The Q&A Archives: Brown Leaves on Gardenia

Question: Does a gardenia plant need lots of water little water or
medium water? What light? I purchased a beautiful large plant in bloom and the leaves went dark brown and brittle and fell off. I quit watering and moved the plant from an east facing window to indrect lighting and it has improved, but I don't know what to do with it now.

Answer: The challenge in growing the gardenia indoors is to match the plant's native environment as closely as possible. First, make sure you give the plant plenty of bright light, preferably direct sunshine, for at least half a day. Winter will likely be the most difficult time to keep high light intensity due to short, gloomy days. Moving plants closer to southern-exposure windows and/or supplementing with plant grow lights will help. If no suitable window space is available, plants grow well in fluorescent light. Place about 8 to 12 inches beneath cool white fluorescent tubes lit about 14 hours daily.

Gardenias thrive in moderately humid air, but maintaining proper relative humidity is a challenge, particularly during the winter heating season. There are several ways to help increase humidity, including running a humidifier and grouping plants together on trays of wet pebbles. Misting by hand with a spray bottle offers only momentary relief and does not really increase humidity in a meaningful way.

A healthy, blooming gardenia will need to be nurtured with a steady supply of water and nutrients, but don't overdo. The goal is to provide the proper balance of water, air and nutrients. If soils are kept constantly wet, the roots can be starved for air. Too much fertilizer can lead to damaging salt accumulation. Monitor the soil frequently for moisture content, and water thoroughly as the top inch of soil dries. Use a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving, blooming plants, such as an azalea-type product, according to rates listed on the label.

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