While we don’t recommend gardenias for beginner gardeners, if you have some experience with trickier plants, this might be a nice challenge. Gardenias are a type of shrub that has gorgeous, fragrant flowers. Find out when to plant gardenias and learn more tips on how to encourage this sometimes difficult plant to grow.
When to plant gardenias? Gardenias may not be the easiest plant to grow but they are beautiful and fragrant. For those living in a mild climate, you can plant gardenias in the fall. For those living in a climate that has some frost in the winter, plant gardenias in the spring to allow the shrub to establish itself.
Planting Gardenias in Different Climates
Gardenias are native to tropical climates, so this is where they will thrive. They like heat, partial shade, and humidity, and won’t tolerate cold winters.
As gardenias like a humid environment, they won’t take to a dry climate. It is too much work to try to grow gardenias in such an area.
You may have some success with gardenias in a temperate climate. If you have very mild winters, you can even try to leave the plant outdoors in the winter.
The cold winters of a continental climate mean you definitely can’t plant gardenias outside. However, you may be able to keep them in a container inside your home.
Unless you keep your gardenias in a container inside, they will not survive outdoors in a polar climate.
Choosing Gardenias varieties
If you want plenty of blooms, this variety is a winner. It offers double flowers that are 3 inches in size and will do fine in a container.
This variety is a dwarf version which means it is perfect for container planting. Furthermore, it is actually cold hardy, and can be grown in gardening zones 6 to 11.
As you may be able to imagine from the name, this variety has petals that look like a pinwheel. They are long and spread out but still have that classic white-pale yellow look.
How to Plant Gardenias Seeds
The best time to plant gardenias will depend on where you live. If you live in an area that is fairly warm and only has a light frost to contend with, you should plant gardenias in the fall.
However, if you have a colder winter, then you should plant your gardenias in the spring, just after the last frost date. This way, your gardenias will have a chance to settle in before the cold winter hits.
Gardenias are native to tropical areas, so you should keep this in mind when planting. While they like warmth and some sun, full sunlight can be too overwhelming for them.
Instead, think of dappled light, like that of a tropical forest. The high canopies of trees will let some light in but will protect the smaller shrub from the harsh sunlight of the afternoon.
Another important consideration when it comes to location is that gardenias have a very overpowering scent. While many people appreciate this scent, which is why they want to plant the shrub in the first place, not everyone will want it around all the time.
Planting gardenias near doors or windows that are open during the summer means the smell of gardenias will waft into your home. If you are worried about the intensity of the smell, it’s best to choose a location that is further away from your home.
Gardenias can be a bit delicate so be sure to plant them in an area that is protected from the wind. Even in warmer climates, wind can be quite gusty and harsh, which can overwhelm newly planted gardenias.
Gardenias prefer soil that is acidic, with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.0. It’s best to perform a soil test before planting to ensure your location will support this shrub.
Furthermore, before planting, be sure to add compost or aged manure to help increase the nutrients in the soil. Dig up the area well to ensure the soil isn’t compacted as gardenias prefer an area that drains well.
It is best to start with a young gardenia shrub instead of seeds as the plant is fairly temperamental. Furthermore, gardenias do not like to be transplanted so pick the location you want them to grow after careful consideration.
When planting, start by digging a hole that is twice the size of the roots. Add compost or fresh soil to the bottom of the hole and then place the plant so that the top of the roots are directly at ground level.
Place the soil back into the hole and tamp it down to secure the shrub.
How to Water Gardenias
Try to find a sweet spot for watering gardenias. This shrub needs steady water and will suffer if it dries out or is overwatered. If there is no rain in the forecast, aim to water every other day.
Finally, you can try to replicate a tropical environment by misting the leaves of your gardenia shrub. This plant likes humidity and the leaves won’t suffer if they become damp.
How to Grow Gardenias
After planting, you can add a thin layer of bark mulch or straw around the base of your gardenia shrub. Just be sure to leave a few inches of space around the plant to allow for proper airflow.
Every spring you can add a new layer of mulch or straw as it will naturally break down.
You can add fertilizer to your gardenia shrub twice in the spring and twice in the summer. The best kind is a slow-release fertilizer that won’t easily wash away.
Look for a fertilizer that is meant for acidic soil. If you can’t find one for gardenias, look for one that is meant for rhododendrons as they have similar needs.
Make sure you don’t add fertilizer in the fall. If you do, it can cause the gardenias to produce new growth which will then be susceptible to frost damage.
Gardenias will flower for a long time in the summer as long as proper care is taken. Whenever there are spent blooms, take the time to remove them as this will encourage new growth.
If you see that your gardenia shrub is dropping buds, it is a sign your plant is undergoing stress. Causes can include over or under-watering, as well as a lack of sunlight or even high temperatures.
Try your best to diagnose the problem so that you can then alter the circumstances to grow a healthier shrub.
While gardenias are not overly large shrubs, they can become quite wild if left alone. Plants in the first two years of growth should be lightly pruned to keep their shape.
After that, you can prune back up to two-thirds of the entire plant after the flowering season is over. The shrub will still be evergreen through the winter but will return to its original size the following spring.
You can, indeed, bring gardenias inside to brighten up your home. However, they will retain their scent and if you or someone in your home is sensitive to smells, you might want to leave them outside.
When cutting your gardenias, be very careful with the blooms. The petals are very delicate and if you touch them, they can bruise or even wilt.
Cut the stems of your flowers at a 45-degree angle. This will create more surface area for the stems to absorb water.
There should be no extra leaves on the stems so remove any bottom ones that may come into contact with the water inside the vase.
Finally, add a scoop of sugar to the vase to act as nourishing food for your gardenias. If you don’t have long-enough stems, you can also remove the flowers and place them in a bowl as a floating arrangement.
Even though gardenias are a tropical area and thus will not grow outdoors in gardening zone 7 or higher, you can still try your luck with the plant. The trick is to keep them moving.
Simply plant your gardenia in a container and while you can leave it outside in warmer weather, you can also bring it inside once winter hits. While the container may stunt the gardenia’s growth, it is still worth it if you want to have this plant around you.
How long do gardenias take to grow?
Gardenias are shrubs and after planting, they should be ready to bloom within the first year. While you might not have a lot of blooms at first, every subsequent year your shrub will become larger and produce more flowers.
When planting your gardenias, you can get them in the ground in the fall if you live in a mild climate but if you experience some frost, wait until spring. Gardenias are delicate and a touch temperamental so be sure to read up on the best way to care for them so that you can be assured of success.