Gardenia Plant Care

Gardenia plant care and pruning guide. The heady perfume of the Gardenia flower is compelling enough to have every gardener south of the Mason-Dixon line planting a jasminoides bush in their yard.


Gardenia jasminoides growing in a Central Florida front yard.
Gardeners who do not reside in the deep south can plant 'Summer Snow' or 'Kleims Hardy' Gardenias. Apartment and condo dwellers anyplace in the world can possess these elegant, jasmine-scented blooms by growing a Gardenia bonsai or houseplant.

Gardenia Flower Picture

Gardenia flower form varies depending on the species and cultivar. In some types, fat, pointed buds open into 6 inch wide, fully double rose-like blooms. Others bear 2 inch wide pinwheels.

No matter the size or form, the flowers are always white and always fragrant. As Gardenia flowers age, they develop an ivory patina.

Frequency of Bloom

You can expect a well cared for plant to flower sporadically throughout the growing season.

How to Care for Gardenia Flowers

You can cut entire branches from large shrubs for arrangements.

Cut branches that are full of buds and a few open blooms. To condition them: split the stems and stand them in water overnight.

You can also cut individual flowers and float them in bowls of water. Condition the blooms by placing them, stem side down, on a tray of wet cotton. Place the tray inside the fridge overnight.

Planting Gardenias

Gardenia jasminoides and Bougainvillea glabra.

Gardenia plants of all types prefer to grow in a rich, moist soil which is slightly acid.

Root knot nematodes are a Gardenia shrub's worst enemy.

If you know your soil is infested, your best bet is to install plants which have been grafted onto nematode resistant Gardenia thunbergia rootstock. Otherwise, plant them in containers.

Your plant's will give their best performance in full sun or part shade. Morning sun is preferable to late afternoon sun in areas where summers are sizzling hot.

Plant Gardenias at the same level they are growing at in the nursery container.

Gardenia Care

A Gardenia tree in full flush is a beautiful sight.

Your Gardenia bush will live a long and productive life if you give attention to the following things:

Bug Killing Tip: Products designed to kill fire ants contain a higher concentration of Acephate and work more reliably.

  • Its soil. Keep it clean (nematode free) and moist. This is not a drought tolerant plant. It does not like alkaline soil or salt.
  • Apply a Gardenia fertilizer (an acid food that contains manganese, magnesium, iron) 3 times per season in spring, summer and early fall.
  • Keep the bugs off it by applying a systemic insecticide containing Acephate at the first sign of infestation.

My Gardenia Has Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaf in Gardenia shrubs can be caused by a lack of nitrogen. Fertilize it with a high nitrogen plant food every other time you feed it.

Watering with hard water may also be the culprit, but do not substitute salt-softened water as the salt will build up in the soil and harm the plant.

Instead, apply an iron chelate to counteract the alkalinity of the water. Mix 1 ounce of iron sulphate into 2 gallons of water and apply this solution every other week until new growth returns to its normal color.


Pruning Gardenias

Gardenias make a fragrant hedge.

Pruning Gardenia bushes is the easiest part of caring for them. No power tools are required for this.

In most plants, the trimming they will get each time you cut flowers for use in the vase will be enough.

Use a small hand pruner to prune back any stems that are marring the shape of the bush. Do this after the flowers fall.

Young plants may be cut back to encourage bushy growth.


Growing Gardenias in Pots

Crepe jasmine is similar in appearance and much easier to grow than a Gardenia, but it lacks fragrance.

Growing Gardenias in containers expands the kinds you can grow exponentially.

Poor soil and harsh winters are no longer a consideration. Gardenia plants of all types grow beautifully in pots.

Twenty years ago, we lived in an apartment with a balcony. This is where I first started gardening. One of the first plants I invested in was a Gardenia jasminoides.

I planted it in a 12 inch pot full of good quality potting soil and kept it fed and watered. I was surprised at how quickly it filled the pot and how heavily it bloomed.

Its luscious fragrance was all the incentive I needed to stop and smell the Gardenias. I took regular balcony breaks when that plant was in bloom.


Growing a Gardenia House Plant
Tips to Ensure Success

Buy an Inexpensive Gardenia Houseplant

  1. For best bloom, give your Gardenia bush at least 4 hours of direct sun each day. Place it in front of a south facing window or beneath a sky light.
  2. A yearly vacation outdoors in late spring and early summer (before the heat really sets in) will do it a power of good.
  3. Night temps between 55-65 degrees F. combined with daytime temperatures of around 70 degrees encourage bud set and make the flowers last longer.
  4. Try to maintain 50% humidity around the plants.
  5. Water the plant with soft water and fertilize it with a liquid fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. I have had success with Scotts Miracle Gro Miracid.

Gardenia Bonsai

Buy Flowering Gardenia Bonsai Trees Here

Most bonsai is meant to spend the winter out of doors, but Gardenia bonsai should be overwintered inside where they will be protected from frost.

Site the plant in a bright window. Any exposure except a southern exposure will be fine. A south facing window will be too hot in summer.

Never let the plant dry out, but avoid soaking it during its winter rest.

Feed it with Scotts Miracle Gro Miracid every 2 weeks between spring and fall. Do not feed it during the winter.

Root prune and repot your bonsai every year or 2 as needed. Do this in the spring.

Prune the little tree just after the blooms fade.


Gardenia Varieties

The genus was named after Dr. Alexander Garden, a Charleston, SC physician who lived during colonial times.

There are approximately 50 types of Gardenias, all hailing from subtropical China.

Gardenia jasminoides The largest species in the genus, at least 20 of the named Gardenia cultivars are members. The jasminoides are sometimes called cape jasmine, not because of any kinship to Jasminum but because of the permeating jasmine aroma of their blooms.

They are large shrubs (to 8 feet) with shiny dark green leaves with veins so prominent they almost look quilted. Most bloom in spring and again in early summer.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Veitchii' will reward you with 3 bloom cycles. However, you will pay for this extra flush of fragrance by sacrificing bloom size.

The 2 inch wide double flowers are significantly smaller than those of other G. jasminoides cultivars. It also features a more compact growth habit and smaller leaves.

If you want the extra flush but can't bear to be without the big blooms, plant 'Veitchii Supreme'. This hybrid displays the large flowers (full 6 inch doubles) of 'Miami Supreme' on a 'Veitchii'-sized bush.

Gardenia, Trailing

Gardenia Basket

Gardenia - Summer Snow

G. jasminoides 'August Beauty' is a compact shrub to 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Its 3 inch blooms are smaller than those of many other cultivars but they make up for this by blooming for much longer.

The spring flush may very well last into August.

Hardy in zones 8-10.

 Miniature leaves and flowers (1-2 inches across) grace the dwarf radicans Gardenia which only grows to a height of a foot or so tall and has a trailing growth habit.

A variegated variety is also available.


Hardy Gardenia Types

Gardenia, Kleim's Hardy

Gardenia, Summer Snow®

Beautiful, pure white Gardenaia flowers on a 5x5 foot bush that is cold hardy down to 0 degrees F.

But wait, there's more...

'Summer Snow' is also drought tolerant (once established) and pest resistant.

This is no common Gardenia but a tough landscape shrub.

'Kleim's Hardy' features large, single flowers (It is sometimes called the daisy Gardenia) with gold centers flirt with small evergreen leaves on a 3 foot tall shrub that is hardy into zone 7.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Frost Proof' is a shapely shrub with a very bushy growth habit. At 3-4 feet tall, it is much shorter than the species. It also adapts better to imperfect soil and growing conditions.

Its 3 inch snow white blossoms sparkle against the emerald green leaves in zones 6 (with protection)-10.



Other Flowering Shrubs:

The Fall-Blooming Althea Shrub

Let the Parlor Maple Add Bloom to Your Rooms

The Double Knockout Rose Will Knock Your Socks Off!

The Complete Guide to Pruning Shrubs

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