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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Gardenias

Gardenias are one of those plants that you can find in the garden nursery and in the houseplant section of any garden store.  The reason for this is that the gardenia is both a landscape plant and a houseplant.  The department you visit to find your gardenia is typically a hint as to how you plan to use your plant.

Regardless of where you plan to display your gardenia, there is one character that you want to preserve.  Blooming gardenias have a wonderful scent and in doing so you will want to place them in a location where you can enjoy their beauty and aroma. 

If you plan on planting your gardenia outside, the first step of this process is to select the best location.  Gardenias require sunny location and environmental conditions that are humid.  Beyond that, this plant also requires a soil that has a pH of around 5.0 to 6.0 with a low salt content.  While you may be tempted to plant your gardenia along the side of your house, do not.  The reason behind this is the fact that the soil in this location may be too salty for the plant to survive.

Once you have the location picked out, you will need to prepare the garden space.  This process goes beyond removing unwanted plant material.  What you will need to do is to loosen the soil with a garden rake and spade.  After that is done, begin to mix in a good amount of peat moss and/or well seasoned compost.  Using both of these substances will improve the soil drainage. 

Next, you will need to dig the hole.  The proper size of this hole is very important.  The depth of the hole should be no deeper than the container that the gardenia is in.  As far as the width goes, it should be three times the width of the container.

After the hole has been dug, it is time to test the hole out.  To do this, simply place the plant in the hole.  Make sure that the soil level in the pot is equal to the soil level of the surrounding ground.  If the soil level is correct, you will need to remove the plant from its container.  If the soil level is not appropriate, adjust as needed.

At this point, you may be tempted to just pull the plant out of the container but do not.  The best approach is to cut the sides of the container down and remove the plant that way.

After the plant is freed, loosen the soil around the roots with your finger and place in the hole.  Fill the hole half way up and water in.  Adding water at this stage will force air bubbles out the soil.  Once the water has drained away, continue to fill the hole with water and water in again. 

After the water has drained away, add a four inch layer of mulch.  This will help control weeds and conserve soil moisture. 

If you want to grow your gardenia indoors, the first step is to select the best location possible.  Once you have found the sunniest window in your abode, the next step is to address the humidity level.  This is a very important requirement of the gardenia and without high humidity you run the chance of killing your plant.  There are two approaches by which you can increase the amount of moisture in the air.  The first is by placing a humidifier in the room with the gardenia.  While this may not be for you, there is a less expense approach and that is to make your own humidity tray.  The principle behind a humidity tray is something that will hold water and hold a plant up out of the water at the same time.  When it comes to a gardenia, a tray or bowl is just right.  Fill either one of these items with rocks or marbles and top off with water.  Then, simply place your gardenia on top of the rocks or marbles. 

As far as the remaining care goes, gardenias require one to two inches of water a weed regardless of the environment they are in.  If you planted your gardenia outside, you will need to feed it once a month with a fertilizer that is designed for acid loving plants during the growing season.  On the other hand, if your gardenia is growing inside, you will need to only feed it twice a year with the same acid loving fertilizer. 

To keep your gardenia looking its best, prune it in the spring.  To keep it blooming, make sure to remove any spend blooms when they appear. 

Gardenias do have their share of pest problems.  This is true whether they are planted inside or out.  Aphids, mealybugs, and scale can appear on the plant.  If you find that you have these pests on your gardenia, do not pull out a chemical treatment.  The best approach is to mix up your own treatment.  This is easily done by combining equal parts of dish soap and water.  Put this solution in a spray bottle and apply to both the top and underneath surface of the plant.  Repeat the application as needed.

Spider mites are another pest that gardenias can suffer from.  How do you know if you have spider mites?  Well, since spider mites are small you will need to come up with a way to see them.  The easiest way is to pull out a piece of white paper.  Take this paper to your gardenia and shake the branch over the paper.  If you have spider mites, you will see little red dots on the paper and these dots will move.  The first way to treat for spider mites is to just spray them off the plant.  While this will dislodge some of them, it may not get all of them.  The second approach is to create your own chemical treatment.  There are two simple solutions that you can make at home to treat this problem.  The first solution is to mix three tablespoons of dish soap to one gallon of water.  Put this mixture in a spray bottle and apply to the top and bottom of each leaf.  The second solution consists of mixing one to two drops of rosemary oil into one teaspoon of castile soap.  Thin this solution out with six ounces of water.  Apply as described for the soapy water solution.

Yes, gardenias can be a challenge to grow but I promise you they are well worth the effort.


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