The Q&A Archives: Full Shade For Gardenias?

Question: I thought that I did the right research from the Western Gardening book for fragrant plants that can tolerate shade. So I bought about $100 worth of 5 gallon vetchii gardenias to plant next to the house and fence (facing north). Continuing my research, I found out that gardenias are very tempermental! I would like to continue to try growing them, but I wonder if they can survive in the present location. They don't receive any direct sunlight and the winters can get frost. I think that I can keep the soil moist and fertilized and cool during the hot valley summer. It sounds like I may not get them to bloom, but can I continue to grow them as a shrub? I planted them about three weeks ago and they have the typical problem of yellow new leaves and some buds are turning black. I've given them some acid fertilizer but am wondering if I should add some liquid iron as well. I'd like to hear what you recommend. If necessary, I could transplant to another location with some sun. Thanks for your time.


Gardenia jasminoides 'Veitchii' grows 2'-4' high and has a reputation of flowering profusely from May through November. The plants are hardy in your gardening zone but can be severely injured in below freezing weather (not something you'd expect in southern California!) Gardenias are most temperamental about soils and humidity, and somewhat temperamental about exposure to sunshine. Provide acid, moist, well-draining soil, high in organic matter.

I'd leave the plants where they are and allow them to become accustomed to their new homes. The yellowing leaves are probably due to transplanting stress. If the buds are turning black, it indicates there's not enough humidity around the plants. Try misting them each morning to increase humidity. Unless there's a specific yellow/green pattern to the leaves (called chlorosis) I wouldn't add any iron at this point.

I've grown gardenia's in full shade in southern California and had them bloom wonderfully well - but degrees of shade differ from site to site. If at this time next year they're not performing as expected, transplant to a sunnier site.

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