How to Grow and Care for Gardenias

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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.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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