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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Add some fragrance to the garden with gardenias

By Staff | May 18, 2016

Many varieties of gardenias mature and thrive in Florida’s tropical temperatures. PHOTO BY ANITA FORCE MARSHALL

Plant Subject: Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

First impression: Ahhh, there is no mistaking this fragrance. I see bouquets of white and cameo in rose shaped flowers blanketing this gorgeous shrub. The dark green shiny leaves are the perfect contrast to the whitest of white and the creamiest of cream hued blossoms. Our shrub has a natural shape that invites you to take in a second deep breath. The fragrance is overpowering and addictive. Wow-what an olfactory stopper! Follow your nose to this aromatic display in full bloom in your garden.

Upon further investigation: Gardenia boasts 60 plus species of shrubs and trees originating from ancient China. Years ago, our grandmothers prized this plant and it was found in many cottage gardens. I remember the fragrance outside and inside of my grandmother’s home in Cocoa, Florida. She loving would place her prized blooms floating in shallow carnival glass bowls strategically in every room. I was taught early on, that a complement about her gardenias would guarantee a garden tour, which ended in her orange grove eating sweet fresh citrus.

Gardenias appeal is timeless, and we are fortunate to be able to grow them here in our back yards. Many varieties mature and thrive in our tropical temperatures and reward us with their fragrance. Our star, jasminoides, is the most widely used variety. The soft, velvety white petals are flat and rose shaped, with double tiers. They are numerous and dense and are the stars of our garden when blooming. The fragrance is memorable and exquisite, so much so it’s found in oodles of candles, healing oils, and perfumes.

The evergreen leaves are shiny and dark green, which make our shrub attractive even when not blooming. It can be planted alone or grouped together. Mature height is 5-12 feet. It is multi trunked, and has a natural upright shape. Easy to care for, I shape and prune after the blooming period. This sun to partial-shade lover needs good drainage and regular watering to do well.

When introducing new gardenias in your garden, they should be planted at the same level, or higher from the container, never deeper. Many plants will die month’s even years later if planted lower than they were in their original container. Gardenias do not require fertilizer, but have to be fed iron at least twice a year. Sometimes lack of iron will show with your gardenia turning a chloritic shade of yellow.

Gardenias are prone to sucking insect that will leave a black sticky reside called sooty mold. Sooty mold is the indicator that your gardenia has non beneficial insects invading it. I encourage you to inspect leaves and clean up spent flower buds on a weekly basis. At any stage of growth of your gardenia, you can expect pollinators and people to flock to its blooms!

Pros:

Attractive even when not blooming

Natural shape

Blooming brings in the pollinators

Sell corsages for extra income

Garden strolls are ahhh!

You gotta have at least one gardenia bush

Cons:

Can attract chewing insects

Count your blooms, neighbors will be stealing them

Need to treat with iron twice a year

Non native

Conclusion: So, close your eyes and think about your special gardenia memory. Then follow your nose to your sweet smelling garden. So many blossoms, so little time in a tropical eye catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!