The Q&A Archives: Indoor Cultivation Of Gardenias

Question: One of your FAQ's responded to contact you for information on indoor cultivation of Gardenias. I would give a body part to be able to enjoy the smell of a Gardenia on my porch every spring. Tell me what you would have told the person who asked.

Answer: I don't need any extra body parts so I'll reserve collecting the ransom - here's the information you requested:

The secret is light. Without a greenhouse, skylight or grow lights, your gardenias won't bloom indoors. Even a sunny southern window won't do, says Julius Nuccio, of Nuccio's Nursery, which grows more than 75 varieties of gardenias in Altadena, California. Gardenias need at least a half day of full sun to bloom. Buds that turn black or drop and bottom leaves that are yellowed are sure signs that gardenias aren't getting enough light. Your best bet is to grow them in containers outdoors or in the garden. They should be hardy in your area, as they survived 15_F temperatures here last year, says Nuccio. Plant them in well drained soil and fertilize with an acid based fertilizer such as Miracid once every two months from May to September. The best gardenia variety for indoor use is 4 Seasons, while I recommend Mystery for outdoor growing, adds Nuccio.

You can give your gardenia the best of both worlds by growing it indoors during the coldest months and placing it outdoors in the spring and summer. Once outside, place it in a spot that will be shaded from hot afternoon summer sunshine.

In order to bloom, your plant needs a nighttime temperature of 60F - 65F degrees and a daytime temperature about 10 degrees warmer. Without an even temperature and careful watering, gardenias will drop their flower buds while they're still unopened. Keep the soil moist using tepid, soft water, and mist the plant every day to keep the plant happy. Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer for acid loving plants such as Miracid following the label instructions.

To keep your plant tidy and to encourage new growth, pinch back the growing tips of the stems. Gardenias don't like to be repotted more often than every 2-3 years. Do so in the spring, using a good commercial potting soil for acid loving plants, and putting the plant in a new pot that's only slightly larger than the old one.

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