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Gardenia is worth pampering

I received a gardenia plant in a 3-gallon plastic pot and a large, beautiful ceramic pot to plant it in for Mother’s Day. It’s outdoors in an area that receives part sun. Only one bloom has opened, but it’s full of buds and will be covered in white flowers soon, I hope. When should I repot it into the new pot? Are gardenias hardy in Middle Tennessee?

GardeniaIf buds have formed since you received this lovely gift, I’d wait to repot it until after it has finished blooming. Gardenias don’t always settle into a new environment easily, and a typical response to such a move is to stop flowering.

After the flowers fade, get ready to pamper this temperamental beauty. I spent some time gathering information about growing gardenias in our area (Middle Tennessee is in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a), and must report that “finicky” is a word often used to describe this beautiful, fragrant shrub.

Gardenias grow best in the ground in Zones 8 – 10, the lower south. For those of us living up north – that is, north of Birmingham or Atlanta – gardenias are not hardy, so they should be treated as house plants, which means that when the temperature drops below 55 degrees, you will have to bring it indoors or into a greenhouse and baby it through the winter. Take it back outdoors when the temperature is consistently warm next spring.

In the house, gardenia requires a sunny spot that gets about eight hours of indirect sunlight. It also becomes a magnet for mealybugs, mites and whiteflies, so you should remain vigilant, and be prepared to treat for pests before they get out of hand.

In spite of the challenges, it’s still worth growing this lovely shrub. Here’s what it needs to thrive: acid soil (one information source suggests good potting soil with a handful of coffee grounds mixed in), good drainage, full sun or partial shade, regular watering, high humidity, and nighttime temperatures of 50 – 55 degrees in winter and spring if you want flowers. Good luck.


2 Responses

  1. I just bought 4 beautiful gardenias. I love in Nashville Tm. I plan on planting them outside around my new patio. Didn’t realize they need to be inside over the winter. Should I return these beauties that are full of buds?

    • Gardenias are beautiful and I love the fragrance, but unfortunately they struggle in Middle Tennessee. They are sensitive to cold and if left outside during winter, they will die. I’ve heard there are some varieties that are more cold hardy, and are more likely to survive winters in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a (that’s our zone in Middle Tennessee), but that seems like the very outer edge of where they can live, and I haven’t found one. Do you know the variety of the shrubs you have?
      I’ve personally grown them in pots and brought them inside in winter, but I had two of them in pots die when I accidentally left them out on a screened porch on below-freezing nights. Sorry I can’t have better news for you about this.

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