Gardenias are cherished subtropical, flowering perennial shrubs or trees that produce intoxicatingly fragrant blooms and dark green, shiny foliage. Gardenias make lovely additions to cottage gardens and traditional gardens and can be used as hedges, border plants, patio accents, or even grown as houseplants.
Gardenia plant care can be challenging, as they can be somewhat temperamental, but they are well worth the effort. Follow our tips on gardenia plant care, so you can successfully grow these sweet-scented treasures year after year.
Ideal Soil Composition & pH for Growing Gardenias
Gardenias enjoy loamy, sandy, fertile, and well-draining soil. A premium potting mix is ideal for growing gardenias indoors or outdoors in pots. When growing gardenias in the ground, amend your native soil with plenty of organic matter, sand or perlite, and well-decomposed compost. This will help the soil remain moist while draining away moisture from the plant’s root systems more efficiently.
Gardenia plants grow best when the soil is slightly acidic, with the target being 5.0 to 6.0 on the pH scale. If you are unsure of your soil quality or pH, visit your local extension office with a soil sample. The experts will break down what type of soil you have and give suggestions on what organic soil amendments are necessary for peak growing performance.
Gardenia Light & Temperature Needs
It’s important to consider light and temperature when learning gardenia plant care. The amount of sun that gardenias need to thrive is somewhat dependent on where they are planted and the intensity of the sun’s rays. The ideal growing temperature for these gorgeous plants is approximately 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In hot climates, plant gardenias in the ground in an area of the garden that receives full sun with dappled shade. Morning sun with periods of afternoon shade is optimal. Some shade is essential in hotter months of the year.
- While gardenias are sun-loving plants, too much sun can scorch plant leaves and cause prized buds to fall off of the plant.
- In cooler climates, plant in full sun. The shade is not as necessary, especially if the planting bed is mulched.
- When growing gardenias indoors in pots, place them in a sunny window that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.
- Gardenias that are planted outdoors in containers should be protected from too much intense sunlight. They should receive plenty of indirect light but not be placed in direct sun.
Where to Plant Gardenias
When thinking about how to grow and care for your gardenias, there are many options for where to plant them. While they are somewhat picky about their growing environments, you can try them out in different spots if you are determined to grow this beloved plant.
Gardenias are a subtropical plant that thrives in warm climates with a good amount of humidity. They are hardy in zones 8-11, but some varieties are hardy up to zones 6 and 7. Gardenias can be planted outdoors, in-ground, or in containers, or grown indoors in pots.
The Best Way to Water Gardenias
Gardenia plant care is best done in moist soil. They should receive at least one inch of water per week. Water regularly so that soil is damp but never soggy. Maintaining the proper balance of moisture for gardenia plants is vital for their success. Plants that receive too much water or are allowed to dry out can cause gardenia buds to fall off the plant or decline to open.
As subtropical plants, gardenias crave humidity. In addition to regular watering, giving the plant a spitz of water every day can be helpful, particularly when growing them indoors.
How to Care for a Gardenia Plant
Nutrient-rich soil is a must for gardenias. The best start that you can give these plants is to amend your soil with plenty of rich, organic material. Well decomposed compost, decomposed forest materials, worm castings, and manure keep gardenias well nourished.
Feed your plants with a fertilizer that is particularly formulated for acid-loving plants every two to four weeks throughout the growing season. Do not feed gardenia plants during their dormancy period, which usually falls between the winter months of November through February.
Pruning Gardenia Plants
Gardenia plant care includes pruning. Pruning is important to maintain their shape and encourage new growth.
- Clip off spent flowers just below the first leaf node.
- Trim branches of the plant during the dormancy period between November and February and shape as desired.
Common Gardenia Plant Pests
Gardenia plants can be prone to some common pests and diseases. These plants are deer resistant which is a plus, but more tiny insects are likely to cause more problems for gardenia plants. The hose can be your best friend when it comes to managing common pests.
- Spider Mites – these pests thrive in dry conditions. Misting plant foliage regularly with water can keep spider mites from seeking out your gardenia plants.
- Whiteflies – A sharp spray of the hose can knock whiteflies off of your plant. Be sure to spray the tops and undersides of leaves. You can also hang a yellow sticky trap on a branch of the plant.
- Mealybugs – Dislodge mealybugs from plants with a steady stream of water. Maintain adequate planting, watering, and fertilizing to boost plant health so that they are less prone to mealy bug problems.
- Root Rot – Make sure plants are grown in well-draining soil and are not overwatered. Gardenia plants do not like soggy conditions.
Recommended Gardenia Varieties to Grow
Once you master the tricks to successfully growing gardenias, you are in for a treat. These irresistible, heat-loving plants come in a wide array of varieties, but they all share the feature of deeply perfumed blooms.
Check out some of our favorite gardenia types to grow:
These treasured plants are hardy in zones 6-11 and can withstand freezing temperatures during the winter.
- ‘Chuck Hayes’
- ‘Celestial Star’
Dwarf Gardenias that are Great for Containers
These dwarf varieties are compact enough to thrive in containers. They are hardy in zones 8-11 and can be easily brought indoors in cooler climates. They are also ideal for borders.
- ‘Four Seasons’
- ‘Golden Magic’