How to Root Gardenias in Water

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Gardenias (​Gardenia​ spp.) are stunning plants that produce silky white flowers that emit an intoxicating odor. What also makes gardenia plants special is that you may be able to root a cutting in water. Cuttings root best when pressed into a soilless medium that's kept moist, but you can try your hand at rotting them in water alone.

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If you have always coveted your neighbors' or friends' gardenia plants, ask for a cutting and begin rooting it on your own at home for your very own plant. After prepping the cutting and setting up a home station, you will have a small plant with roots ready for planting.

Taking a Proper Cutting

Gardenia plants can be propagated from fresh cuttings. These cuttings should be taken from a healthy plant that shows no signs of disease or weakness. If the plant has a disease, then your cutting will also carry the disease, making your gardenia plant weak from the start. The cutting should be taken from the tip of the branches, where the branch is still considered to be soft wood.

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The cutting should be 3 to 6 inches long with plenty of leaves and signs of healthy growth. Once you've removed the desired cutting, remove all of the lower leaves, leaving only the top two sets of leaves attached to the branch. Some people prepare the bottom of the stem by trimming the stem in a horseshoe formation or cutting it on an angle to enable the branch to absorb as much of the water as possible. You may want to dip the tip of your branch in rooting hormone to encourage the cutting to flourish and develop roots quicker.

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Indoor Growing Conditions

The next step in propagating your gardenia cutting is to make sure you have the right growing container. Finding the right container to root your gardenia can be as simple as locating any glass or plastic bottle that is tall enough to hold your stem so it does not fall out when placed in the container. A bottle is a great choice since the neck of the bottle is narrow, holding the stem more securely in place.

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Fill the bottle with room temperature water until there is only an inch of water below the rim. Wrap your cutting in a paper towel and slowly lower your cutting into the bottle. The paper towel should remain in the neck of the bottle, acting as a stopper so that the cutting can be lowered with a maximum of 2 inches of the stem submerged in the water. Proceed by placing the cutting in a bright window that doesn't receive direct sun, which can cause the cutting to burn and die.

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Upkeep and Monitoring

The gardenia cutting should begin showing signs of root growth in about one month. The cutting should be monitored regularly to make sure that the water level does not get too low and that it is not getting any direct sunlight. Gardenia plants also thrive in humid conditions, so regular misting sessions would help the plant thrive and grow quicker.

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If you cannot regularly mist the plant, you can create a sort of greenhouse effect by placing a large Ziploc bag over the cutting, making sure that the bag is resting on the flat surface the bottle is sitting on and not resting on the plant. A cut soda bottle can have the same effect if you prefer a more rigid exterior than a simple plastic bag.

Once you see signs of strong roots (after the one-month mark), you can move your water-rooted gardenia to a small pot filled with lightweight potting mix. Make sure to water the plant once you have moved it to its new medium and ensure that the soil stays moist, but not wet, so that it can continue growing strong. After a few months and considerably more growth, you can upgrade its pot or even plant it outside if the weather permits planting.

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