How to Grow and Care for Gardenias


Gardenia has intensely fragrant, creamy white, waxy summer flowers. Flowers can be single, semi-double, or double white and bloom in succession over a long period.

Gardenia is an evergreen shrub with glossy, thick leathery leaves. Gardenia flowers are tubular to funnel-shaped. Flowers each have 5 to 12 spreading [petal lobes. Leaves are opposite or whorled.

In warm-winter regions grow Gardenia in a shrub border or in containers. In cold winter regions grow Gardenia indoors or in a temperate or warm greenhouse.

Gardenia is a genus of about 200 species of evergreen trees and shrubs native to tropical woodlands and savanna of Africa and Asia.

Gardenia jasminoides
Gardenia jasminoides

Get to Know Gardenia

  • Plant type: Evergreen early summer-blooming shrub
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 8 to 11
  • Hardiness: Survives to 0°F/-18°C but dies back to the ground; hardy to 10°F without damage
  • Height and width: 2 to 6 feet (0.6-1.8m) tall, and 3 to 6 feet (101.8m) wide
  • Foliage: Simple leathery leaves are opposite
  • Flowers: To bloom plant needs temperatures 55° to 60°F (13°-16.6°C at night and warm during the day; outstanding fragrance
  • Bloom time: Succession of blooms in summer
  • Uses: Foundation plant, specimen, container plant, cut flowers
  • Common name: Gardenia
  • Botanical name: Gardenia augusta (Gardenia jasminoides)
  • Family: Rubiaceae
  • Origin: Tropical regions of Africa and Asia

Where to Plant Gardenia

  • Plant gardenia in full sun to light shade.
  • Grow gardenia in well-drained, humus-rich, moist, and acidic soil.
  • Where the soil is poor-draining grow in large pots.
  • Site Gardenias near a sidewalk, deck, or window where the fragrance can be savored.  

When to Plant Gardenia

  • Set gardenia in the garden in spring.

Planting and Spacing Gardenia

  • Space gardenia 3 to 6 feet (1-1.8m) apart.
  • Gardenias should be planted shallowly, like azaleas and rhododendrons, or in a container.  

How to Water and Feed Gardenia

  • Gardenia needs ample moisture; keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize gardenias monthly with an acidic fertilizer.

Gardenia Care

  • Gardenia roots don’t tolerate competition or heavy cultivation, so mulch them well.  
  • Deadhead Gardenias regularly or prune just lightly in spring unless espaliered. 
  • Mulch around gardenia with aged compost or sphagnum peat moss; this feeds the plant and conserves soil moisture.
  • Prune gardenia only to remove straggly branches or trim spent blooms.

Growing Gardenia as a Houseplant

  • Gardenia jasminoides, Cape jasmine, is an evergreen that frow 12 to 36 inches (30-91cm) indoors.
  • Gardenia prefers a warm room, indirect light, and high humidity.
  • For flower buds to set the night temperature must be at least 60°F (15.6°C).
  • Grow Gardenia in a soilless, acidic, well-drained medium.
  • Fertilize Gardenia monthly with plant food for acid-loving plants.
  • Pinch growing tips to encourage branching; stop pinching five months before the desired bloom date.
  • If winter bloom is desired, remove any flower buds that form before mid-autumn.
  • Flower buds will drop if the air is too dry or if the plant receives insufficient light.
  • If new growth turns yellow, iron chlorosis may be the problem; tree with iron sulfate.

Gardenia Pests and Diseases

  • Gardenia can develop powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spots, anthracnose, dieback, fungal leaf spots, and stem cankers, as well as a root-knot nematode. 
  • Gardenia is susceptible to attacks by whiteflies and mealybugs indoors and scale insects, aphids, and thrips outdoors.  
  • Lessen disease problems by providing adequate air circulation.  
Gardenia jasminoides
Gardenia jasminoides

Gardenia Propagation

  • Sow Gardenia seed at 66-75°F (19-24°C) in spring. 
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. 
  • Root greenwood cuttings in spring or summer

Gardenia Varieties to Grow

  • Gardenia Augusta (G. jasminoides), Cape jasmine, Common gardenia, medium to large shrub, or sometimes small tree, frequently bushy, with ovate, elliptic, or lance-shaped, glossy, deep green leaves, 4 inches (10cm) or longer, usually borne in whorls of 3. From summer to autumn, produces 5- to 12-lobed, salverform, strongly fragrant, white to ivory flowers, to 3 inches (8cm) across, either singly or in its double-flowers variants. To 6-40 inches (2-12m) tall and 3-10 feet (1-3m) wide. China, Taiwan, and Japan. Zones 8 to 11. Cultivars include: ‘August Beauty’ is compact and long blooming; ‘Mystery’ has semi-double flowers; ‘Radicans’ is low growing and has small flowers; ‘Veitchii’ has fully double pure white flowers.
  • G. thunbergia, White gardenia, open, erect shrub or small tree with rigid branches and opposite pairs of elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves, 3-5.5 inches (8-14cm) long, with wavy margins. From winter to spring, bears solitary, tubular, fragrant, white or cream flowers, to 2.5 inches (6cm) across, with 8 spreading petal lobes. To 6-15 feet (2-5m) tall and 5-8 feet (1.5-2.5m) wide. South Africa.  

Gardenia Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can gardenia be grown as a houseplant?

A: Yes, if you can give it the right temperature and sufficient humidity.

Q: What type of soil do gardenias thrive in best?

A: Gardenia prefers acid soil with a pH of 5 to 5.5. Yellowing foliage is an indication the soil may be alkaline.

Q: What is a good soil mix for gardenias?

A: Two parts loam, 1 part peat moss, 1/2 composted cow manure, 1/2 sharp sand.

Q: What is the best fertilizer for gardenias?

A: A 4-12-4 or 5-10-5 organic fertilizer is recommended.

Q: Why are the tips of my gardenia leaves turning yellow?

A: This may be an iron deficiency. Add iron sulfate to the water following the container directions. High heat and low humidity can also cause leaves to yellow; put the plant in a cooler location and promote humidity–set the pot on a tray of pebbles with water just below the top of the pebbles.

Q: When is the best time to repot gardenias?

A: Repot gardenias every 2 to 3 years. Repot gardenias from mid-spring to late summer. Allow time for roots to grow before winter.

Q: When is the best time to prune gardenias?

A: Prune gardenias from spring to late summer. Pruning consists of pinching out growing tips.

Q: What causes gardenias to dry up and leaves to become brittle and drop?

A: Gardenias need high atmospheric humidity. This can be difficult in a warm house. Mist the leaves frequently. You can also try covering the plant with a plastic bag to create a humid atmosphere.

Q: What is the right way to water potted gardenias?

A: Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing time. If the soil goes dry, set the pot in a bucket filled with water. Let it stay until the soil feels moist. Reduce watering in winter.

Q: How do you make gardenias bloom indoors?

A: You must provide the right conditions. Flower buds appear on new growth at temperatures of 60° to 65°F at night and 70° to 75°F during the day. An even temperature and careful watering are needed to prevent bud drop.

Q; Can I propagate gardenias from cuttings?

A: Cuttings of young terminal shoots that are firm but not hard and woody can be rooted in winter and spring. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone. Insert the cutting into sand or sand and peat moss from mid-winter to spring. Maintain the sand at 75°F using bottom heat. Humidity is important; set the pot in a clear plastic bag or under a humidity dome.

Q: What are the white, wooly insects that cluster on my gardenia?

A: These are probably mealybugs. Wash them off with a forceful stream of water. You can also remove them with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Kafir-lily flowers

How to Grow and Care for Clivia — Kaffir-Lily

Flowering maple, Abutilon

How to Grow and Care for Abutilon — Flowering Maple