Winter Care for Gardenias

The gardenia, also known as cape jasmine, is identifiable by its sweet-smelling white flowers. Gardenias are evergreen shrubs that thrive best in warm temperatures, making them susceptible to cold-weather damage. Gardenia keeps its glossy, dark green leaves the entire year in favorable climates, while the flowers appear in spring and summer. But if the plant has been damaged by cold weather, blooms may not appear. Give gardenias proper winter care to protect them.

  1. Cultivation

    • Proper cultivation keeps gardenias strong and healthy. Strong plants are the best defense against the ravages of winter. Plant gardenias in a partially shaded location with well-drained soil, preferably with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0, to provide ideal growing conditions. Gardenias are planted in spring or fall. When planting, cover the soil under gardenia plants with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch.

    Preparation

    • Deadhead gardenia blooms by pruning away spent flowers after they wilt. All pruning should be completed in October; do not prune later than this, as doing so weakens the plant when it needs to be strong for the coming cold season. Stop fertilizing gardenias in November to begin hardening them for the winter, and start watering the plant less and less. The top 1 to 2 inches of soil around the plant should become dry before you water the gardenia again. Do not place gardenias near a heating vent, to avoid drying out the plant and causing damage.

    Protection

    • If possible, grow gardenias in containers and move them inside in November, before freezing winter temperatures arrive. When gardenia plants cannot be moved into a warmer climate, protect them against winter's cold. Chilling winds are very damaging to evergreen plants like gardenias. Drive three wooden stakes into the ground in a rough circle around the gardenia bush, and hang burlap between the stakes to create a protective screen. The burlap screen insulates the plant against cold temperatures and provides protection against drying, cold winter winds.

    Indoor Growing

    • Container-grown gardenias may be kept indoors year-round and grown as houseplants, making winter protection unnecessary. Gardenias need direct sunlight less than half the day, and thrive best when partially shaded. Ideally, keep gardenias in warm temperatures, from 55 to 65 degrees F. What gardenias need most is humidity, difficult to recreate in a home environment. Use a humidifier, or keep a tray of water near the plant at all times to provide it with the moist air it needs. Give gardenia plants 1 inch of water per week, and fertilize monthly during the spring and summer growing season.

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