Gardenia: The Complete Guide to This Essential Southern Plant

No plant expresses the South's grace better than the gardenia's fragrant blossoms.

No plant expresses the grace of the South better than gardenia. Intensely fragrant white blossoms contrast beautifully with shiny, leathery dark green leaves. The double forms make for classic corsage flowers, but gardeners struggle to perfect the delicate dance required for these plants to thrive.

Balancing between tropical, humid climates and damage from too much sunlight, choosing where to plant your gardenia is your first challenge. From there, tending to the variety (and size) of your gardenia plant will require a bit of work, but we have some best practices to follow when adding this flower to your gardening to-do list.

Where (and When) to Plant Gardenias

According to the Farmer's Almanac, in milder climates, the best time to plant gardenias is fall or six weeks before the first frost and spring for areas with colder temperatures. Again, here is a decision that every gardener must face when venturing into the new gardenia-growing space as it is dependent on your location.

For larger varieties, outdoor gardenias grow as border plants or in areas where they won't compete for the soil's nutrients, be overcrowded, and has room for their roots to spread. Also, you should try not to disturb these plants once in place. Plant them high in the ground or on raised beds, similar to azaleas and rhododendrons, allowing for better drainage and altering soil composition.

Indoor gardenias do well in large pots on decks and patios. Gardeners in cold-winter areas can grow them in cool greenhouses. Unfortunately, they make poor houseplants—they attract mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies.

Gardenia
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How to Care for Gardenias

Water

Although gardenias enjoy sunlight, they can't go too long without proper watering. Gardenias prefer rich, acidic soil, similar to rhododendrons and azaleas, that doesn't stay too wet, so it's a perfect option for Southern gardens. This flower also holds up in humid temperatures, but remember to water or mist your gardenias if there is a prolonged drought.

Sunlight

For outdoor plants, try planting gardenias in a place where they can get half-sunlight, as their contradictory needs continue regarding light. In warmer climates, avoid the intensity of late afternoon sunlight and choose an area where it can receive only morning to mid-day light. Cooler temperature regions can use a site with partial sunlight at the gardenia's new home. Harsh weather climates, such as frost and snow, make it difficult for gardenias to thrive.

Feeding

Feed plants every three to four weeks during the growing season—use an acid fertilizer, fish emulsion, blood meal, or even coffee grounds. Feed indoor plants just as often and test soil pH levels to maintain good health.

Pruning

Remove faded or dying flowers, usually around two-thirds from their initial flourish, to continue seeing blooms. You can prune younger gardenias to adjust their shape or to remove straggly branches and faded flowers.

Gardenia Growing Complications

Pests

You can control whiteflies, aphids, and other sucking insects with light horticultural oil. Try using an insecticide rinse to wash away the residue left behind.

Root Rot

When the leaves of your gardenia turn yellow, it is a sign that you might have root rot. This damage typically occurs from overwatering or another fungus in the soil, such as powdery mildew. Powdery mildew appears as white spores covering the plant's leaves and can be a recurring problem preventing future growth.

Bud Reductions

There are several reasons why your gardenia might not be blooming to its full potential. Along with insects and disease, improperly managing your plant, such as over or under watering, can result in the plant's failure. When temperatures, specifically the humidity, drop, it can harm the gardenias.

Type of Gardenias

'Aimee' ('First Love')

Somewhat larger shrub than 'August Beauty,' with larger flowers. Spring bloom.

'August Beauty'

It grows four to six feet high and three to four feet wide. Blooms heavily mid-spring into fall—large double flowers.

'Chuck Hayes'

Extra-hardy type, possibly as hardy as 'Klein's Hardy.' It grows to four feet high and wide. Double flowers in summer, heavy rebloom in fall.

'Golden Magic'

It reaches three feet tall and two feet wide in two to three years, eventually larger. Extra-full flowers open white and gradually age to deep golden yellow. Blooms from spring through summer, peaking in mid-spring.

'Grif's Select'

Compact, 3–4 ft. tall and wide; profuse single flowers in late spring and early summer, red seed capsules in fall. Hardy to about 5°F.'Kimura Shikazaki' ('Four Seasons'). Compact plant 2–3 ft. tall. Flowers similar to those of 'Veitchii' but slightly less fragrant. Extremely long bloom season—spring to fall.

'Klein's Hardy'

It grows from two to three feet high and wide in cold-winter areas—single flowers in summer. Grow in a wind-protected site.

'Miami Supreme'

It grows up to six feet tall and wide, with large double flowers (four to six inches wide) in spring, with periodic flowering through summer.

'Mystery'

Best-known selection. Bears four to five-inch double flowers from mid-to-late spring. It tends to be rangy and needs pruning to keep it neat. It can reach six to eight feet high and wide.

'Radicans' ('Prostrata')

It grows six to 12 inches tall and spreads to two to three feet, with small leaves and inch-wide double flowers blooms in summer. Suitable for small-scale ground cover or pots. Not as cold-hardy or suited to Middle South.

'Radicans Variegata' ('Prostrata Variegata')

It has gray-green leaves with white markings.

'Shooting Star'

Upright grower to six to eight feet tall and wide, with large leaves and single flowers in late spring and early summer.

'Veitchii'

Compact, reliable grower to 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet tall and six feet wide. Blooms prolifically from mid-spring into fall (sometimes even during warm winters), bearing double one to 1 1/2-inch flowers.

'White Gem'

At just one to two feet tall and wide, this selection is helpful for edgings, containers, or raised beds, where the fragrance is appreciated even from a single, creamy white summer flower.

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