The creamy, white flowers of the gardenia bush are gorgeous and fragrant against a backdrop of glossy dark leaves. If you're looking for a smaller plant, there are a wide variety of dwarf gardenias, such as the popular Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans,' which can thrive indoors or in a landscaped yard in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 11. Knowing how to care for dwarf gardenias can ensure that the plant will produce beautiful blooms from spring to fall.
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Make sure the soil is well-drained and fertilized properly for long-term success with your dwarf gardenias.
Temperatures and Dwarf Gardenias
Native to tropical and subtropical areas, dwarf gardenias prefer a warm climate with little chance of frost. While dwarf gardenias require the same care as gardenias, they can be more susceptible to cold weather. They prefer a steady temperature during the day of around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The plants can get chilled when temperatures dip below 60 F, even at night. Be prepared to move them indoors in cooler climates or cover them when temperatures dip below 60 F at night.
Put a cardboard box over shrubs or wrap the stems of dwarf gardenia trees in bubble wrap. Mulch or rags under the box or around the base of the plant can help keep it warm. If the stems turn black from cold, snip them back.
Soil and Water Needs
The glossy leaves and thick buds need just the right amount of water and good soil to thrive. The bushy plants grow best in acidic soil. For the best results, the garden bed or pot where the dwarf gardenia will be planted should have a soil pH of between 5 and 6.
While they require a good dose of water, they don't like to sit in soggy soil. Make sure that the area is well-drained or the leaves may turn yellow or brown and fall off. Amend the soil with an acidic fertilizer and fold in some gritty matter before planting to ensure that the area or pot has good drainage. Give the gardenias an inch of water each week to ensure the roots don't rot and the plant can flourish in its location.
The gardenias enjoy humidity. Indoors, mist the leaves with water daily to keep them moist. For landscaped plants, place them near water features, a birdbath or a dish of water to increase the humidity around the plant.
Fertilizing Needs for Dwarf Gardenias
A good acidic fertilizer for gardenias can be applied after the first set of blooms. A granular time-release fertilizer formula can be applied at the start of the spring growing season. Fertilize plants every two weeks when spring arrives. Once summer begins to wane, stop fertilizing the plants and allow them to go dormant.
Pruning Dwarf Gardenias
To keep those lovely and fragrant flowers flowing, prune blooms as soon as they are finished. Snip the spent flowers just below the leaf node. When the plant is dormant, take the opportunity to tidy up the sprawling branches.
Look for stems that cross each other and trim them so that branches are tidy. The trimming of crowded stems allows light to reach the center of the plant. Cutting back the gardenia's branches not only encourages better blooms, but it also discourages fungal diseases that can attack the plant in the moist, dark conditions at the soil line.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.