plants and don’t disturb the roots after they’ve established themselves.

Fertilizing

Like most perennials, gardenias go dormant during the colder months. As such, there’s no need to fertilize them during this time (November to February).

But, make sure to do so during their growing season between March and October. Giving them nutrients once every 2-4 weeks allows them to grow and bloom.

Like most flowering plants, gardenias expend a lot of energy producing their beautiful blossoms. As such, they need lots of nutrients to fuel them.

But, be careful not to overdo it. Too much fertilizer can “burn” their roots.

Choose a slow-release fertilizer that’s designed for acid-loving plants that contain iron and magnesium.

Gardenia Plant Care Guide

Pruning

Cut off faded gardenia flowers

Just below the leaf node this will encourage blooming

Prune gardenia shrubs in summer after they have finished flowering so you don’t remove any buds. Before pruning, make sure the variety you’re growing only blooms once and has completed its blooming cycle. If it does bloom more than once, prune off faded flowers just below the leaf node to encourage repeat blooming.

Don’t be alarmed when those heady, milky white flowers turn one yucky shade of brown; it doesn’t mean your shrub is dying – just that its blooms have faded. The plant can be tip pruned just after flowering but don’t prune the shrub any later than August or you could decrease next year’s blooms by removing buds that are already forming. If gardenias are growing under the right conditions, very little pruning should be needed.

Propagation

One way to grow your own gardenias without having to go to the garden center is to propagate it yourself. This does take a little experimentation since it is part science and art. So, experience counts a lot.

That said, the best time to propagate gardenias is during spring or early summer.

  • Pick a stem that’s about 3-4 inches long
  • Cut it near the main stem
  • Dip in rooting powder to speed up root development
  • Insert the stem into moist potting mix

Soon, you’ll see roots start growing.

Repotting & Transplanting

How often you repot your gardenias will depend on how big they’ve gotten.

In the beginner, you’ll likely need to do this annually. At least, until they fit into 8 inch pots.

After that, you can repot every 2-3 years or when you see their roots start sneaking out from the bottom of the container’s drainage holes.

The best time to do so is after they’ve bloomed which will be around the fall.

When you do so, move them into pots that are 1-2 inches wider in diameter to give them more room to grow.

If you aren’t using containers, you can transplant your gardenias around the same time. This is ideal since the weather is cool and the plant is slowing down.

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