There are well over 200 distinct species of gardenia, an evergreen genus of shrubs and short trees. Native mostly to warm and humid sub-tropical regions, gardenias are known for their distinctive and pleasant scents, which are often used in natural botanical perfumes and skin products. Gardenias are extremely delicate, susceptible to disease and easily overwatered, which makes them challenging to maintain.
Caring for Outdoor Gardenias
Select an appropriate planting area for the gardenia, preferably one on the east side of a house or other structure. By doing so, you can make sure the gardenia will get plenty of morning sun but will have protective shade throughout the afternoon. Make sure the location is not under the edge of a structure that will concentrate rain runoff on the plant, which will drench it.
Dig a hole that is about three inches deeper than the root ball of the gardenia and about three times as wide. Place a 1-inch layer of peat moss in the bottom of the hole, then cover the peat moss with a thin layer of acidic potting soil.
Place the root ball of the plant in the center of the hole, then carefully fill in the hole on all sides with acidic potting soil. Cover the surrounding area with a thin layer of mulch.
Water the gardenia lightly every other day from early spring to the middle of fall, when most outdoor gardenias begin to turn dormant. Make sure you factor rainfall into your watering schedule to avoid overwatering. If you're unsure if watering is appropriate, stick your finger through the mulch and into the soil at least an inch, and only water it if the soil feels dry.
Apply water-soluble fertilizer once a month from April through November, deferring to the specific instructions on the brand of fertilizer you use.
Prune the plant with garden shears only after it has fully bloomed.
Caring for Indoor Gardenias
Fill a large planting pot about halfway with acidic soil. Place the plant in the center, then carefully fill the pot in with soil around it.
Place a draining dish somewhere indoors where you can best maintain the plant's ideal temperature conditions, which are about 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and about 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Line the bottom of the dish with gravel or pebbles.
Place the potted gardenia in the dish and water it thoroughly. Just as with outdoor gardenias, you should water the plant about every other day, but you should check for moisture by sticking your finger into the top layer of soil if you have doubts about whether to water. Only water the soil when it is dry to the touch.
Pour a little bit of water into the draining dish as needed to keep water in it at all times, but do not add so much water that it reaches the bottom of the pot. The reason for adding the water is to provide a more humid environment for the plant, and the gravel is there to keep the bottom of the soil and roots from getting soaked. Keep in mind that water will trickle into the dish each time you water the plant.
Fertilize the plant once monthly from April through November using a water-soluble fertilizer designed for indoor plants.
Prune the leaves and buds if desired, but wait until after the plant has fully bloomed.
About this Author
Josh Baum is a freelance writer with extensive experience in advertising and public relations. A graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia School of Journalism, Baum writes targeted, optimized Web copy, print advertisements and broadcast scripts for advertising agencies, publishers and Web developers throughout the United States and Canada. He lives and works in Chicago, ll.