The gardenia is a tender evergreen shrub with amazingly fragrant flowers and shiny, dark-green leaves. It’s native to the tropics and needs a bit of extra care to grow its best. Here’s how to plant, grow, and care for gardenias in your garden!
The main species of gardenia (also known as “cape jasmine”) grown in North American gardens is a native of the tropical regions of East Asia, including southern China and Taiwan. In this part of the world, the plant has been used for centuries in herbal medicine. Its yellow fruit was traditionally used to make a dye, which could then be used to color food and clothing.
Gardenias are known to be a bit of a challenge for gardeners. Frankly, the plant is picky and often needs more attention than other flowering shrubs. It prefers fairly acidic soil (a pH of 5.0 to 6.0), likes a tropical climate (but suffers in too much direct sun), and doesn’t transplant well. Nevertheless, with a little extra work, a gardenia can be a wonderful addition to a suitable garden.
If you happen to live within a hardiness zone colder than Zone 7, you’re not out of luck when it comes to gardenias! They can also be grown indoors in pots. Put them outside during the warm days of summer and take them indoors for the cooler seasons.
There are many varieties of gardenias to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for. There are compact plants that only grow 3 to 4 feet tall and there are giants that grow up to 8 feet in diameter. Some bloom early in the summer and some bloom later. Some varieties have only a few huge blossoms and others have many small blooms. There’s something for everyone!