Gardenia or Cape Jasmine
When thinking of the southern gardens, Gardenia’s often come to mind. These plants have been in southern gardens for generations. In the correct location, they will bloom from mid-spring through the summer and into fall. This beautiful plant is evergreen plant is considered subtropical, meaning it loves our hot humid summers. Typcially grown in zones 8 to 11 (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/) A newer variety ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ will tolerate colder conditions and grow in zone 7.
As you contemplate growing Gardenias, there are several requirements to consider. First of all, gardenias prefer a partly shaded location. The can tolerate full sun, but protection from late afternoon sun is beneficial. Gardenias are not drought tolerant. Pick a location that has soil with good moisture retention, without standing in water. They prefer a soil pH of 5 to 6.5. Our soils are for the most part in this range. Be sure to take a soil sample to ensure that your soil is acidic or in this pH range.
Once you have determined where you want to plant your Gardenia, there are several choices to consider. Common Gardenia or Cape Jasmine grows 3 to 6 tall, with about the same spread. This plant often has double flowers. Kleim’s Hardy only grows 3 feet tall, while Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’ is a low growing variety reaching 1 to 2 feet tall with a spread of 2 to 3 feet. This is just a few of the varieties available, so check for others that may grow in your home landscape.
Fragrance is one of the remarkable attributes of Gardenias. If you find the scent overpowering place them away from your foundation and walkways.
As with all plants, there are some challenges in growing Gardenias. Aphids and whiteflies do love Gardenias. When these insects are present, sooty mold or a gray fuzzy mold will form on the plants. You can use an insecticide soap or horticultural oil to control the aphids and whiteflies. As these are contact insecticides, repeat applications need to be made. Bud drop can be caused by either lack of water or not enough sunlight. Yellowing leaves can be an indication of root rot if planted in a wet location. Pull on the plant, if it comes up easily and roots are brown and unhealthy looking, this is a good indication of root rot. Iron chlorosis is another color of yellowing leaves. Sometimes Gardenias won’t set buds. The plant may be in too much shade. If you take the time to address these problems one at a time, you will have beautiful plants in your garden.
Remember, Gardenias are a beautiful evergreen plant that loves heat and humidity and will a little TLC can be an important part of your home landscape.