Answer: Your challenge in growing the gardenia as a houseplant 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. Winter will likely be the most difficult time to keep high light intensity due to shorter, gloomy days. Moving plants closer to southern-exposure windows and/or supplementing with plant-grow lights will help. Cooler room temperatures are best for the gardenia, around 55 F at night and about 10 degrees warmer by day.
Maintaining proper relative humidity is a challenge, particularly during the winter heating season. There are several ways to help increase humidity, including running a humidifier and grouping plants together on trays of wet pebbles. Misting by hand with a spray bottle offers only momentary relief and so does not really increase humidity in a meaningful way.
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 soil is kept constantly wet, the roots will 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 that is 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 so may need to have older, woody stems removed to encourage new branches.
Though the responsibilities of gardenia care are daunting, if you persevere, you?ll be rewarded with elegant white blossoms and sweet fragrance that simply cannot be matched by other plants.
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