Uh oh. Did you come home to a less-than-happy plant? Don’t panic just yet! Your plant still has some hope before it meets its untimely demise.

What can you do to revive your dying plant? Most people immediately assume that they should water it, but an extra dose of water can actually harm a plant that doesn’t need it.

Instead, know that a plant’s health fluctuates if it’s getting too much or too little of something. Most solutions to your plant’s health issues are easy fixes that restore it to its natural balance. For example, a plant getting too much sun simply needs to find a new home in a shadier spot.

We’ve identified all of the signs you’ll need to look out for and the best solutions for each issue your plant can have. To help you figure out just what your plant needs and how to revive a plant, we’ve identified all the signs you’ll need to look out for and the best solutions for any issue a plant can have.

Can I Revive a Dying Plant?

The answer is yes! First and foremost, the dying plant’s roots must be alive to have any chance of coming back to life. Some healthy, white roots mean that the plant has a chance at making a comeback. It’s even better if your plant stems still show signs of green.

To get started, trim back any dead leaves and some foliage, especially if the majority of the roots are damaged. This will make it so the roots have less to support and can recover more efficiently. Next, trim the dead part of the stems until you see green. Ideally, new stems will grow from these trimmed stems.

Now you know how to check for your plant’s chances of living. Read on to get familiar with certain warning signs and learn the particulars for reviving a dying plant.

Signs of a Dying Plant and How to Help it Recover

If your plant is suffering from too much water (more on that below), hold off on adding fertilizer or plant food to your plant’s soil until it’s fully recovered. The roots are sensitive and need time to heal. Keep water-damaged plants out of direct sun and lightly water until their roots have recovered. You’ll know its fully recovered when the plants leaves return to its normal green color and the soil is neither too moist nor too hard.

All plants respond differently to sun. Some plants thrive in full sun while others can’t handle the stress of direct sunlight. Sudden changes in a plant’s environment, like relocating to a different spot in the room, can put your plant in shock. Look up your plant’s specific sun needs so you know exactly how much sun your plant desires and where in your home it can thrive the most.

Plants are the perfect place for common pests to invade. Thankfully, most pests are easy to remove. You can also try adding insect-repelling plants around your other plants if you want to keep pests far away. Deformed or discolored leaves are a result of bugs nibbling and sucking on the plant. Abnormal growths in your plants are usually indicators of bugs who have burrowed partially or fully into your plant. Insect eggs are another reason why growths pop up in your plant’s leaves.

Your plant may be hungry and in need of nutrients. This can happen if you haven’t added fertilizer or plant food to replenish the nutrients in the soil your plant uses up. A lack of nutrients can inhibit a plant’s overall ability to thrive since it has nothing to fuel and support its growth. Homemade plant food is easy to make with common household items and has all the nutrients your plant needs.

If you feel like your plant has has crossed the point of no return after trying to bring it back to life, you can compost your plants to help keep your next plant alive. It can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months until your plant makes a full recovery, so be patient and keep a close eye on your plant’s progress during this time!

You’ll surely make your plant much happier after some well-deserved tender loving care. Make sure you keep up with your plant’s sun, watering and soil needs after you bring it back to life so it can stay healthy. Consider picking up some new plant friends to keep your plant company on its road to recovery. You can use our guide to the best houseplants for every room to get an idea of the best plants for your home. Looking for care tips for a specific plant? Check out our guides for pothos, peace lilies and snake plants!

Gardenias are admired for their glossy green foliage and fragrant blossoms. However, gardenias are particular about their growing conditions and require consistent maintenance in order to keep happy and beautiful. Once you understand what a gardenia needs to survive, growing them is very rewarding.

Basic Gardenia Care and Growth Requirements

Gardenias are often found outside in southern regions. They are grown as ornamental shrubs in warm regions and as patio plants that are brought indoors in cooler areas. Paying attention to the particular growing requirement of gardenias is especially important. If you provide the gardenia with the right conditions, it will reward you with vibrant foliage and a proliferation of fragrant blooms.


Well-drained, acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 is ideal for gardenias, whether potted or in the ground. During the day, gardenias prefer temperatures from 68 to 74 degrees with a low of 60 degrees at night. Moderate humidity assures a healthy plant but soggy roots cause flower buds to drop, as will soil that is too dry. Adding peat moss to the soil will benefit your plant by helping it retain moisture without becoming too wet.


While the gardenia likes humidity, misting the leaves can cause problems. Water droplets can lead to fungal growth on leaves. This is important to keep in mind if you plant your gardenia outside. You don’t want to place it under plants that drip onto its leaves. You must also be careful your plants are not crowded too close together. A lack of air flow also causes fungal issues.

When you water potted plants, check to see if the top inch of soil is dry by poking your finger into the soil and then give your plant a good soak. Any water that accumulates in the tray under the pot should be drained out. It is a great idea to place gardenias in a pebble filled tray. Water can be poured over the pebbles to provide moisture and humidity without excessive water being absorbed into the soil.


Outdoor gardenias prefer full sun, with some shade in the hottest summer months. Indoor gardenias should not be placed in direct sun, but in a room that gets plenty of bright, indirect light.


Temperature is considered one of the most crucial aspects of growing a gardenia. When daytime temperatures are above 70 degrees F or if night temperatures are over 65 degrees F or below 60 degrees F, flower buds will not form. Keep your gardenia between 65 and 70 degrees F during the day and 60 to 62 degrees F at night.


Feed gardenias every three weeks during the growing season with an acid-based fertilizer.

Outdoor Gardenia Care

If you are fortunate enough to live in a climate where these tropical plants will grow outdoors (zones 8-10), you may want to plant one near a window or patio to fill the air with its intoxicating scent. The process is simple as long as you remember the basics of gardenia plant care.

Take Care When Planting Outside

Be sure to plant your gardenia in well-draining soil conditioned with peat moss and organic matter. Dig a hole twice the size of the gardenia’s root ball and just as deep as the container. When you place the plant into the hole, be sure that the top of the root ball is slightly above the soil’s surface. Mound a mixture of native soil and peat moss around the plant and tamp down to eliminate air pockets. Water thoroughly and keep well-watered during the growing season.

Tips for Outdoor Gardenia Health

There are several things that you can do to improve the health and longevity of your outdoor gardenia plant. If you take good care of your plant, it will perform to its maximum potential year after year.

  • Prune: While it is fine to cut gardenia plants back as far you would like in order to shape, be sure to do your pruning when the plant is dormant. Use only clean pruning shears and do not cut all of the leaves off of the plant.
  • Mulch: Mulch will help with moisture retention. You can use pine needles, bark, finely shredded bark or other organic matter. Provide a mulch covering that is two inches thick and do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk of the bush.

Avoid Common Gardenia Pests

The best way to protect any plant from pests is to keep it healthy and prevent over-crowding. Other common causes of insect problems include allowing too much moisture to sit on the leaves and not maintaining the proper temperature and moisture levels. Keeping gardenias in the proper conditions goes a long way toward protecting them from common pests.

Gardenias are vulnerable to various insects including:

  • Aphids
  • Mealy bugs
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Scale
  • Whiteflies

Beautiful Blooms Are Your Reward

While gardenias are picky about their care, if you are patient and remember the basics, your efforts will be rewarded. A beautiful blooming gardenia is worth it.

Summary: Below is a series of Gardenia problems homeowners may experience.

Gardenia Leaves Turning Yellow

The Gardenia plant (Gardenia jasminoides) produces fragrant flowers and handsome foliage making it a great addition to any garden. However, maintaining gardenias is not an easy task and mishandling would put it at risk of dying. Yellowing and dropping of Gardenia leaves have several possibilities… from a nutritional deficiency, low humidity and overwatering.

Yellowing Leaves From Nutritional Deficiency

1 – If you plant has a magnesium or iron deficiency, growth may become retarded along as the leaves turn yellow or discolored.

2 – Gardenias in need of fertilizing, will exhibit symptoms of no buds or dropping buds, gardenia yellow leaves spots or yellowing at outer leaf edges and moving inwards, pale bleached look, dropping older leaves.

Same as above – If there are no flowers or buds – feed the acid-loving plants with an acid gardenia fertilizer. No feeding while the tree blooms or during winter.

Massive Leaf Drop and Yellowing Leaves

Yellow leaves on gardenia in mass followed my leaves dropping, the problem often is watering – Too Much water.

If leaf curl, gardenia leaves turning brown, dieback occurs and the soil is constantly wet. The plant should be removed from the pot immediately. Check the root ball for health, make sure pot drainage holes are not plugged.

Checking The Roots:

  • White healthy looking roots – remove all bad foliage, place back in the pot and fix watering issues or repot into fresh new soil.
  • Roots damaged and partially brown – remove bad roots, repot in fresh soil
  • Roots mushy and brown – discard plant

Gardenia Leaves Yellowing From Low Humidity

The symptoms of low humidity show up as: flower buds dropping, leaf tips turning brown, yellowing foliage, gardenia flowers turn brown.

Place the potted gardenia in a tray or bed of moist pebbles. DO NOT allow the pot and roots to sit in water. Spray/mist once or twice per day. In winter use a humidifier.

Gardenia Bud Drop

Question: The buds on my gardenia plant get about ready to open, then start to turn brown. What can I do to make them bloom?

Answer: This trouble is referred to as bud drop. The proper culture to prevent bud drop is difficult in a house and often occurs in spite of all precautions in a home greenhouse.

Frequent overhead watering after the buds are set may cause them to drop, but lack of sunlight is the chief cause of bud drop. With a uniform temperature of 60 to 62 degrees, good light, and high humidity, the chances of bud drop are slight.

A pot-grown gardenia should have a regular application of one ounce of iron sulfate to two gallons of water at least once a month to maintain correct soil acidity.

An alkaline soil condition will prevent the buds from opening and is one cause of bud drop. If unsure of the soil pH, gardeners usually conduct a soil test.

New Plant Bud Drop

If the buds on a new gardenia plant turn to black and drop off the issue could be all environmental. Plants moving from a nursery environment to a garden center and then to the home could “shock” the plant as it is acclimating to new surroundings: low light, warm temperatures in the home, low humidity can all contribute to bud drop.

Spray-mist on a daily basis, place plant on a tray of pebbles to increase humidity.

Sooty Mold

Question: I have three large gardenia bushes, about 12 years old. This year there is a black mold on the leaves. How can I rid the bushes of it? CAE, Texas

Answer: One “type” of sooty mold is caused by an airborne fungi. These pests usually appear when plants are chilled or wet frequently and not properly ventilated. Better light, more air, and keeping the foliage dry when watering is the best preventative. A light spray using oil emulsion such as Volck diluted one to 75 will destroy sooty mold fungi on gardenia bushes.

Question: What causes a sooty, black film on the leaf surface of gardenias?

Answer: This is the “other type” of sooty mold. This sticky secretion on gardenias is caused by whiteflies which may be controlled with a horticultural oil emulsion spray.

Syringe plants with water a few days after to wash off the dirty film. Privet and lilac are also attacked by these pests. Other pests that may infest the gardenia plant include spider mites and aphids.

Related Reading: Getting Rid Of Sticky Leaves On Houseplants

Water & Spraying

Question: I was told that a gardenia plant needs to be watered every other day and sprayed once a week with malathion. What fertilizer suits it best and how much should be applied and how often? Should it get sun or shade? TZ, Mexico

Answer: The gardenia is a sun lover but some shade during the hottest part of the day is not harmful. It needs water often enough to keep it from getting really dry when growth is active but probably not every other day.

A weekly forceful spray of water with occasional sprays of malathion should keep the plant clean and free of insects. If your plant is outdoors, a 2-inch layer of peat moss and rotted cow manure over a well-drained soil is advantageous. For healthy gardenia plants, keep the soil moist but don’t over water to avoid root rot.

If confined in a container, a 5-10-5 slow-release fertilizer could be used either dry at the rate of a level teaspoonful to a 6-inch pot or as a liquid at the rate of 2 teaspoonfuls stirred in one gallon of water. Food may be given the plant about every three weeks when growth is active.


Question: Could you tell me how to start a new gardenia from an old one?

Answer: Tip cuttings three or four inches long are taken late in the winter and rooted in a mixture of sand and peat. Insert unrooted cuttings in 2-1/2-inch pots, and give them a bottom temperature of 70 to 75 degrees.

If kept moist and in an atmosphere that is not dry, the cuttings will root in about eight weeks.

Normally, gardenias grown outside are attacked by only a few insects and one serious disease.

Gardenia Pests

When gardenias are attacked by root-knot nematodes, the leaves become chlorotic.

These microscopic worms produce characteristic galls or swellings on the roots. Prevention consists of soil sterilization before planting but using steam or chemicals.

Care should be taken when using any chemical materials since they will kill plants (people too) when used too close. Once the plants are infested they should be destroyed as there is no cure.


The scale insect is the most common pests attacking gardenias grown outdoors.

Whiteflies and mealy bugs sometimes attack gardenias, too. The black vine weevil rarely causes trouble but is serious when it does.

Thrips can also be bothersome, especially when gardenias are grown near a field of weeds.

Black scale can be a real pest. Each scale is about the size of a small split pea, dark brown to black and nearly hemispherical with a conspicuous H-shaped marking on the back.

The honeydew secreted attracts fungi which in turn give the leaves and stems a black, sooty appearance. This also attracts ants which help spread the scale.

In Florida and the Southeast the scale pest is the Florida waxscale, reddish or brown and the size of a pinhead.

Orthezia sometimes attacks gardenias grown outdoors; they are small, long and white, with long stripes on their backs. You will need a hand lens to see them.

All the scales are sap-sucking and some inject a poison. The soft brown scale can be a serious pest at times. too. It is greenish brown, oval-shaped, rather flat and about 1/8 inch long. It infests leaves and limbs and produces a honeydew as does the black scale.

The treatment for all scale is a summer oil spray applied at two-week intervals using a 2 percent oil, Malathion can be used as well but I prefer oil.

Water plants well one half-hour before spraying and again syringe with water an hour after spraying.


Thrips and the tobacco thrip are also common gardenia pests. Injury is manifested by a silvering of the leaf because the thrips suck the plant juices. You will need a hand lens to see them on the underside of the leaves as they are very small flying insects.

Clean up all weeds which harbor them.

Mealy Bug

The citrus mealybug is usually found on greenhouse gardenias, but sometimes attacks those grown outside.

A hard, sharp syringing with a small spray of water usually keeps them under control in many vegetable gardens. Otherwise, use a 2% percent summer oil and a teaspoonful of Malathion to each gallon of water.

You May Also Like:

  • How To Make Homemade Insecticidal Soap – A Recipe

White Fly

Whiteflies are quite small, about 1/16 inch long. The adults are pure white and when disturbed fly away from the underside of the leaf where they feed. The larvae look like very small mealy bugs. Both adults and immature stages are found together. For outdoor control use organic neem essential oil sprays (natural) or Malathion (chemical).

Red Spider Mites

Tiny red plant spider mites sometimes attack the plants in late summer, especially when the air gets – hot and dry. You will need a hand lens to see the reddish spider mites which can be controlled by regular hard syringing with cold water.

Do not become alarmed by our mention of all these insects – your plants may never be attacked by any of them but it is best to be aware of them if they do.

Gardenia Pest Management

There are plenty of natural ways you can use to get rid of gardenia pests. One of the most effective and safest ways is by making use of diatomaceous earth or food grade DE. This natural pest control substance help eradicate a wide array of insects.

Some essential oils such as neem oil help solve common pest problems. Peppermint oil wards off squash bugs, parasitic wasps, mites, tomato hornworm caterpillars, beetles and more. On the other hand, cedarwood, hyssop and pine essential oils keep slugs and snails away from your gardenia plants.

Introduction of beneficial insects that feed on vegetable garden pests will also help solve the infestation.

Gardenia Diseases

The one disease most often found is phomopsis canker, a fungus disease (ficus trees get this as well).

The first symptom of this disease will be a shrinking of the stem at the soil line. This gradually enlarges and the whole stem swells and becomes rough and cracked.

The leaves become pale green, then yellow and many fall. Since the disease enters plants only through wounds, use all possible care not to injure the stem when planting or pruning. There is no known cure so dig and destroy (burning is best) infected plants.

Learn How to Grow and Care for Your Gardenia

Beloved for their intoxicating fragrance and attractive, waxy, creamy-white flowers contrasting beautifully with their shiny, leathery, dark green leaves, Gardenias are irresistible heat-loving evergreen shrubs or trees. Native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and Oceania, Gardenias are not the easiest shrubs to grow, but their exquisite fragrant flowers make up for the extra attention they require.

Gardenia Requirements

Gardenias are beautiful subtropical plants which may be fussy and quite temperamental in their cultural needs. To grow them with success, make sure you follow the below requirements.

  • Select a site with full sun to light shade. Although a Gardenia plant prefers full sun, some shade is appreciated during the warmer months of the year or its leaves may scorch and its buds may fall off if they get too much sunlight. In hot climates, Gardenias grow best with morning sun and afternoon shade. In cooler areas, they can tolerate full sun, especially if their roots are covered with organic mulch. Gardenias growing in containers need bright light or filtered shade with no direct sun. Gardenias grown indoors should receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight through a sunny window.
  • Make sure your Gardenia soil is moist and well-drained. Gardenias need at least 1 inch of rain (or equivalent watering) each week. Keep the soil consistently damp but not soggy. Don’t let the soil dry out and don’t over-water your Gardenias or the flower buds will not open and may even drop off. Apply a 2-4 in. layer of organic mulch (5-10 cm) to maintain the soil moist and keep a constant soil temperature. In order to drain away excess fertilizer salts in the soil, water with distilled water once a month.



    ‘Kleim’s Hardy

  • Gardenias prefer acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. Avoid planting gardenias near a concrete wall or foundation where the pH may be too high for an optimum growth.
  • Gardenias like soil that is rich in nutrients. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil such as peat moss or manure to enhance the growth of your plant.
  • Gardenias perform best in day temperatures of 65-70°F (18-21°C) and night temperatures of 60-65°F (15-18°C). Flower buds will fail to form if the ideal temperature for Gardenias is not respected!
  • Gardenias demand high humidity to thrive. Provide extra moisture with daily misting, set the plant on a tray of moist pebbles and/or use a humidifier. Extra humidity is important in keeping down spider mites that thrive under dry conditions.

‘August Beauty’

‘Golden Magic’


  • Fertilize Gardenias every 2-4 weeks during their growing season (March to October) with a dilute fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Do not fertilize from November to February.
  • Cut off the faded Gardenia flowers, just below the leaf node, to encourage continuous blooming.
  • Check regularly for white flies and mealybugs, using a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to control these pests.


‘Chuck Hayes’


  • Prune/shape your Gardenia plant when it is dormant, to promote branching and compact growth
  • When transplanting Gardenias, use a soil mixture of two parts peat moss, one part sterilized houseplant potting soil, and one part sand or perlite.
  • Propagate Gardenias in early spring with 3-4 in. (7-10 cm) stem cuttings just below a leaf node. Dip the end of the stem cuttings into a rooting hormone, place it into a light mix of soil with perlite and keep it moist. Transplant the rooted cuttings into 3 in. (7 cm) pots with the preferred growing mix as described above.

Go Ahead, Plant Those Gardenias

When you list plants that belong in a classic Southern garden, the gardenia has to be in the top five. Beautiful evergreen leaves, snow-white blossoms, intoxicating fragrance and the ability to withstand the Southern summer heat. What more could you ask for? Gardenias can bloom as early as spring and will continue to produce flowers throughout the summer and into fall. With showy blooms that open white and then fade to gold, gardenias are versatile as single shrubs, hedges, or container gardens. Gardenias demand to be treated right, however, so here are a few tips to help keep your Southern beauty happy and healthy.

How to Plant

The best times to plant gardenias are fall and spring when temperatures are moderate. Like camellias, gardenias like to be planted a little high. The soil should drain fast but retain water, as well; condition it with plenty of organic matter such as peat moss or ground bark. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and just as deep as the plant’s root-ball. Firmly pack 3-4 inches of soil at the bottom of the hole and set the root-ball about 1 inch higher than the surrounding soil to help ensure adequate drainage. Then, gently taper the soil up to the top of the exposed root-ball. Mulch plants with pine straw or chopped leaves. Gardenias do not like to be disturbed once they are established so it’s best to hand-pull weeds instead of cultivating around the root zone.

Where to Plant

Choose your spot wisely. Gardenias can handle full sun, just not all day. They need protection from baking mid-day or afternoon sun. North and east-facing exposures are ideal because the plants will receive bright morning light and some midday light, but won’t be in full sun during the hottest part of the day. While gardenias make beautiful additions to borders, they don’t like to be crowded by other plants or competing roots. Place them along pathways, at the corners of your house, or near windows where you can appreciate them even from inside your home. Gardenias do well in large pots on decks and patios; gardeners in cold-winter areas can grow them in cool greenhouses. Let potted plants grow naturally or clip and train them as topiary standards. Place potted gardenias on your deck or patio where you can take advantage of their beautiful blooms and fragrance. Unfortunately, they make poor houseplants— they attract mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies.

Did you know:

Gardenias originated in the Orient but are named in honor of a Southerner, Dr. Alexander Garden, an 18th-century botanist and physician from Charleston, South Carolina

‘Radicans’ gardenia’s small leaves and size make it an ideal plant to train as a bonsai.

Jazz singer Billie Holiday considered gardenias to be her signature flower and wore them in her hair whenever she performed

Watch Grumpy give advice on another favorite Southern plant:

Gardenias are easy to grow but require a bit of attention. Fuss over them and the plant gives beauty. Ignore them and they yellow and die. Moist, acid, well-drained soil; morning sun and afternoon shade; good air circulation; and proper fertilization will make them happy. With lustrous leaves, beautiful flowers, and a heavenly fragrance, gardenias are the perfect plants to grace the days of summer.

Gardenias: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

Gardenia is best known for their fragrant white flowers, gardenias are heat-loving evergreen shrubs that have become a gardening symbol in the Southeast. Another common name is cape jasmine.

About gardenias
Plant gardenias near a deck or window where you can enjoy the flowers’ fragrance. The plants grow from 2 to 8 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. Most gardenias grow into a round shape with dark green, glossy leaves and white, fragrant flowers that bloom from mid-spring into summer. Avoid planting gardenias near a concrete walk or foundation where the pH maybe too high for good growth.

Special features of gardenias
Winter interest

Planting Instructions
Plant in spring or fall, spacing plants 3 to 6 feet apart. Have the soil tested to determine pH, and if necessary add the recommended amount of sulfur to reduce the pH to between 5 and 6. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.

Choosing a site to grow gardenias
Select a site with full sun to light shade and moist, rich, well-drained soil. Gardenias prefer acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0.

Ongoing Care
Gardenias require at least an inch of rain (or equivalent watering) each week. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch to help keep soil moist, reduce weeding, and maintain a constant soil temperature. Feed monthly during the growing season with an acidifying fertilizer. Prune in early spring to shape the bush, and deadhead after flowering to encourage more flowering. Check periodically for white flies and mealybugs, using a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to control these pests. In regions where the plant is marginally hardy, protect bushes from hard freezes and drying winter winds.
See more information about Gardenias:
” Plant Finder: Gardenia augusta
” Plant Finder: Gardenia ‘Kleims Hardy’
” Plant Finder: Gardenia ‘Veitchii’

Fertilizer provides gardenias with important nutrients to boost plant growth and flowering. However, it takes the right kind of fertilizer applied at the proper time to get the job done.

Fertilize Your Gardenias

Gardenias love acid-rich soils, and the soil pH should be between 5 and 6, with an ideal of 5.5. Before applying fertilizer, have the soil pH tested. If the pH is higher and on the alkaline side, or above 7, a soil acidifier helps bring it back to the level gardenias love.

Signs that your gardenia plant may need fertilizer include:

  • Yellow leaves: Leaf development depends on nitrogen, and a lack of available nitrogen within the soil may contribute to yellow leaves. Without healthy leaves, plants cannot make their food through photosynthesis.
  • New growth stunted: This is another sign the plant needs more nitrogen to support growth.
  • No buds or flowers: When nutrients in the soil are scarce, plants enter survival mode, focusing on basic survival needs like root development. Fertilizing gardenias restores this balance and encourages flower development again.

When to Fertilize Gardenias

Gardenias need fertilizer during their growth cycle to support development and fuel growth and flowering. Flowering is part of the reproductive cycle of plants. Plants expend a great deal of energy creating baby plants! Fueling growth by fertilizing gardenias adds valuable nutrients back into the soil which are used during blooming cycles.

  • Prime time for fertilizing gardenias is April through November for the vast majority of gardeners.
  • Gardeners in southern Florida and similar garden zones should fertilize anytime between March and October.
  • Space the application of fertilizer out in two to four week intervals. It is better to err on the side of caution and fertilize less frequently than more frequently, because too much fertilizer can burn the gardenia’s roots.

What to Use

Since gardenias are acid-loving plants, you will need a fertilizer created especially for gardenias and similar plants.

Scotts Miracle Grow MirAcid is perhaps the most popular brand of fertilizer for gardenias. MirAcid contains a ratio balance of 30-10-10. These numbers represent the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) contained in the mix. MirAcid also includes copper, manganese and other trace elements, which are great for leaf and flower development. MirAcid fertilizer contains inorganic chemicals, so if organic gardening techniques are important to you, you may want to try one of the many organic fertilizers on the market.

Fox Farm Grow Big fertilizer contains a balance of 6-4-4, and it’s readily available online or in your local garden center. It provides a steady, slow release of organic materials into the soil with an emphasis on nitrogen.

Yum Yum Mix is another organic fertilizer which contains a ratio of 2-1-1. Created by Sante Fe landscape design expert Donna Bronner, Yum Yum Mix is especially good for nutrient-poor alkaline soils, such as those found in and around New Mexico and other southwestern states. It includes a rich blend of alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, rock phosphate and other goodies that not only provide plants with nutrients, they also nurture beneficial soil microorganisms.

How to Fertilize Gardenias

In general, gardenia fertilizers come as powders, pellets or liquids. They’re typically mixed with water in a ratio listed on the package direction. Depending on the fertilizer you’ve chosen, you’ll either mix the fertilizer directly into the soil or water it into the soil around the plant.

Avoid sprinkling fertilizer on the leaves because it may disfigure them. A common mistake among neophyte gardeners is to sprinkle water or fertilizer on the leaves, instead of the soil, in the mistaken belief that the leaves take up nutrients. It’s the gardenia’s roots that need the nutrients, so be sure to get as much as you can into the soil.

Apply pellet fertilizers by mixing gently into the soil around the plant in the recommended amount. Powders and liquid concentrates typically require mixing with water before applying to the soil.

Success with Gardenias

Gardenias may not be the easiest plants you can grow, but they are certainly worth the effort once you smell those heavenly flowers. Always read and follow the package directions carefully for whichever fertilize your use, and your gardenias will thank you with an abundance of blossoms.

Gardenia Care in Spring

Gardenias are one of the most popular and rewarding garden shrubs to grow in temperate and subtropical gardens. Their heady fragrance, massed cream flowers from spring to autumn and glossy green leaves make a highly desirable combination for gardens, hedges or pots.

In early spring though, gardenias can be a worry. By the end of winter gardenias are often looking miserable with yellow leaves and no flowers – or worse, buds that are brown and dropping.

Most gardeners have heard somewhere along the garden grapevine that gardenias need a dose of Epsom salts in spring. While this won’t hurt them, magnesium deficiency (which is what is treated with Epsom salts) is a very minor disorder.

The key to understanding how to improve the look of gardenias in early spring is to know the conditions they enjoy. Gardenias are subtropical shrubs and are related to citrus. They grow naturally in areas with mild winters and warm, moist summers.

In most parts of southern Australia winters vary from mild to cold and even frosty. When soils are cold gardenias wish they could relocate to Cairns or somewhere tropical. In these cold and often dry conditions they hunker down and stop taking up nutrients. This leads to yellowing leaves.

With the arrival of spring, day temperatures begin to rise, but soil warming is slow. Gardenias take time to get the nutrients they need to return to their lush, green state. By late spring however the warm soils, balmy days and higher humidity levels see most gardenias looking better.

Tips to boost your Gardenias

  • Liquid feed: In late winter and early spring, apply a liquid fertiliser for flowers. Repeat in a fortnight. If yellow leaves persist, apply chelated iron (follow the instructions on the container).
  • Water: If the soil is dry, water gardenias well making sure the water is soaking in around the roots. Water regularly when conditions are dry. If soils are hard to wet, mix a soil wetting agent into the watering can.
  • Slow Release Feed: In addition to the liquid food, scatter slow release fertiliser around your plants. There are formulations for gardenias or use any product for flowering plants or citrus. This fertiliser will kick in to feed the plant as conditions warm. Feed again in summer.
  • Add organic matter: Toss a few spades of composted cow manure or compost under the plants as mulch – organic matters helps improve soil conditions which leads to better growth.
  • Remove old buds: Buds formed in late autumn often fail to open. Remove these to make way for new flowers.
  • Check for pests: Check for waxy brown or white scale on the backs of leaves and on stems. Ants on the plant or a skin of black sooty mould on the leaves indicate the plant has scale. Spray with horticultural oil.
  • Repot: Potted gardenias that have been in the same pot for two or three years can be repotted in spring into a larger pot with fresh good quality potting mix.
  • Chewed buds: Weevils hide in the soil and feed on new buds and leaves. Use a torch to check plants at night and squash any found. With good feeding and regular watering most plants outgrow the damage.
  • Pruning: If pruning is needed to tidy or shape the plant, it can be done at any stage during the warmer months. The gardenia will quickly put on new growth but remember pruning delays flowering.


Gardenias have been popular shrubs in South Carolina since the 18th Century and have been grown by the Chinese for over a thousand years. They were named after the Scottish naturalist Alexander Garden (1730 – 1791). Gardenias are not the easiest shrubs to grow, but the exquisite white, fragrant flowers make up for the extra attention gardenias require.

Double-flowered gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) blossom.
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Mature Height/Spread

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is also known as cape jasmine and is an evergreen shrub that typically grows to a height of 3 to 8 feet, depending upon the cultivar. Spread is usually about the same as the height. The foliage of well-fed shrubs is glossy, dark-green, 2- to 4-inches long and half as wide. Depending on the cultivar, the flowers can be either single or double and from 2- to 4-inches in diameter. They are waxy, white, and very fragrant.

Growth Rate

The growth rate is medium.

Landscape Use

Gardenias are primarily grown for their fragrant flowers and handsome foliage. They should be planted where people will notice the fragrance. The flowers open over a long period of time, from May through June, and sporadically throughout the summer. Gardenias are considered deer resistant shrubs.

Single flowered gardenia blossom (Gardenia jasminoides).
Flickr: Creative Commons License 2.0


Gardenias require considerable maintenance. Fall is the best time for planting. They are best planted in light to partial shade, preferably with morning sun and afternoon shade. Gardenias resent root disturbance. Smaller cultivars will also grow well in containers and placed where their fragrance can be enjoyed.

Gardenias prefer acid (with a pH of less than 6.0), moist, well-drained soils. Add organic matter, such as compost or ground composted pine bark, to the planting bed and till into the soil before planting. Mulch plants with a 2- to 3-inch deep layer of pine straw, compost or ground bark.

Fertilize gardenias lightly in the spring once frost has passed with a well-balanced, extended-release, acid-forming, azalea fertilizer. Fertilize the shrubs again 6 weeks later to encourage extra flowers or faster growth of young shrubs. By well-balanced, this means to look for nutrients in the ratio of 2-1-1. Fertilizer examples are:

Complete, acid-forming organic fertilizers are also excellent choices for use on gardenias for spring and early summer fertilization. They are typically not as nutrient rich, and because of both the low nitrogen content and their inability to burn the roots, they can be mixed lightly into the soil in the fall at planting to enhance root growth. Organic fertilizer examples are:

Do not fertilize gardenias in the fall. Doing so will stimulate tender growth, which may be killed if the temperature in winter drops below 15 degrees. Gardenias are cold-sensitive and during severe winters can be killed to the ground in the Upstate. Often they regenerate in spring.

Additional products containing iron may be applied during the growing season, if needed to correct the yellowed new foliage caused by an iron deficiency. This may occur if gardenias are limed or are planted near a new concrete foundation. An example of an iron-supplement is Southern Ag Essential Minor Elements, which contains not only iron, but also numerous trace elements.

Gardenia “hips” are the fruit that occasionally appear in fall (Gardenia jasminoides).
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Prune shrubs after they have finished flowering in summer to remove straggly branches and faded flowers. Gardenias should be watered weekly during periods of drought in summer. Drip-irrigating the shrubs will keep water off the foliage and blossoms and prevents leaf spots.

Most of the older gardenia cultivars are cold hardy to USDA zone 8, but many of the newer and smaller cultivars are hardy to at least USDA zone 7a. Dwarf cultivars, however, are often more cold sensitive.


A whitefly infestation is the most commonly occurring problem on gardenias anywhere in the state. Whiteflies have piercing-sucking mouthparts, with which they penetrate the cells of a leaf, and then suck out the leaf sap. The top sides of infested leaves may become pale or spotted. These small, white-colored flies often remain unnoticed, as they primarily infest the lower surface of each leaf. As this pest removes plant sap, it excretes a large amount of clear, colorless, sugary waste, which drips onto the leaves below. This sugary waste, called honeydew, is quickly colonized by a black mold (sooty mold), which coats the leaves in summer.

Whiteflies can be controlled by sprays to the lower surfaces of leaves with an insecticidal soap solution or a horticultural oil. Both of these less toxic insecticides kill by suffocation. Sprays may need to be repeated every few days until the whitefly population is under control. Follow label directions for mixing an insecticidal soap spray. Use horticultural oils as sprays between the temperatures of 45 and 90 degrees, and spray in the early morning or late evening to slow the drying time of spray. For horticultural oil, mix and spray a 2% solution (5 tablespoons of oil per gallon of water). See Table 1 for examples of brands and products.

Dark-colored sooty mold will grow on the sticky honeydew, which drips from whiteflies when feeding on gardenia foliage.
Joey Williamson, ©2015 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Alternatively, numerous synthetic pyrethroid contact insecticides (such as bifenthrin, Cyfluthrin, and lambda cyhalothrin) will also control whiteflies if sprayed on the lower surfaces of leaves. Acephate, however, is a foliar systemic insecticide that will move through the leaf tissue. So, sprays to the upper leaf surfaces will move downward to control the whiteflies. All foliar sprays may need to be repeated once or twice at 10 day intervals, as they typically do not kill the eggs. Do not spray plants in bloom to prevent injury to pollinating insects. See Table 1 for examples of brands and products.

Instead of numerous insecticidal sprays, a single soil drench of imidacloprid can be applied at the base of the shrubs in the spring as new growth appears to give season long control. Follow label directions for mixing and application. See Table 1 for examples of brands and products.

Similar in habit are small gray aphids, which cling to leaf undersides. These can be easily controlled with insecticidal soap sprays. Nematodes are microscopic worms, which live in the soil and feed on plant roots. In sandy soil, these plant parasitic nematodes can cause gardenias to become stunted or even die. Root rots caused by several different fungi can also be a problem, primarily in poorly drained soils.

Although much less common, another problem encountered is “bud drop.” Flower buds may abort and drop off just before they open. Causes of bud drop include low humidity, overwatering, under-watering, insufficient light and high temperatures (night temperatures between 50 and 55 °F are necessary for the formation of flower buds).


Larger, Upright, Double-flowered Cultivars:

  • ‘August Beauty’ grows 4 to 6 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. Blooms heavily from mid-spring to fall with double 3-ich flowers.
  • ‘Mystery’ is the best-known selection. It has 4- to 5-inch, double white flowers and typically grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, but may get larger.
  • First Love® (‘Aimee’): May be listed as ‘Aimee Yoshida’. Very large (4 to 5-inch in diameter), double blooms. Plants are larger than ‘August Beauty’. Grows to 5 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide.
  • ‘Frost Proof’: This cultivar produces 2- to 3-inch, double, fragrant blooms during early summer and sporadically during the remainder of the summer. It grows to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It is more tolerant of early spring frosts.
  • ‘Mystery’: This older cultivar grows to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, but may reach 6 to 8 feet tall. It produces very large, double flowers.
  • Summer Snow® (PP22797): This cultivar grows to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide with double flowers, and is a very cold hardy cultivar.
  • ‘Veitchii’: This is one of the oldest cultivars and grows to 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. It has double flowers with a long bloom period.

Smaller Cultivars with Repeat Blooming:

  • ‘Chuck Hayes’: This is an extra cold hardy cultivar that grows to 4 feet high with semi-double, 2 to 3-inch flowers during summer, and has a profuse re-bloom in fall.
  • Crown Jewell® (PP19896): A cross between ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ and ‘Chuck Hayes’ gardenias. It has a heavy bloom set with double, fragrant flowers, and very good cold hardiness. Blooms on old and new wood. Prune lightly after flowering to stimulate more flowers to form. This cultivar has a spreading habit, and grows to 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
  • ‘Daisy’ is a more cold hardy variety recommended for the Upstate of South Carolina. It grows to about 3 feet tall and wide, and produces single-flowered blooms.
  • ‘Double Mint’ (PPAF): From Plant Introductions. These compact, dense shrubs grow to 3 feet tall and wide, and produce double, 2-inch blooms. Flowers in early summer and repeat blooms throughout the summer.
  • Heaven Scent® (‘Madga I’, PP19988): From the Gardener’s Confidence® Collection. It is a hybrid of G. taitensis (Tahitian gardenia) and G. jasminoides. This repeat bloomer grows to 3 to 4 feet tall and wide with fragrant, semi-double, 5- to 6-inch flowers. Has a tight, compact form.
  • Jubilation™ (‘Lee One’, PP21983): From the Southern Living Plant Collection. This cultivar grows to 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It blooms with double flowers in late spring and re-blooms during summer into fall.
  • ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ is hardy to 10 °F and grows to 3 feet tall and wide with single flowers in summer. It blooms in May and often has a smaller flush of blooms in fall.
  • Pinwheel® (‘PIIGA-1’, PP22510): Blooms in late spring and repeat blooms until fall with fragrant, narrow-petaled, single flowers. Grows to 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Scent Amazing™ (‘LeeTwo’, PPIP): From the Southern Living Plant Collection. This cultivar grows to 3½ feet tall and 4 feet wide. It has single white blossoms and blooms late spring/early summer, and then repeat blooms through fall.
  • ‘Variegata’: This cultivar has nicely variegated foliage and double flowers on a compact, 3 to 4 foot tall and wide plant.

Dwarf Cultivars:

  • ‘Fragrant Pathways’: This is an evergreen groundcover that grows from 8- to 10-inches high with a 3 foot spread. White double flowers and narrow foliage on this dwarf.
  • ‘Radicans’ grows to only 6 to 12 inches tall and spreads 2 to 3 feet, with small, dark green leaves and inch-wide double flowers in summer. It is not very cold hardy.
  • ‘White Gem’: This dwarf cultivar grows slowly to 2 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. It produces single, 6-petaled flowers in late spring/early summer, and makes an excellent container plant.

Table 1. Pesticides to Control Insect Pests of Gardenias.

Active Ingredients Examples of Brands & Products
Acephate Bonide Systemic Insect Control Concentrate
Bifenthrin Ferti-lome Broad Spectrum Insecticide Concentrate; & RTS
Hi-Yield Bug Blaster Bifenthrin 2.4 Concentrate; & RTS
Up-Star Gold Insecticide Concentrate
Bifen I/T Concentrate
Talstar P Concentrate
Cyfluthrin Bayer Advanced Vegetable & Garden Insect Spray Concentrate; & RTS
Horticultural Oil Ferti-lome Horticultural Oil Spray Concentrate; & RTS
Southern Ag Parafine Horticultural Oil
Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil
Monterey Horticultural Oil Concentrate
Summit Year Round Spray Oil Concentrate
Imidacloprid Bayer BioAdvanced Garden 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control Concentrate
Landscape Formula
Bayer BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control Protect & Feed (2-1-1)
Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Systemaxx
Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench
Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Granules
Monterey Once A Year Insect Control II
Bonide Systemic Insect Spray with Systemaxx RTS
Ferti-lome Systemic Insect Spray Concentrate; & RTS
Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray Concentrate; & RTS
Merit 2 Granular
Martin’s Dominion Tree & Shrub
Insecticidal Soap Bonide Insecticidal Soap Concentrate
Espoma Earth-tone Insecticidal Soap Concentrate
Natural Guard Insecticidal Soap Concentrate
Garden Safe Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer Concentrate
Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap Concentrate
Lambda Cyhalothrin Spectracide Triazicide Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes Concentrate; & RTS
RTS = Ready to Spray (a hose-end spray bottle)

How To Care For Your Gardenia Plant

Primarily found outdoors in the south and grown for their fragrant flowers and handsome foliage, gardenias (Gardenia augusta/Gardenia jasminoides) are popular ornamental shrubs, which are known for their finicky needs. In fact, in some areas, gardenias require considerable maintenance.

Outdoor Gardenia Care

Gardenias are cold sensitive and may die during severe winters; therefore, gardenias are typically grown outdoors where the winter weather is reasonably tolerable, or grown in pots and moved indoors for winter. Fall or spring is the most suitable time for planting the gardenia bush.

As for outdoor gardenia care, you should keep in mind that when the gardenia plant is grown outdoors, it generally prefers to be kept in partial shade. Gardenias also prefer moist, but well-drained acidic soil with plenty of organic matter. Water gardenias regularly, even once the plant has finished putting out blooms. Prune the gardenia bush after flowering has ceased to remove spent blooms and untidy

branches and to keep the plant in good condition.

Healthy gardenia plants are better able to withstand winter weather, and will oftentimes come back stronger in spring.

Indoor Gardenia Care

The gardenia plant can also be successfully grown in containers and treated like houseplants indoors. However, when growing a gardenia bush indoors, you must keep in mind that it requires bright light and high humidity.

The dry, short days of winter will likely be the most troublesome, especially if the gardenia bush is not given enough humidity. Moving plants to southern-facing windows and/or supplementing them with grow lights are good ways to improve light conditions during winter.

High humidity is essential to indoor gardenia care. Dry air will quickly cause the flowers to begin dropping from the plant. There are several ways to increase humidity in the home, including the use of a humidifier or grouping plants together on trays of wet pebbles. Misting the gardenia plant is not recommended, as this may cause problems with fungal leaf spot.

The soil, which should be loose and organic, should be kept moist, but take care not to overwater. Monitor the soil frequently for moisture, and water thoroughly as the top inch of soil dries. The gardenia plant should also receive cooler nighttime temperatures and warmer daytime temperatures.

When to Fertilize Gardenias

Gardenias require frequent fertilizing to ensure healthy plant growth. Fertilize monthly between April and November using fertilizer that is specifically formulated for acid-loving plants. Be careful not to over fertilize gardenia plants. Too much fertilizer can lead to salt accumulation, which can damage the shrub. Do not fertilize gardenias in the fall, which can stimulate growth. This tender, new growth will quickly die when exposed to cold winter temperatures.

How to Care for Gardenias

If you’re looking for an intensely fragrant plant for your home, office or as a gift, consider a gardenia. These handsome plants have dark leathery leaves which provide a strong contrast to its stunning creamy white flower blossoms. Let us share with you a few tips for how to care for your gardenia:

Keep your plant indoors near bright light in the winter and early spring. In the warmer months of summer, you can move it out onto your patio into indirect bright light. Indoors or outside, make sure you place your plant near your outdoor patio or seating area so that you can enjoy its fragrance.

Keep the soil moist but not wet. Gardenias are very thirsty plants so check often to see if it needs water. The plant also enjoys humidity, so consider placing a saucer of water and pebbles (to keep the roots from sitting in water) underneath it to increase its access to humidity.

When to Fertilize
Fertilize monthly, except when blooming with a fertilizer formulated for acid loving plants such as Miracle-Gro Miracid. This will encourage blooming.

Prune your gardenia for size and shape in late winter or early spring. You can also cut off faded flowers to encourage additional blooms.

Gardenias are typically available January through April. Stop in to Hicks Nurseries today to experience the intense fragrance of this beautiful blooming plant.

Additional Information:
Foolproof Houseplants
All About Orchids

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