18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

Gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, Madagascar and Pacific Islands, and Australia. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus and John Ellis after Dr. Alexander Garden, a Scottish-born American naturalist.

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1. How to care for gardenias?

Gardenia is a plant native to China that is generally planted outdoors and is admired for its bright, deep green foliage and fragrant flowers. These beautiful plants are grown as ornamental shrubs in warm regions and indoor plants in cold areas. Gardenias are delicate plants that require very particular care, specific growing conditions, and constant maintenance to develop solid and healthy. Many people give up caring for gardenias because of the care it requires; however, once you know the needs of a gardenia, you will find growing it very rewarding.

Discover in the different sections of this article how to care for a gardenia and the best tricks to make this plant grow healthy and vigorous.

2. General gardenia care

Below we will indicate the general care when caring for most gardenias; later and in other sections, we will show respect for outdoor and indoor gardenias.

3. What substrate is suitable for a gardenia?

Gardenia requires an acidic substrate that drains well. A substrate with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5 will be suitable whether planted in a pot or on the ground. A suitable substrate for gardenias can be made by mixing peat and sand and adding fermented bark. Choose acid peat around pH five and low insoluble salts since gardenia does not tolerate this component well. It is also convenient to add organic material such as fermented bark to retain water and keep the soil slightly moist most of the time.

4. How much should I water a gardenia?

The gardenia is a plant that requires moist soil, most of the time, without being too wet. In general, tap water will not be suitable for watering your gardenias since this water is usually complex (with a high concentration of calcium and magnesium), which will lower the pH of the soil and will end up affecting the growth of your plant. The best water for your gardenia is that of the rain, but since the weather is erratic and it will not always rain when your gardenias need water, you can choose to use distilled water or tap water previously boiled and allowed to cool.

Large drops of water on the leaves and flowers can damage your plant by promoting the appearance of fungi and diseases. However, spraying water with an excellent spray head can help to hydrate the leaves. The water spraying should always be done in the warmest season and always with the plant in the shade to prevent the leaves from being burned by the action of the sun when this water evaporates.

5. How much light does a gardenia need?

Outdoor gardenias will grow best if you place them in full sun or semi-direct sun, but they will require shade in the afternoon in the warmer months. In contrast, indoor gardenias do not tolerate direct sun well, but they will need to be in a room with a lot of indirect light.

The best orientation to care for your gardenias indoors and outdoors is south facing. The south direction is adequate to have the maximum number of hours of sunshine per day. However, you must ensure that they are protected from the direct sun in the afternoon, in the case of outdoor gardenias and with bright light but not sun. Straightforward in the case of indoor gardenias.

18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

6. Ambient temperature for a gardenia

Temperature is considered one of the crucial aspects when caring for a gardenia. Achieving a lush bloom will depend mainly on the temperatures the gardenia experiences during the day and at night throughout the season. The ideal temperature during the day will be around 30ºC and 15ºC at night.

 It is recommended that the plant be exposed to cold temperatures at night between September and October, ensuring flowering in the winter months. High temperatures stimulate the plant’s growth, which will allow getting large plants in a short time. However, they cancel the appearance of flowers. 

You must be careful with frost in winter as they are susceptible to temperatures below 0ºC. If your area is icy in winter, you should move your gardenia to a greenhouse or indoors and transplant it again when the frosty season is over.

7. How to care for an outdoor gardenia?

Planting a gardenia outside

As we have seen in the general information on gardenias, most gardenias need a temperature of around 30ºC during the day and around 15ºC at night. An outdoor gardenia will also need to receive direct sunlight in the morning and stay in a shady but brightly lit area during the afternoon.

When planting a gardenia outdoors, the first task will be to find an area that can ensure the necessary light conditions and receive gentle aeration to prevent the appearance of diseases and fungi. The growing area that an adult gardenia needs is approximately 18 “by 18”.

Once the ideal place has been chosen, we will proceed to plant the gardenia following the following steps:

  1. Dig a hole twice the size of the plant’s root ball and as deep as the pot.
  2. Add a sufficient amount of substrate for gardenias that you can find in your gardening store or a mixture of acid peat, with a pH of 5, and sand with organic material such as fermented bark.
  3. Place the gardenia in the hole, making sure it will be planted at a similar depth in the pot.
  4. Fill any remaining gaps with more gardenia substrate and gently press the soil around the plant to settle.
  5. Lastly, water the plant well and get enough moisture, especially during the growing season.

A newly planted gardenia will not need compost during the first weeks since the soil we have placed will have enough nutrients to ensure its growth during that period and, an excess of compost could be fatal for the plant.

8. Gardenia outdoor care

Gardenias are sensitive to frigid temperatures and can die during severe winters, which is why they tend to abound in areas where the winter climate is reasonably cold or moved indoors or in a greenhouse in winter. If the winters in your area are too harsh and the minimum temperatures drop below 0ºC, you should move it in late autumn and plant it back in the ground in spring. You can take advantage of the moment of transplanting it to a pot to prune the branches and roots.

When it comes to gardenia care outdoors, you should keep in mind that when grown outdoors, it generally prefers to have direct sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon. In the hottest seasons, you may have to reduce the hours of direct sun exposure if the temperatures are above 30ºC.

The soil must be kept moist but not flooded most of the time, and the substrate must be porous to ensure drainage, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5 and abundant organic matter that will retain moisture. Water often when you notice that the interior soil begins to lose steam and prevent drops from forming on the leaves to avoid the appearance of fungi and diseases.

If you manage to care for a gardenia healthily, it will have enough strength to withstand the winter and will sprout vigorously in the spring.

9. Tips for outdoor gardenias

Several tricks will help you improve the health and longevity of your outdoor gardenias. A well-cared gardenia will give its full potential year after year as if it were the first day.

  • Make sure to prune your gardenia in the busy months.
  • Disinfect the pruning shears before and after pruning to avoid transferring diseases and fungi from one plant to another.
  • Add mulch over the substrate to increase moisture retention. You can use pine needles, bark, finely crumbled bark, or other organic materials. Create a one or two-centimeter thick coating without touching the trunk of your gardenia.

10. How to care for an indoor gardenia?

There are some gardenia varieties suitable for growing in pots and indoors; however, you must make sure that it will receive the care it needs to develop in good conditions. An indoor garden requires a lot of light, but you should keep it out of direct sunlight. In addition to a good amount of light, you should be sure to give your indoor gardenia enough moisture and soil moisture.

Short winter days will be the most troublesome when caring for an indoor gardenia, especially if the gardenia is not getting enough moisture. Make sure to place your indoor gardenias in a south-facing room so that it receives the maximum number of hours of light possible. If you do not have enough light in your home, but you do not want to give up caring for a gardenia, you can choose to use artificial light to ensure your plant has the light it needs.

 In our article How to care for indoor plants? You will find a section in which we talk about using artificial lights to care for your indoor plants.

Achieving high humidity is essential for your indoor gardenia to grow healthy. In our home, we use heaters and fireplaces to heat the house. Space heaters dry out the air to levels unsuitable for gardenias. There are several ways to maintain humidity in the environment in winter that will make your gardenia survive that season:

18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

  • You can use a fine head sprayer to moisten your plant’s leaves. You should do this every day, and if the environment is too dry, a couple of times each day.
  • You can also buy a humidifier that will maintain adequate relative humidity throughout your home.
  • The third and final option is to place a tray about 2 centimeters deep with pebbles and pieces of broken pot under your indoor gardenia. Subsequently, you should reach the tray with 1.5 centimeters of water, ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the pot in which your gardenia is planted. This water will slowly evaporate and maintain adequate humidity around your indoor garden.
18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022
18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

As with outdoor gardenias, indoor gardenias need an acidic, porous peat substrate to ensure drainage and enough organic material to hold in moisture. It would help if you watered whenever the interior temperature of the soil begins to lose steam without the plant getting soaked.

11. How to pay for a gardenia?

Caring for a gardenia is delicate work due to the demanding conditions to develop and flourish. One of these cares is to pay your gardenia, both indoors and outdoors periodically. By fertilizing your gardenia, you ensure that you provide the necessary nutrients for the plant that the soil loses when its roots absorb them. With the help of a good fertilizer, your gardenias will grow strong and favor a good flowering.

Although it is advisable to fertilize your gardenias, you should know that they are plants that do not need overly nourished soil. It is recommended to use a fertilizer with 20% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 20% potassium at 1/3 of the power recommended by the manufacturer once a month and during the growing months, that is, spring and summer.

You must suspend fertilization in the resting time of the plant since, by being inactive and not absorbing nutrients, the roots will end up damaged, and the plant will wither.

If the soil loses acidity, you can add a little ammonium sulfate to the water in two or three irrigations until the pH returns to values ​​around 4.5 and 5.5 acidities. In addition to this, you should know that gardenia is prone to iron chlorosis. You can solve this by using iron chelate following the manufacturer’s instructions.

12. How to prune a gardenia?

Pruning your plants is one of the critical pieces when caring for a gardenia if you want it to grow strong spring after spring. Proper pruning will ensure that your plant grows in the correct shape and enhance its growth and flowering.

Gardenias should be pruned after flowering, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use pruning shears on the plant. It is convenient to reduce the volume of the plant to 2/3 of its size in heavy pruning. You will always proceed to prune it as follows:

  1. Remove any dead or damaged branches or leaves.
  2. Prune tangled stems or stems that grow in the wrong directions.
  3. After this, you can start pruning. Start by emptying the inner area of ​​the gardenia.
  4. You can start cutting the side areas and shaping the plant with the center control.
  5. If you are going to transplant the plant to a pot to protect it from the winter, take the opportunity to remove the dead roots and trim them to a suitable volume for the bank.

13. How to care for a gardenia to enhance flowering?

The gardenia flower is a magnificent specimen for the eyes, its beautiful shape and white color, and the smell of its excellent and delicate perfume. Unfortunately for many gardenia owners, specific conditions have to be met, and it requires meticulous care to get this planet to flourish. Care, temperature, and the use of a suitable fertilizer are crucial to getting your gardenias to bloom.

If you want to make your gardenia bloom, you must control four elements:

  • Soil and environmental moisture
  • Sunlight
  • Temperature
  • The right fertilizer

14. Soil and environmental moisture

When caring for a gardenia, you must make sure that you will provide the amount of moisture necessary for its development. Gardenias need the soil to be moist most of the time but not waterlogged. 

In addition to this, they need to have sufficient environmental humidity so that their leaves are correctly hydrated.

Suppose your gardenia is planted in the ground. In that case, you can increase the humidity by using a fine-head sprayer or a gentle sprinkler pointed at the plant when the sun is not hitting it directly, as it will burn its leaves as the water evaporates.

In indoor gardenias, you can spray water with a fine head or place a tray with pebbles and a finger of water under the pot. As it evaporates, the water in the pool will increase the humidity around the plant.

In both cases, you should avoid large drops forming on the leaves, as this will favor the appearance of fungi and diseases.

15. Sunlight

When caring for your gardenia, you will also want to ensure that the plant receives enough direct and indirect sunlight. Your outdoor gardenia needs to be in a place where it gets direct sunlight in the morning and bright light, without direct sun, in the afternoon. It should be the case as long as the temperature does not exceed 35ºC when the plant is in full sun.

Indoor gardenias need a lot of light, but always without direct sun. You should place the plant in a room facing south; this way, you will ensure that it will receive sunlight most of the hours of the day.

18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022
18 How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Gardenias 2022

16. Temperature

It is perhaps the most challenging point when caring for a gardenia. The optimum temperature for a gardenia to flourish exuberantly is 30ºC during the day and around 15ºC at night. In winter, you should ensure cold temperatures, which will enhance the growth of flowers in the spring, but always avoid frost. If it freezes in your area in winter, you should move the plant to a greenhouse or indoors during the frosty season and return it to the ground in the spring.

17. The right fertilizer

Like any other plant, the gardenia needs that the soil contains a series of nutrients; however, it does not need soil that is too rich in them. The plants should be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer 20-10-20 at a third of the power indicated by the manufacturer once a month. It will be the case in the growing months, spring and summer. In winter, the fertilizer of your gardenias must be wholly suspended.

It would help if you also controlled the pH of the soil. The pH should always be between 4.5 and 5.5 acidities, and if you see that the pH rises, you can apply a little ammonium sulfate to the water in two or three irrigations until the pH returns to those values.

18. Tropical flowering plants

  • Frangipani
  • Peace lily
  • Jasmine
  • Shoeblackplant
  • Bird of paradise flower
  • Bromeliads
  • Pineapple

Where do gardenias grow best?

full sunGardenias usually perform best in full sun but may appreciate shade during the hottest part of the day in the warmest parts of their hardiness range. They seem to grow best in humid areas and don’t tolerate drought or arid conditions well.

Can gardenia survive winter?

Gardenias overwintered indoors need cool night temperatures of around 60 degrees F. (16 C.). The shrub will survive warmer night temperatures but it may not flower well when you take it back outdoors. Keep the soil lightly moist and use a slow-release azalea fertilizer according to the package instructions.

Can gardenias grow in pots?

Gardenias growing in containers need bright light or filtered shade with no direct sun. Gardenias grown indoors should receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight through a sunny window. Make sure your Gardenia soil is moist and well-drained. Gardenias need at least 1 inch of rain (or equivalent watering) each week.

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