Gardenias: a Southern favorite

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2018

Gardenias are a true favorite of Rowan County gardeners. Their exquisite white, fragrant flowers make these a must for any garden. It’s best to locate them near an entrance or walkway to experience the sweet, unique fragrance as they bloom. The shrub is also adaptive as an evergreen flowering centerpiece in pots blended with annuals and perennials.

Kliems Hardy is a cultivar that can adapt to the NC climate. Photo by Darrell Blackwelder

These beautiful scented shrubs are not the easiest to grow because of their susceptibility to cold weather. However, there are numerous cultivars, too many to list, from nurseries, garden centers and retail outlets that can easily adapt to our climate. Plant sizes may range from ground cover-type to thick flower-laden shrubs that often reach four feet in height.

Gardenias survive and prosper when planted in filtered or light shade without competition from trees and other shrubs. Gardenias prefer slightly acid, moist, well-drained soil with ample organic matter.

Gardenias appreciate mulch and a steady supply of plant food such as azalea fertilizer, fish emulsion or blood meal. These should be applied in late June to extend their blooming period. It is very important not fertilize gardenias in late summer or early fall. Late fertilization stimulates tender growth that may be severely damaged when winter temperatures drop below 15 degrees.

Irrigation is also essential to keep the plants in good condition for continuous bloom and healthy. Keep the soil evenly moist during hot, dry weather.