Answer: Not all gardenias are cold hardy so check to see which plant you've purchased. If you have 'Autumn Beauty' or 'Chuck Hayes', you can plant it outdoors. If you have a different variety, plant it in a container and plan to take it indoors over the winter months. The new gardenia 'Chuck Hayes', developed at the Hampton Roads Experiment Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is several degrees more cold tolerant than any other gardenia. It is also more heat tolerant than most. These features alone would make it an important new plant, but there is one more: it reblooms very heavily in early autumn. 'Autumn Beauty', until now the best fall bloomer, typically produces a few flowers at a time, beginning in August. By comparison, 'Chuck Hayes' makes up to 50 fragrant flowers per mature four by four-foot plant. At Virginia Beach, which is right on the border of USDA Zones 7 and 8, it keeps blooming into November.
Whether in the ground or in a container, all gardenias appreciate rich, acidict, well draining soil. A good potting soil will work in a container; outdoors, amend the garden soil with compost or peat moss, both to help acidify it and to make sure it drains quickly. Plant at the same soil level as it is growing in the nursery pot (not too deep, not too shallow) and water it well after planting. Give your gardenia morning sun and shade from hot afternoon sunshine. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet and fertilize once a month with an acidified fertilizer (i.e. Miracle Gro), in amounts as recommended on the label. Gardenias can drop flower buds if the air is too dry; misting the plant or hosing it off in the mornings when temperatures are hot will help your plant retain and open its flower buds.
Enjoy your new gardenia!
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