The gardenia, or cape jasmine, is a hardy evergreen shrub that originated in China. This fastidious shrub has more than 200 species variations, each with a varying growth rate from slow to vigorous. These shrubs produce glossy, rich green foliage and bloom fragrant flowers in an array of colors from whites to purplish hues. Though the many species variations produce varying visual impacts, the care and demands for all are quite similar. Gardenias are heavy feeders that demand hot days, cool nights and moist soil with the perfect pH level.
Choose a planting location for your gardenia that receives a full day's sunlight with some midday shade, as recommended by Gardening Know How. Ensure that the location is well-drained and that the pH levels rest between 5.0 and 6.0. Complete a soil test to ensure the appropriate levels. Remove a plug of soil from the location that is at least 6 feet below the surface for the best results.
Plant your gardenia bush in the early spring or late fall, as recommended by Garden.org. Use a shovel or tiller to prepare the area and loosen any compacted soil. Remove any weeds or grass from the area to eliminate competition with your gardenia bush.
Dig a hole for your gardenia bush that is about twice the size of its root ball and just as deep. Position the gardenia in the center of the hole and backfill the hole halfway. Irrigate the hole to remove any air pockets. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil so that the final planting bed is slightly elevated from the surrounding surface. Irrigate your gardenia again to remove air pockets and promote a good establishment.
Ensure that your gardenia bush receives about an inch of water each week from rainfall or irrigation. Adjust your irrigation levels for periods of rainfall and drought. Avoid overwatering as the gardenia does not tolerate wet feet.
Protect your gardenia bush. Apply a layer of mulch around the bush to reduce the potential of weed invasion and promote even soil moisture levels. Keep the mulch layer between 2 and 4 inches, as recommended by Garden.org.
Satisfy your heavy feeder with a bi-weekly fertilization. Use a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to feed your gardenia bush. Use an acid-based fertilizer on your gardenias about once every 90 days.