The gardenia (Gardenia augusta) features creamy white petals and shiny, dark green foliage. Its blossoms emit a sweet fragrance and bloom throughout spring and summer. The bushes make attractive hedges or privacy screens and can be planted singly or on groups. While gardenias provide many joys, they can pose problems for the novice gardener if not given adequate care and proper planting.
Gardenias prefer an acidic soil with a pH of 5 to 6.5. Before planting your gardenia bush, check your soil pH with a home test kit. To lower the pH to the gardenia's preferred range, add 1.2 oz. ground rock sulfur per square foot (for sandy soils) or 3.6 oz. ground rock sulfur per square foot (all other soils). This will lower the pH by one point. Gardenias grown in a soil that is too alkaline will need constant care.
Gardenias are a tropical shrub that can be injured by exposure to cold. Floridata notes they're only suitable for planting in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.
Gardenias can grow in containers or in the ground. They prefer a moist soil and are not drought tolerant, but can grow in either part shade or full sun. Gardenia cultivars vary greatly in size with some reaching up to 6 feet in height, so choose a site that will allow your gardenia enough room to mature.
Dig a hole twice the size of the gardenia bush root ball. Remove rocks, sticks and weeds from the hole. Jab your shovel at the bottom of the hole to loosen the soil there; this will help the gardenia bush adapt to planting. Remove the gardenia from its container and break apart the root ball by squeezing it with your hands. Unwind circled roots before planting and trim broken roots with clippers. Place the gardenia in the hole at the same depth as it was planted in its container; cover over the roots with soil. Water the newly planted gardenia until the ground becomes saturated. Then, water twice weekly for the first six weeks after planting, always until the ground becomes saturated.