"Gardenia Needs Warm Temps., High Humidity"
Q. My husband gave me a gardenia as a gift recently. I love the fragrance of its flowers. Unfortunately, I don't know a thing about how to grow it. Can you tell me how to grow this plant? Thanks for any information you can give me.
A. Gardenia is a popular gift plant. It has glossy green leaves topped with waxy, creamy-white flowers. The flowers are highly fragrant and can be up to five inches across. Here in western Massachusetts, gardenia is grown as a house plant, but in the South and West, gardenia is often grown as an evergreen, landscape shrub reaching six feet tall or more.
From talking with other people who grow gardenias, it seems they either do well or they don't. I've experienced troubles growing gardenia myself. It tends to be a very fussy plant.
Gardenia needs bright light with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. During winter, place it in the sunniest window you have. In spring and summer, it can be placed outdoors in a partially shaded location.
Warm daytime temperatures and cool night temperatures are necessary for continual flowering. Temperatures of 68 to 75 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 degrees at night are ideal. Night temperatures above 65 degrees can prevent it from forming flower buds. Be careful not to place gardenia in an area that is drafty such as near an outside door or directly over a heating or air conditioning vent. It can drop its leaves and buds in these situations.
Often, flower buds that are on the plant when it is purchased will drop once it gets home. This is a result of a sudden change in temperature or humidity. High humidity is necessary for gardenia to grow and flower well. That's often difficult to achieve, especially during winter when the air inside our homes can be very dry because of wintertime heating. Place the pot on a tray of moistened pebbles. Be sure to check the pebbles regularly and add water as needed to keep them moist.
Gardenia should never be allowed to dry out. Keep the soil consistently moist, but don't let it stand in water. Water when the top surface of the soil starts to feel dry to the touch. Over- or underwatering causes gardenia to drop its lower leaves as well as flower buds.
Gardenia is a heavy feeder and should be fertilized every few weeks. Gardenias not fertilized regularly develop yellow leaves and don't flower well.
Although gardenia is a fussy plant and often difficult to grow, there is a relative of gardenia, called African gardenia, that is very easy to grow. It blooms all year long and grows well in just about every condition - bright light, low light, warm temperatures, low temperatures, high humidity, low humidity. This is the gardenia I prefer to grow.
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