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Gardenias are as southern as sweet tea. Their pleasant sweet aroma is so intoxicating and adds quite the dimension to any garden. However, this gem is only hardy to zones 7 to 9. Don’t know what hardiness zone you are in? Well, here is a nifty tool to give you exactly that information. Gardenias are actually a member of the coffee family, Rubiaceae, and they are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Southern Asia. The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus after Dr. Alexander Garden, who was a Scottish-American naturalist.

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms - Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Close-up of its gorgeous, milky white fragrant blooms – Photo credit: Southern Living Plants

Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a new gardenia called Jubilation™ from the Southern Living Plant Collection. It’s an improvement on the southern classic by only getting 3 to 4 feet tall and wide as well as blooming when other gardenias have stopped. Jubilation will bloom heaviest in the spring with re-blooming in the summer and fall. It would prefer to be planted in full sun to partial shade. Full sun is considered to be 6 plus hours of UV light and part shade is considered to be 4 to 6 hours. It is important to know what type of light your garden is getting so that your plants are successful where they are living. If not, it could cause additional work down the road.

Spring or Fall are the best times to plant shrubs because it is hard to keep them constantly moist in the summer with the heat and humidity. When planting gardenias, you will want to make sure that your garden soil is a bit acidic (pH of 7 or lower – 5 to 6 preferred). Many garden centers will do a pH test on your soil – make sure to call and ask some of your favorites. Local extensions also sometimes provide this service. If neither is available, your soil may be test with an inexpensive pH test kit available at garden centers and sometime hardware stores. It is very simple to use by reading the directions on the packaging. If your soil is not acid enough, lime can be applied to lower your soil pH. Using mulch will help tremendously because as it breaks down it will add acidity to improve the soil.

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit - Southern Living Plants

I hope you can smell it through the computer screen!! Photo Credit – Southern Living Plants

When planting your gardenia, you will want to make sure your hole is twice as wide as the container. At the bottom of the hole, place some high-acid granulated fertilizer and mix with the dirt. Then place your gardenia in the hole, back filling all the dirt. Making sure the entire root ball is planted. Then in the spring, go ahead and pull back the mulch and sprinkle a little of the high-acid fertilizer around the base of the plant and mix it into the soil. By fertilizing every spring it will make your gardenia bloom at top performance.

This evergreen loves well-drained soil and will grow moderately to fast. If pruning is necessary, make sure to do so after it has bloomed in the spring; if done later in the season flower buds make be removed and next year’s flower performance may not be as strong. The birds and butterflies will love you for planting this beauty in your garden and so will your nose!

Here’s to adding more fragrance to every garden,

Carmen

Building a container garden is as simple as 1-2-3! I have a theory of what makes for the most beautiful container gardens. It is called the Triangle Theory. The elements to this theory are that you have a tall plant, a thick plant and a trialing plant that are arranged to form a triangle in your container illustrated by the diagram below:

Some examples of tall plants for the sun include:

Cordyline, Purple Fountain Grass, Gaura (Perennial), Canna and Victoria Salvia

Canna Lilies are great for thriller in containers. Clockwise from top: Tropicanna Gold, 'Tropical Bronze Scarlet', Tropicanna and 'Tropical Rose' Canna.

Canna Lilies are great as thrillers in containers. Clockwise from top: Tropicanna Gold, ‘Tropical Bronze Scarlet’, Tropicanna and ‘Tropical Rose’ Canna.

Tall plants for the shade include:

Caladium, Coleus and Upright Fuchsia such as the variety Gartenmeister

Here is a great example of a shade container where Coleus is used as the thriller. This variety is called Red Kong.

Here is a great example of a shade container where Coleus is used as the thriller. This variety is called Red Kong.

Caladium is an excellent choice for a thriller when designing containers for shade.

Caladium is an excellent choice for a thriller when designing containers for shade.

Thick plants for sun include:

Heuchera (Perennial), Superbells Calibrachoa (my favorites are Cherry Star and Dreamsicle), Sunpatiens and Diamond Frost Euphorbia. The Calibrachoa and Euphorbia act as a 2-for-1 plant because they perform as the thick and trialing plant when used in containers.

Clockwise from top: 'Lime Marmalade' closeup, beautiful sun container with Heuchera as the thick plant, and 'Midnight Rose' with its unique purple leaves speckled in magenta.

Clockwise from top: ‘Lime Marmalade’ foliage, beautiful sun container with Heuchera as the thick plant, and ‘Midnight Rose’ with its unique purple leaves speckled in magenta.

Thick plants for the shade include:

Dragon Wing Begonias, Non-stop Begonias, New Guinea Impatiens and Impatiens

Non-Stop Begonias add a HUGE pop of color for the shade. This variety is Non-Stop Mocha Pink Shades.

Non-Stop Begonias add a HUGE pop of color for the shade. This variety is Non-Stop Mocha Pink Shades.

Trailing plants for the sun include:

Creeping Jenny (working in sun and shade – perennial), Angelina Sedum (perennial)

and Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia.

Creeping Jenny's golden foliage is so vibrant and beautiful in this container garden.

Creeping Jenny’s golden foliage is so vibrant and beautiful in this container garden.

Trailing plants for the shade include:

English Ivy, Torenia and Trialing Fuchsia

Trailing Fuchsia make the most absolutely gorgeous shade trailer in a container.

Trailing Fuchsia make the most absolutely gorgeous shade trailer in a container.

One of my secret tips for making containers look good all-season long is to use a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Bloom Booster (or a similar bud & bloom fertilizer) every two to three weeks. Think of fertilizer like a vitamin. When people take them regularly we perform better, the same is true for these living and breathing plants. With regular fertilizer, they will perform to their best ability.

Please remember that deadheading your plants is as important as fertilizing them. If faded flowers or seed pods are not removed from a plant it puts its energy into creating seeds and not flowers. Recently, I removed the seed pods from my fuchsia, fertilized them and they are pushing out new buds a few days later. I expect them to bloom well into our first frost. If you are unsure how to deadhead a particular plant, when shopping ask the staff at the garden center. They are sure to be able to help.

It is also very important to maintain the moisture in containers especially during times of drought. If it is really hot where you live, watering once every day may be necessary. A great way to tell is by sticking your finger in the container’s soil. If it is dry, your plants are sure to be thirsty, If wet, feel free to wait another day before watering. Many plants will show signs of dehydration such as puckering or browning on the leaves. Over watering can also be a huge issue. Remembering when creating your container garden that picking a larger container will help decrease the amount of time spend on watering. Since larger containers have more soil to retain moisture, they do not dry out as quickly as smaller containers.

With these simple and easy tips your container gardens should look stunning throughout the season.

Carmen

Check out my video on this very topic:

Click on the image to be linked to the video.

Click on the image to be linked to the video.

Inquire About Your Next Event:

Email: carmen@carmenjohnstongardens.com

Phone: 762-822-7696