Scentsational Plants: Part 2: Gardenias

BY DREW BENNIE , RGV Master Naturalist

This is the second in a series about plants to scent your landscape.

This week will feature Gardenias, another good choice for providing sweet aroma to the garden. Gardenias have dark glossy leaves and white perfumed flowers. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from compact bushes that can be used as a low hedge or edge to a patio (some as low as 1’ tall), to specimens that have been pruned to grow like small trees for a container or to accent an area (up to 8’ tall). Once established, they form white blooms that contrast nicely with the dark foliage and are fragrant when you get up close to the plant.

Dead heading the old flowers will promote new buds. Cut flowers do better when floated in a bowl rather than in a corsage because the fragile stems of Gardenia flowers do not take up water as well as some flowers do.

These plants are tropical in nature but do best with morning sun and afternoon shade due to the heat of our summer sun. Too much sun will scorch the leaves and overheating causes the flower buds to drop off before opening. A southern exposure is also helpful as it gives the plant more sun in the fall and winter.

These plants also prefer a slightly acidic soil. To achieve this, acidifying fertilizers are available that are designed for this purpose. You can also add peat moss to the soil when planting or use an acidic mulch like pine needles or pine bark to help the soil become more acidic. They like moist soil but need good drainage. Mulching is recommended.

Gardenias are susceptible to thrips, aphids and whiteflies and may require an occasional dose of insecticide to remain healthy.

Although they do require a little more care than some ornamental plants, Gardenias are an attractive, showy, fragrant addition to any landscape. Local nurseries have several varieties available and can provide specific planting instructions for each type.

The local nurseries will have the types that do best

in our area whereas big box store type nurseries

may have types that grow better in other

areas of the state.