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Gardenia Care

Question:

I received a braided Gardenia for Mother’s Day….beautiful!  Since then the flowers are turning brown around the edges and the leaves fall off. It’s home is in an east. I was told to water once a week until water appears in drip tray. Why are the flowers turning brown and leaves falling off?

Answer:

Gardenias produce lush, white flowers with a magnificent scent. They are an irresistible plant, but are one of the more difficult plants to grow and bloom indoors successfully, so much so that they may best be used as a seasonal plant and discarded after they have finished flowering. Gardenias are not easy to re-bloom indoors because they have rather strict temperature requirements.

Unopened buds are very temperature sensitive and will blast or fall off if temperatures between 55 and 65 are not strictly maintained. Be sure to not disturb the in-bud Gardenia. Do not repot or fertilize it or re-position it. The east window is a good location as long as it is completely uncovered and not shaded by trees or an overhang. Keep the soil moist by watering as soon as the surface soil starts to feel dry. That may be more or less than once per week.

Individual flowers last 4 to 7 days and turn brown on the edges if handled too much. Enjoy the flowers while they last, but don’t expect it to stay in bloom for too much longer.

The leaves are much less sensitive than the flower buds and should not be falling off in any quantity. If they are, then that would be caused by either inadequate light or improper watering. Even a single episode of allowing the soil to get too dry will cause leaf drop. But keeping the soil constantly wet will also leaf yellowing. As I said, this is not an easy or forgiving plant!

Gardenias are extremely difficult to get to re-bloom successfully. Unless you are experienced with plants, I think you should put your time and energy someplace else more rewarding. When the flowers are finished, you can move your Gardenia to a sunny window and no longer worry about warm temperatures. 6-8 hours per day of direct sunlight, high humidity, and acidic soil (5.0 pH) are also important for maintaining Gardenias long term. The soil must be kept evenly moist at all times, but not wet. Water whenever the surface of the soil feels just barely damp. Avoid repotting until it is utterly potbound. Use an acid fertilizer, such as Miracid, at half-strength during the growing season, usually from March to October.

In the fall, allow Gardenia temperatures to fall to about 50 to 60 degrees F. at night and no more than 70 degrees during the day. You must maintain these cool temperatures through the fall and winter if you want buds to set. Once buds form it is important to maintain temperatures in the 55 to 65 degree F. range or they will fall off. Of course, good light and careful monitoring of the soil to keep it moderately moist is also critical during this time. There are few things more disheartening than to see fat Gardenia buds fall off because the temperature got a bit too warm or the soil a bit too dry.

It is difficult for most people to provide these conditions. Some are satisfied to discard their Gardenia after it has finished flowering or else just keep a Gardenia as a foliage plant.