The Q&A Archives: Gardenia Yellowing Leaves

Question: My plant is 2 years old and alot of the leaves are yellow also the plant is growing tall but the branches are spindly what is wrong with it? The this plant need to be pruned in the fall?

Answer: There are many things that can cause leaf drop. One is common - gardenias are very susceptible to spider mites, which cause tiny webs on the undersides of leaves and where the leaves join the stems. Another way to detect them is to take a sheet of white paper out to the bush, tap a few branches on to the paper, fold the paper in half and press/rub together. If you see little red, blue, or brown smears, those are spider mites. You can spray them off with a strong blast from the hose (do this daily until they're under control). A product called Neem can also be used to treat for spider mites. Follow product instructions for application. Gardenias need at least a half day of full sun to bloom, but at the same time, the hot afternoon sun can be tough on them. Morning sun is best, so an eastern location would be ideal. You might also try a southern or western exposure with some filtered shade. Buds that turn black or drop and bottom leaves that are yellowed are sure signs that gardenias aren't getting enough light. Leaf drop can also be caused by improper soil pH (gardenia require 5 to 5.5pH - on the acid side.) Yellowing and leaf drop are also signs of various soil nutrient deficiencies such as nitrogen, zinc, and iron. Finally, if the air is too dry, your plant will drop buds and leaves. Try sprinkling the plant every morning to increase humidity (and also discourage spider mites!). Although you'll lose some of the flowers this year, I'd prune the gardenia back now to encourage healthy new growth and make your plant less leggy. The normal pruning time for gardenias is late summer, after blooming has finished. Hope these suggestions help!

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