The gardenia, also called cape jasmine, is an evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 2 to 8 feet and produces large fragrant flowers. The plant is hardy to plant in USDA growing zones 9 and 10, but can be grown outdoors in Virginia in a container as long as it is wintered indoors. The plant grows best with a daytime temperature of 68 to 74 degrees F and nighttime temperature of 60 degrees F.
Plant the gardenia in a container with bottom drainage holes that is 1 to 2 inches wider in diameter than the rootball. Place a layer of potting soil at the bottom of the container and sprinkle a handful of blood meal on top.
Set the gardenia plant into the container and gently pack potting soil around the rootball, making sure there are no air pockets. Water the plant well to pack the soil and provide moisture for root establishment.
Water the gardenia several times a week to keep the soil moist during the growing season. Do not allow the plant to dry out, which will cause stress. Do not overwater, which will increase the risk of disease.
Fertilize the gardenia plants each month from April through November with an acidic fertilizer. Water the plant well after applying fertilizer.
Monitor the plants for the presence of aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites. Wash the bugs off the plants with a sharp stream of water. Spray insecticidal soap on the underside of the leaves to prevent additional problems with the pests.
Winter the plants indoors by placing them in a well-lit area. Set them on a tray filled with stones and water to keep the humidity level high around them. Do not set the plants directly in water.