The Q&A Archives: Gardenia's yellowing leaves

Question: What can I do to prevent the leaves of my gardenia from yellowing? What is causing this problem?

Answer: If only the oldest leaves are turning yellow, it's a natural and normal process for your plant; if both newer and older leaves are yellowing, your plant may need more light or it may need to be fed. Your challenge in growing the gardenia 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. Gardenias thrive in moderately humid air. There are several ways to help increase humidity; sprinkle the foliage once in the morning and again in the evening on hot summer days, and be sure to mulch around the base of the plant with an organic mulch 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. Don't be afraid to prune the gardenia. In fact, blooming will be more prolific on younger growth. Remember that the gardenia is a woody shrub in its native environment and may need to have older, woody stems removed to make way for new branches. Keep an eye out for insect pests. If caught early, they can be controlled with insecticidal soaps or other products that are specifically labeled for use on indoor plants. A cotton swab dabbed in rubbing alcohol also will help control a small pest population. You may feel overwhelmed just thinking about all of these responsibilities. However, if you persevere, the gardenia will reward you with masses of stunning white blossoms accompanied by an elegant fragrance that simply cannot be matched by other plants. Enjoy!

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