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Gardenias

Question:

Two weeks ago I purchased a gardenia plant from my local nursery. The description said that it produces lots of fragrant, white flowers when in bloom. The plant looked very healthy and robust so I decided to take one. However, I noticed that the leaves towards the base/inside of the plant started turning yellow and dying. Is this normal? I have attached an image. The outer leaves are all still a dark green color and look fine, but they do feel quite flimsy and not stiff. I have been treating it as a normal houseplant. It receives lots of bright indirect light and couple of direct hours of sun throughout the day. I have been watering it roughly once a week when the top soil feels dry. Could you also help me out on general care for this plant? Thanks

Answer:

Gardenias are among the most difficult plants to grow indoors in the home and close to impossible to get to flower, which is the primary reason for purchasing a Gardenia. Of course, retailers never tell you this prior to purchase!

The yellowing of the lower and inside leaves could be caused by a reduction in light, an increase in temperatures or a single episode of improper watering. This is a temperamental plant that shows little forgiveness of lapses in care. That doesn’t mean yours is dying. It just means that older leaves will die whenever conditions are less than perfect.

In general I recommend never buying a Gardenia that is not in flower because the chances of your successfully getting a Gardenia to flower are very slim.

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. I don’t know where your Gardenia is in its flowering cycle, but usually after the flowers are finished, you 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 keep a Gardenia as a foliage plant. Good luck with yours!