When I was growing up every Easter we would go and visit my grandparents who lived in Florida. My grandmother had a shrub that had the most beautifully fragrant white flowers. At the time I really knew nothing about gardening but the fragrance of these flowers stuck with me and it really helped start me down the path of learning to love gardening. After I gained a little knowledge and did some research I found out that these flowers belonged to a gardenia which is actually a member of the coffee family. They are native to tropical and subtropical Asia and Africa so in the U.S. they can only really be grown outdoors year-round in places like Florida but for the rest of us who live in much colder areas, we can grow gardenias indoors as a houseplant.
Now from the outset, I want to be sure to let you know that gardenia can be demanding houseplants. They have very challenging requirements to meet so they are not for the “faint of heart” so to speak but that fragrance, at least for me, makes the challenge worth pursuing. Gardenias typically will bloom during the mid-spring to mid-summer in most places in the United States. With that blooming period, many of you might say, “Why can’t I just put the gardenia outside when it gets warm”? Well, that leads us to the first demanding requirement. Gardenias have very particular temperature needs, particularly during the blooming period. They require temperatures during the day which stay in the upper 60s to mid-70s and nighttime temperatures that don’t go below 60 degrees at night. The gardenia could have ideal conditions in your home and when you attempt to move it outside any variation in the temperature can cause it to drop all of its flower buds.
Gardenias also require potting soil that is on the acidic side. This explains why in the South, gardenias are good companion plants with azaleas which also have these soil requirements. Regular potting soil won’t do and you’ll have to amend it to get the right conditions for the gardenia. Gardenias also require bright light and if you don’t have a good southern window for them you’ll have to grow them under a fluorescent bulb. They also require higher humidity than many other houseplants so they need to be misted regularly and unlike most houseplants, they should be fertilized monthly. Finally, they are also susceptible to attacks by insects and need to be monitored regularly for pests such as whiteflies or aphids.
I always have to remind myself that nothing good in life is easy and sometimes we have to challenge ourselves. Gardenias do present such a challenge but the payoff if you can get them to bloom is really worth it. If you want to try growing a gardenia you can get one right here at Blooming Secrets and if you’ve successfully grown them in the past please share some of your secrets and your pictures with us on Facebook.