The Q&A Archives: Gardenia

Question: I would like to know if my gardenia plant can be saved and what can I do to bring it back to life. It looks wilty and droopy. Since the weather has been cloudy and rainy my plant doesn't look good at all. I have been keeping it in the same room with a humidifier because sometimes I have to open the window slightly. I just wanted to know should I water it completely everyday because every morning the plant feels dry. Would miracle grow soil or the miracle grow plant can be good for this plant? It states in the plant that it must be fertilize once a month but not when it has buds growing. I just feel like throwing it away because I am very upset with the results that I got from this plant. No luck at all. Any suggestion?

Thank You!

Answer: Here are some general care notes and instructions. Gardenias are wonderful plants but they can be a bit finicky, and any change of location or humidity or sun can set them back. In general, bright light is essential, but avoid direct mid-day sun in the summer. It may summer outside when temperatures are settled, place it in a bright location out of direct sun; give it dappled light all day or gentle morning sun. Buds that turn black and drop, and bottom leaves that are yellowed are sure signs that gardenias aren't getting enough light. For flower buds to form and thrive, night temperatures need to be between 60-65F. During the day, temperatures should be 70-75F. A very constant, even temperature within these ranges is required or buds will drop. Also avoid drafts or moving the plant. Simply moving the plant often causes bud drop, as may any imbalance in the growing conditions. Keep the soil evenly moist (but not sopping wet)at all times except in winter when watering should be reduced slightly to compensate for the seasonally slower growth. Fertilize regularly but lightly during active growth periods (spring and summer) with a water soluble fertilizer for acid loving plants according to the label instructions. (Miracid would be one brand name.) Check the label also to make sure it includes micronutrients or "minors" to assure a broad based supply of minerals. Gardenias are very susceptible to spider mites, which can distort the buds and cause leaves to yellow and drop. Look on the undersides of the leaves for tiny black specks and whitish webbing. If necessary, use an insecticidal soap spray according to the label instructions to control these, be sure to repeat to control subsequent generations and treat all surfaces of the plant. Washing the plant with a spray of tepid water can also help rinse them away. Routine misting with water helps raise the humidity and consequently discourages spider mites but it is better to set it on a humidity tray of pebbles and water or use a humidifier -- especially during the winter heating season when indoor air is very dry. Finally, yellow leaves can be a natural occurance since the old leaves normally turn yellow and fall off, or could indicate inadequate light, or can signal insufficient water or even the use of hard water. Leaf drop can also be caused by improper soil pH (gardenias require 5 to 5.5 pH - on the acid side) or a nutrient deficiciency. As you can see, these are not easy plants. Occasionally we get lucky and a gardenia will thrive. If not, don't take it personally, they are very difficult. Good luck with your plant!

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