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Common Gardenia Growing Questions (Solved!)

Common Gardenia Growing Questions (Solved!)

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Paul Brown

Gardenias are beautiful plants that can be planted indoors or outside, they’re highly adaptable and can flourish in a variety of environments. They’re easy to grow, but require careful attention and care to stay healthy. It’s essential to plant your Gardenia in the proper soil conditions and in a location where they can receive an adequate amount of sunlight.

Gardenias are easy to grow, but they require careful maintenance to continue to survive and stay healthy. They love acidic soil and grow best in mild, humid climates. They need sunlight, but they can grow indoors. It’s possible to grow a Gardenia in clay soil if it has organic matter mixed in.

The remainder of this article answers common questions about growing a Gardenia plant in much greater detail, including the following:

  • Difficulty levels and the care that is required in getting a Gardenia to develop.
  • The best location to plant it.
  • The best PH levels for its soil.
  • The sun and shade levels that are required for optimal Gardenia growth.
  • Common problems when growing a Gardenia.
  • Whether or not it can grow in clay soil.

Are Gardenias Hard To Grow?

Gardenias aren’t hard to grow, but they need a lot of attention, maintenance, and proper care. They require a relatively controlled environment with a precise PH level, soil temperature regulation, a moist and humid environment, mild climate, afternoon shade, and a lot of water and moisture.

It’s best to plan for and consider all of these factors before you plant a Gardenia so that it can reach its optimal growth.

Gardenias can grow in various locations and climates as long as you pay attention to where you plant them and how you take care of them. The plant can grow indoors in a container or pot, outdoors in the ground, or as a bush.

They are relatively adaptable to their location, which makes them a great indoor plant. 

However, they have particular soil needs and climate conditions to grow their best. Thankfully, you can emulate many of these climate conditions indoors so that the Gardenia grows as well as it would in its natural climate.

They are best planted in the fall or early spring when the weather is mild. Be sure to plant Gardenias in well-drained, acidic soil and provide them with plenty of sunlight, organic matter, and compost or mulch. 

Difficulties You Might Face Trying To Grow a Gardenia

Even if you’ve done everything right you may find that your Gardenia still won’t grow. There are several things that you might face when growing your plant. Let’s look at some of these and why they might be happening.

Buds Dropping

A common problem for people trying to grow Gardenias is the plant’s buds fall off before they bloom. Falling buds might be due to over-fertilizing, planting your Gardenia in the wrong climate, over or underwatering your plant, inadequate soil drainage, or not giving your plant enough sunlight.

Gardenia Won’t Bloom

If your Gardenia fails to bloom, it could be due to one of the problems stated above. In addition, the PH balance could be too high for your plant. Test the PH of the soil and ensure that it’s between 4.5 and 6.5, and if it’s not, you’ll need to readjust the balance.

Be sure to give your Gardenia the nutrients it needs by providing organic matter and correct fertilization. You might also need to prune your plant to prepare it for its next buds.


A disease might stunt or inhibit your Gardenia’s growth. However, most Gardenia diseases are treatable.

According to a study at Clemson University, several common diseases to Gardenia plants, such as root rot and powdery mildew, are caused by different fungi. Stem canker and nematodes are other common diseases that can be solved by pruning and disinfecting and persistent fertilization and mulching, respectively (source).

Are Gardenias Easy To Care For?

Gardenias are relatively easy to care for, but they require regular supervision and maintenance. They’re not a plant that you can neglect and expect them to continue to grow. They need constant water and might need to be pulled in and out of the sun.

Paying careful attention to your Gardenia will keep your plant healthy. You can quickly remedy most problems with Gardenias if you catch them early. Watching your plant’s leaves and moisture levels will help you spot signs of sickness, disease, or soil issues. 

Common Challenges You Might Face Caring for a Gardenia

Some challenges to caring for your Gardenia might include pests and weeds. They’re prone to various bugs, most commonly spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, and different scale insects that could inhibit their growth. 

However, many solutions can protect your Gardenia against pests, such as mixing vinegar and dish soap to ward off bugs and weeds.

As mentioned before, diseases might attack your Gardenia. But if it begins to die or shows signs of sickness, many remedies are available to bring it back to life. You can solve most problems by removing the affected area, disinfecting it, purchasing a fungicide, adding mulch or fertilizer, or correcting the soil’s PH levels.

Regularly check for bugs and prune your Gardenia as necessary to keep it healthy and flourishing.

Are Gardenias Acid-Loving Plants? 

Gardenias are acid-loving plants, as they grow best in acidic soil with a PH balance ranging between 4.5 and 6.5. Typically, you’ll find acidic soil in areas with a higher rainfall, which leads to more moist soil.

In contrast, alkaline soil is commonly found in areas with less rain, resulting in drier soil and making it difficult for plants to consume the water. 

So it’s no surprise that Gardenias often don’t grow well if planted near concrete because of the alkaline condition of the soil. If the ground becomes too alkaline for the plant, consider adding more compost or using a soil acidifier, which can change the soil’s PH level.

If you think your Gardenias might not be getting all the acidity they need, check their leaves. If the leaves are yellow and you can see visible green veins, they have a poor appearance, or you see other signs of stunted growth, the PH balance might be off in your Gardenia’s soil. 

To remedy this, you can use vinegar as a safe and effective way to help acidify the plant’s soil. HGTV recommends mixing a gallon (3.79 L) of water with a cup (128 g) of plain white vinegar and spritzing the combination on your Gardenia to help it spring back to life (source).

Acidic fertilizer is another easy way to change the acidity in your Gardenia’s soil. You can also add different types of mulch around the Gardenia bush that’ll help lower the PH in the ground. Using various composts and even simply adding sulfur to the soil can help alleviate a soil’s high PH level. 

Where Do Gardenias Grow Well? 

Gardenias grow well in humid, moist areas and mild climates where the weather is between 60 and 70℉ (15.56°C and 21.11°C) and where they can receive full sun. After all, they’re native to the tropical spheres of Eastern Asia—mainly Japan, southern China, and Taiwan.

Gardenias don’t grow well in harsh environments, like dry and hot summers or freezing winters. So, it’s best to plant a Gardenia in the spring or fall when the weather is mild. 

If your environment’s weather isn’t conducive to growing a Gardenia plant outdoors, you could produce one inside in a container or pot. To emulate a humid climate, you can spritz your plant with water to help preserve its moisture.

Other tactics to keep Gardenias moist include:

  • Using a humidifier.
  • Covering the plant with wood chips.
  • Setting it over a dish of water and gravel.
  • Keeping it well-watered. 

It’s important not to overwater a Gardenia, so you should regularly monitor the soil’s water level. Gardenias prefer damp soil, but they won’t grow well if the ground is wet. So, if you’re planting them outside, make sure they don’t receive an excessive amount of rain or floodwater. 

Gardenias can easily transport indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather for the day. If the weather gets too frigid in the winter, you can bring your Gardenia inside so that it doesn’t freeze. 

A Gardenia planted outside will grow best in an undisturbed area free from other root systems. Too much wind can be damaging to a Gardenia, so it’s best to plant them in a climate that isn’t highly windy or in a shielded area away from any strong winds. 

However, they need good air circulation, which can help protect them from pests, including Spider Mites, Citrus Whiteflies, and others.

Will Gardenias Grow in Shade? 

Gardenias will not grow entirely in the shade. These plants typically grow best in sunlight, with a few exceptions. They can handle more or less direct sunlight and shade depending on the climate a Gardenia grows in.

If the environment is sweltering during the summer months, the sun may singe the Gardenia’s leaves, so it might be best to give the plant some shade during the day. If the weather is cooler, the plant will be able to stay in the sun for longer. 

If you’re growing a Gardenia plant in a pot instead of in the ground outside, it’s best for it to grow in a filtered shade or a well-lit indoor area. Whether growing inside or outdoors, most Gardenias need to be out of the sun in the afternoon, which is usually is when the sun is at its hottest. 

Give your plant some afternoon shade, or provide it with filtered shade all day long.

Will Gardenias Grow in Clay Soil?

Gardenias will grow in clay soil because they easily conform to their environment. However, they grow best in moist and well-drained soil. Because clay soil is naturally composed of small, thin materials, there isn’t much room between the soil particles, meaning it has low porosity.

So, the dirt sticks together and doesn’t drain well. 

A well-drained soil drains at a rate of about 1” (2.54 cm) per hour (source). Clay soil drains at about 1/10” (0.25 cm) or less per hour in comparison. So, if you plant a Gardenia in clay soil, it’s best also to add some organic matter to the dirt. 

The organic matter covers the soil’s particles and helps loosen up the ground, so it isn’t as compact.  

According to the University of Minnesota, organic matter is composed of both living and dead materials in different stages of decomposing (source). These materials can include plant roots and microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. 

Adding organic matter to clay soil will also help regulate the soil’s temperature and provide nutrients for the plant to grow.

To grow a Gardenia in clay soil, be sure to mix in plenty of organic matter so that the soil ratio is about half organic matter and half original soil. You can buy a lot of organic matter at the store in a pre-made mix. 

Or if you want to create your own, you can use animal excrement or various types of compost.

See Plants Dying In Clay Soil: Troubleshooting & Prevention Tips

Final Thoughts

Gardenias are tropical plants that have rich colors and offer delightful fragrances. 

They’re relatively easy to grow, although you might face a few hiccups due to diseases, pests, or improper maintenance and care. These plants require very particular soil environments, climates, and moisture levels to bloom properly. 

Although they prefer acidic, well-drained soil, Gardenia plants can grow in clay soil so long as it’s combined with organic matter to loosen up the soil’s porosity. Paying careful attention to your plant and keeping it supplied with fertilizer, compost, and mulch will help keep it healthy and alive.