How to Prune Gardenias

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Gardenias (‌Gardenia‌ ‌jasminoides‌) are evergreen shrubs with mounds of shiny dark green foliage and exquisite white flowers with a heavenly fragrance. The flowers generally open from May through June or July. These woody shrubs typically grow to a height of 3 to 8 feet (depending on the cultivar) in USDA plant hardiness zones 7b to 11, but some cultivars can be grown as houseplants. Annual pruning will keep the shape of the shrubs attractive and encourage new growth and more flowers the following year.

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Learn more about when and how to prune gardenias to keep them shapely and full of flowers all season.

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The Best Time to Prune Gardenias

Gardenia plants are loved for their gorgeous flowers, and they are best pruned when the last flower is finished blooming. The blooming season usually terminates in midsummer, but there are many cultivars of ‌Gardenia jasminoides‌ available with considerable variation in blooming time and duration. Pruning can continue through late summer or early fall but should be completed before October. Pruning gardenias beyond that date will decrease blooms for the following year.

Prune Gardenias in Summer

The elegant white blossoms with their million-dollar fragrance are the gardenia bush's calling card, making these flowering shrubs popular ornamentals for over a century. Anyone growing gardenias will want to encourage the maximum amount of blooms. That's why pruning gardenias in winter or early spring is not recommended since you will be removing new flower buds from the shrub.

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Instead, prune gardenia shrubs in summer just after the blooming season is over. Vigorously growing plants can be lightly pruned and shaped throughout the summer season and even into September. Stop pruning gardenias by October 1.

How to Prune Gardenias

Gardenias do not require severe pruning. Generally, you only have to prune gardenias lightly in order to keep the plant shapely and in proportion to the rest of the landscape. Follow these steps:

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  1. Use sharp pruners or loppers to prune out any dead wood from the shrub. If any branches are diseased or damaged, these should be pruned back as well, making the cut just above a leaf node.
  2. Inspect the bush for scraggly branches, branches that rub or cross other branches or branches that are out of proportion to the shape of the plant. Trim these back or remove them altogether.
  3. Prune back some of the older wood on the gardenia shrub to encourage new branching. Gardenias bloom better on younger growth.
  4. Deadhead the plant, taking off the remaining faded flowers if you prefer a clean bush. Some gardeners enjoy leaving the last flower heads to provide winter interest.

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Need to see the process visually? Check out this pruning guide video from eHow:

How to Deadhead Gardenia Flowers

Removing faded, wilting flowers during the blooming season is termed "deadheading." It not only keeps the gardenia shrub looking its best but also redirects the plant's energy toward creating more blooms. Inspect the gardenia bush regularly for wilted flowers. Use garden scissors or bypass hand pruners to snip off each faded blossom at the point where it joins the stem. Deadheading also helps create a thicker, fuller shrub since it promotes the stems to branch out.

Gardenias as Houseplants

Gardenias thrive on bright light, high humidity, and a balanced supply of moisture and nutrients. They can be difficult to grow as houseplants given the reduced light and hot, dry air they can face indoors. However, it is possible to overcome their indoor growing issues with careful attention.

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Gardenias thrive in nature in bright light, mild temperatures, and moderately humid air. To successfully grow them as houseplants, you must match the plant's native environment as closely as possible. Light is the biggest issue in winter, as they prefer plenty of bright light, including direct sunshine for at least half a day. Move the gardenia plants closer to southern-exposure windows or supplement with plant-grow lights. You may also need to run a humidifier.

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Healthy houseplant gardenias can be pruned at the same time and in the same way as outdoor bushes. Prune lightly after blooming season ends to keep the plant looking shapely. While removing some older wood can encourage new, healthy growth, don't go too far with indoor plants. Keep structural pruning to a minimum at least until the plant is well acclimated in your home.

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