Answer: Powell, ornamental specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Gardenias in Charlotte normally grow to about five feet tall and prefer a sunny or partly sunny, well-drained site that has western exposure and is protected from the early morning sun. Their natural habit is to be an open bush, he says. To make the gardenia bushier, lightly thin this year. Cut stems you want to shorten back to a side branch that's about three feet above the ground. Every year after this, tip-prune the last few inches of the branches to help keep the plant below five feet tall and bushy, Powell explains.
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