Gardenias are famous among gardeners of all ages, for their sweet smell and shiny foliage.
At the same time, they are famous for being a complicated and high maintenance plant, which requires some more attention than other plants that have been mentioned in this blog, like bougainvillea (link) or adenium (link).
If you are a person like me, who enjoys the “let it dry before you water again” philosophy for plant care – which basically means that you don’t do much! – then probably a gardenia will feel like it’s out of your “gardening comfort zone” and that you do things wrong. Don’t get disappointed, however do assess your time and space before you decide to go for one.
When you first bring a gardenia in your house or garden, it will require some observation of their behavior, like moving them around in the garden or your house, until you figure out which spot they like best or like offering a little more or a little less water, until you see them happy.
Don’t worry though; it doesn’t all have to come down to trying-and-testing and observing. You can save some time by following the tips that we give below:
Watering: Gardenias like their soil to be moist (of course, they don’t like sitting in water!), so water them more frequently than most of your plants and make sure they have good drainage. This means in no case that an indoor gardenia needs water every day (probably it would need every 5-8 days), but it does mean that an outdoor gardenia can’t sit in a spot where its soil dries out very quickly.
Light: Gardenias like bright light, and in the Gulf this is translated into full sun in the winter (between end of November and March) and no direct sun in the summer – or maximum 2 hours early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
When it comes to soil, Gardenias are acidophile plants, which means that they need a soil pH below 7, with optimum between 5.0-6.5.
Fertilizer: Gardenias have high needs in iron and the way to diagnose an iron deficiency is by seeing the leaves becoming yellow between the veins, like in the photo below. Offer some balanced fertilizer every 4-8 weeks and since they like acidity, you can add some coffee beans and tea bags in your compost without a worry.
Bring your outdoor gardenia in a bright room during the summer or place them under full shade if you are planning to keep them outside.
Take it out again gradually (few hours every day) in mid October. Place it in fill sun in November and wait for it to bloom.
Pruning happens after the summer and around Februray – unless there is a serious reason, like pests, to do it at another time. You can remove dead branches, leaves and flowers all year round, to give more space to the plant to grow.
You can propagate your gardenia by cuttings of new wood (top 15-20 cm of the new branches). It’s advisable to keep a back up, since it’s so sensitive!
If you have some plants or a garden at home and you would need specific advice, contact us, to schedule a consultation with one of our experts.