Following on from my last article concerning fragrant houseplants I think the Gardenia has to rate fairly high within this category. It is not one of easiest of indoor plants to keep but, get it right and the results can be very rewarding.
Gardenias, which originate in China, have dark green very glossy leaves and highly fragrant waxy white flowers.
The secrets to success with this plant are even temperatures and careful watering. Ideally the night temperature needs to be around 14c or 15c for the buds to successfully form. Bud-drop is generally down to too low temperatures or not enough light although erratic watering can also cause the buds to shed. Aim to keep the compost moist at all times and use water during winter that has stood indoors for a while so that it is not freezing cold. Ideally use soft water or you may find the foliage starts to turn yellow. Also mist spray the foliage regularly to increase air humidity.
After flowering gardenias need to be pruned back by about half in order to keep them bushy.
During summer, established plants can be placed outside. Make sure they are protected from the full force of the sun and from slug attacks.
Gardenias can be propagated by taking stem cuttings, about 3” long, in spring from non-flowering shoots. Insert the cuttings into pots containing an equal mix (by volume) of peat and sand. Ideally you will need a propagator to provide the necessary bottom heat for the cuttings to root successfully. The young plants will need their growing tips pinching out regularly to encourage a strong bushy plant to develop.
Persevere with this scented beauty and you will be richly rewarded.