The gardenia, a native of China, was cultivated for more than a thousand yearsago Planter John Ellis released the lovely flowering tree to colonial America in 1761, after an Asian trip. Named for his buddy, Dr. Garden, a Charleston physician, the blossom became a favorite for corsages due to its intense fragrance. Performing best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 11, the large, white blossoms of this gardenia are accentuated by the contrasting dark-green leaves.
Cultivars of the most commonly grown species (Gardenia jasminoides) typically bloom in the summer, although a few varieties begin in the spring and continue to fall. A good illustration of the latter, “Veitchii,” often called the “everblooming” gardenia, is the oldest variety, but still believed to be the most dependable bloomer. “Kimura Shikazaki,” also known as “Four Seasons,” has all of “Veitchii’s” features except marginally less scent. Two corsage gardenias, “Mystery” and “August Beauty,” blossom heavily in May and June, followed by another flowering in late summer to early fall. “Kleim’s Hardy” bears profuse blossoms, with a heady fragrance, in early summer. All climb on sun-loving evergreen shrubs, typically reaching the 4- to 6-foot range.
To Expand a Gardenia’s Season
Diligent care can result in a longer blooming season to get a gardenia. If the shrubs receive adequate heat and light, most will bloom from May until the warm weather ends. They do best in well-drained, rich, acidic soil. Do not plant gardenias too near other plants; they resent having their roots disturbed. Mid-March is an optimum feeding time to market future blooms. Give your gardenias an acid liquid fertilizer, fish emulsion or blood meal. Water them regularly, particularly when utilizing drip irrigation. As blooms fade or turn brown, remove them to stimulate more booming.
Yet another gardenia species (G. thunbergia) thrives in USDA zones 9 and 10. This winter-blooming tree, that can grow to 12 feet, is much less specific about soil conditions than G. jasminoides however cannot tolerate frost. With age, it reveals more vigor and blossoms more profusely. Some of the prominent G. jasminoides cultivars come grafted to G. thunbergia rootstock, believed to enable them better absorption of soil nutrients to create larger blooms. Varieties such as “Vietchii” and “Mystery” can continue to blossom in the winter, if the weather stays warm.
Blooming gardenias are a versatile addition to several landscaping plans. One petite variety (G. jasminoides “Radicans”), which doesn’t exceed 12 inches high, excels as a ground cover. Gardenias make decent container plants, either on a patio or inside in a brightly lit southern window. Clipping a specimen gardenia into a topiary is even possible. To enjoy the flowers’ lovely fragrance, plant gardenias close to outdoor living spaces. Moon gardens, which includes plants with white flowers or silvery foliage planted to catch the moonlight on summer nights, often comprise gardenias for their shimmer, as well as their perfume.