by Joyce Star
Among their glossy evergreen foliage, cream-colored, waxy flowers and sweet, almost intoxicating fragrance, there is something tropically enchanting about gardenias. Like magnolias, gardenias are floral representatives of the Deep South, and Brevard’s mild winters make them ideal for Space Coast gardens.
Gardenias can be fussy, but the extra attention rewards you with a bounty of aromatic springtime blooms. However, they won’t take direct salt spray, but planted in a protected site, gardenias grow well in our coastal locale. No garden space? Gardenias grow well in draining containers and even indoors. Properly maintained gardenias can live up to 50 years, so by following some basic growing tips below, your gardenia should charm your garden for years to come.
- Grow in locations receiving full-sun to partial shade outdoors and indoors; place the container in an area receiving bright light.
- Gardenias prefer acidic and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. If your soil is too alkaline, amend with agricultural grade sulfur to lower the pH and add compost or peat moss to the planting site. Use a rich, well-draining potting mix for containers.
- Give gardenias breathing room so they aren’t bunched together with other plants. This reduces pest and disease problems. Look at the plant tag and note the particular gardenia’s mature height and width, and space accordingly. Remember, some gardenias grow up to 10-feet tall and approximately as wide.
- Moderately drought-tolerant once established, gardenias grow and flower best when watered regularly, especially during our hot summers. If grown in containers, water when the top inch of soil is dry.
- Fertilize twice yearly with an acidic fertilizer, such as a 12-6-6, applying in February and again in October. If yellowing foliage occurs, add an application of iron. After you apply the fertilizer, water it into the soil well.
- Prune and shape after the gardenia has stopped blooming and not in late fall or you might reduce the springtime blooms.
- If pests become a problem, use an insecticidal soap or Neem oil, which is safer for our local pollinators.
Space Coast gardeners will typically find various Gardenia jasminoides cultivars that grow 2- to 15-feet tall and are suitable as hedges, specimens or ground covers. There is a gardenia to fit everyone’s garden desires. Bring their aroma indoors by placing the flowers in a bowl of water and they’ll add fragrance to any room.