The Q&A Archives: Caring for Gardenias

Question: What tips do you have for the care and feeding of gardenias? Should the pot be kept on a tray filled with pebbles and water? I have been acutely unsuccessful at keeping this beautiful plant alive. Thanks. Katherine Bates Ridgewood, NJ

Answer: I've killed a few myself! Here's what you do...Give plenty of light but screen from direct summer sunlight. Keep it at night temperatures of (65 degrees F.) Soil temperatures should be maintained at a minimum of 65 degrees. Water moderately using tepid soft water. Do not allow soil to dry out completely (that's the hard part). Needs good drainage and high humidity. Spray foliage frequently. It likes an acid potting mix rich in humus (high in peat moss). It needs warm days, cool nights and a humidatmosphere. Hard water, lack of iron or too alkaline soil will produce yellow leaves. The loss of buds or black leaf tips are usually due to changes in temperature or amounts of water. Temperatures below 60 will produce malformed buds. Above 65 will cause shedding. Prune back after flowering to maintain the plant's shape and conserve its energy.

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