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.
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.
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,