Gardenia – a tropical plant formally known as Gardenia jasminoides – is a lovely addition to an interior scheme. Its glossy, evergreen foliage will instantly brighten up a corner, shelf, or window sill. But its biggest draw is its creamy-white blooms, appearing from summer through to fall, which exude a spellbinding scent.
It's this fantastic fragrance that makes them one of the best indoor plants – if you're up for the challenge. 'Gardenias are such wonderful plants with their scented flowers, but they are a bit fussy about the conditions in which they grow,' says John Negus, an Amateur Gardening expert.
But, with a bit of patience and the right care, growing gardenias can be very rewarding. We explain all you need to know.
3 top tips for gardenia care
1. Up the humidity levels
Hailing from tropical climes, it's no surprise that gardenias love a humid environment. This means they're one of the best plants for bathrooms, as long as there is plenty of light available.
'Flowering is best if the plant is standing on a saucer of damp pebbles,' says John Negus.
'Spraying daily with tepid rainwater is also beneficial, but not while in flower, as the water can discolor the blooms.'
Using rainwater, rather than tap water, is important, John continues. 'Gardenias are lime-hating plants and will suffer if watered with hard water.' If you have invested in a water butt for a more sustainable garden, this will come in handy here.
'Gardenias like moist compost and this might mean watering up to three times a week through the summer,' adds the Amateur Gardening experts.
2. Keep them warm
Gardenia plants need a minimum temperature of 50˚F (10˚C) in winter. 'However, this should be increased to 60–65˚F (15–18˚C) in summer to encourage good flowering,' says John.
These plants strongly object to gas fumes, so avoid standing them in a room with a gas fire, he adds.
As well as warmth, they need plenty of light. But, similarly to calathea plants, they should be protected from hot, direct sunlight in summer. In winter, they generally need as much sunlight as possible.
3. Feed them regularly
Fertilizing plants can help them to thrive, and gardenias are no exception.
From six weeks after potting, use a high-nitrogen liquid feed every week through spring and summer, advises the RHS.
'Over winter, feed with a balanced fertilizer with trace elements at five or six-week intervals.'
Also, note that gardenias prefer compost that's specifically for acid-loving plants. This means that if you live somewhere warm enough to plant your gardenia in the ground outdoors, you may need to amend the pH of the soil first.
Common problems with gardenia care and how to avoid them
- Bud drop: There are a few reasons that can cause flower buds to fall off a gardenia before blooming. 'The most likely cause of the buds dropping is lack of humidity, fluctuating temperatures, or water availability,' says the Amateur Gardening experts. But, if you've only just purchased your plant, it may simply be a result of the move. 'You may need to wait until next year, when the plant has settled, for your first blooms,' they say.
- Wilting leaves: If you're keeping the compost moist but the leaves are still wilting, try moving your plant to a shadier place and up the humidity levels by misting it three times a day.
- Yellowing leaves: This problem is particularly common with new growth, explains the RHS. It's most likely to be iron deficiency, in which case, apply chelated (sequestered) iron. Overwatering your plant can also be to blame, which leads to root damage.
- Pests: As with any plant, pests can be problematic. For gardenias, look out for spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects, and aphids. Unless very severe, whereby infected areas should be removed and destroyed, most cases can be treated. For instance, our guide on how to get rid of aphids has plenty of top tips.
How to propagate gardenias
Learning how to take cuttings from plants is a great way to get more for free, and with gardenias it's easy.
Do so by taking softwood cuttings in late winter or early spring. Alternatively, take semi-ripe cuttings in summer – heel cuttings are often especially successful, says the RHS. Pot them on annually and avoid allowing them to become pot bound.
Propagating succulents is also simple and another way to increase your indoor garden easily.
Can you grow gardenia outdoors?
In milder regions, gardenias can be grown as a container gardening idea in a sheltered space out of direct sunlight. This means they can easily be moved somewhere warm, such as a heated conservatory, when temperatures drop. For extra peace of mind, look for hardy varieties such as 'Kleim's Hardy'.
In reliably warmer areas, such as the southern states of the US, they can be planted straight into the ground in soil that has good drainage and a low pH.
Why won't my gardenia flower?
If you've already learned how to grow gardenias, a lack of blooms can be a great disappointment. 'The usual reason is that your gardenia is hungry,' says John.
If you are not already dosing it regularly with plant food, John recommends nourishing it weekly with a fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Azalea, Camellia and Rhododendron Concentrated Liquid Plant Food, available on Amazon.
'High in nitrogen and potassium to boost leaf growth and stimulate flowering, it also contains Humifirst, which is rich in growth-stimulating organic matter,' says John.
Where to buy gardenias
Want to introduce a gardenia to your indoor plant ideas? These quicklinks below will come in useful to start your shopping search.
Where to buy gardenia plants in the US:
Where to buy gardenia plants in the UK:
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day.
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