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Ah, the lovely Gardenia. Its pleasing smells and massive white blooms softens the heart of even the most jaded gardener. But, the impatient green-thumbed will find that the gardenia will not tolerate a slack growing environment. Exact temperatures, watering, and feeding is necessary for this gorgeous, but fickle flower. Only the strong-willed grower will find a friend in the gardenia.
There are over 200 species of gardenias available, each as beautiful as the next. The majority of blooms are two to five inches wide with shades of creamy white or pale yellow. Standouts like the ‘August Beauty’ has white and yellow flowers that bloom three months each year. The most popular (due to less maintenance and looks) is the ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ , which greets the eyes and nose with star-shaped ivory flowers and incredible fragrances. Here's what you need to start:
Gardenias love humidity and will cast monster blooms if the moisture is spot on. If the gardenia is inside, you can mist the plant daily. Also set the gardenia’s container in a dish filled with colorful pebbles to increase the surrounding humidity as well as creating an aesthetic look. You can mist the plant daily outside if you live in a drier climate. But, remember the fickle plant in front of you and make sure not to over spray the leaves since it causes unsightly spots and disease. Gardenias also need at least one inch of water in a well-drained soil each week. Try not to over water or underwater since the plant will resort to bud drop with either extreme.
If you have your gardenia indoors, place the plant in a south facing windowsill, but keep it away from direct light. The outdoor gardenia should be placed in a sunny location, but it’s essential to have some form of shade in the hottest times of the day. If you have a porch or patio near a window, think about putting your gardenia there since the lovely fragrances willfill your home.
Gardenias love to show off, but they’ll shy away from their true blooms if the temperatures are not perfect during the flowering season. You want your temperatures to be between 65F and 75F during the day and between 55F and 60F at night. With the proper climate care, you can optimize blooms for up to three months!
Spring comes alive with new flowers and fragrances, but it also awakens hungry pests in search of defenseless plants. White flies, aphids, and mealybugs love to congregate in the gardenia. You can easily keep these insects at bay with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Spray at the first sight of infestation. Don’t spray too much, since the soaps and oils can clog the leaves, which can suffocate the plant and stunt growth. Pruning in the early spring, as well as deadheading any flowers, will deter disease while maximizing flower power.
Keeping gardenias blooming bright and smelling great requires upkeep, but the rewards are worth every minute. You’ll forget the work once you see the gardenia cast its first flower in your garden!