The Q&A Archives: Causes for Gardenia Leaf Drop

Question: I have an ailing indoor gardenia purchased on Easter 1997. It had been very bushy with lots of buds. Once I got it adjusted to my home and I was able to determine how much water it required (I've owned one before - flowered successfully!) the leaves and buds began dropping off. I should note that there was some brown spotting on the plant when I bought it, but it seemed VERY healthy otherwise. There seems to be a brown/black spot which begins near the branch, the leaf turns yellow and falls off. I continually pinch off any afflicted buds/leaves (the interior of the plant is now pretty spare), but it's still got this problem. It hasn't flowered since purchase. I also know it needs repotting, but thought you shouldn't do this while they are in bud. What do you think is the matter with it? Thanks. Gwen Neild Arlington, VA

Answer: Although it sounds suspiciously like your gardenia is afflicted with a fungal disease, I can't say for sure. Leaf drop can also be caused by improper soil pH (gardenia require 5-5.5pH - on the acid side.) Since you've grown them successfully before, I trust you know what you are doing, but I'll just mention a few key things. You know moisture is one of those things. Another fresh, moist air, circulating freely, especially during the winter heating months (a humidifier is good for you, too!) Try using an acid houseplant fertilizer from your local garden center. That may turn it around.

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