Gardenia Care

Beautiful gardenia bloom with healthy leaves.

Yellow leaves on a small leaf gardenia

In our area gardenias have had a rough winter. An early freeze really hurt many plants, and some even had their stems split. Then another set of warm days and another freeze is playing havoc with some folks plants, like my neighbors. Then, last week my son sent me the picture above and wanted to know what type of fertilizer he needed to apply to get rid of the yellow leaves on his plants. They had beautiful foliage and flowers all last summer and fall. First and foremost I think it is too early to do anything to encourage gardenias to start growing again. If you stimulate new growth now there is a very good chance they will get killed by cold weather. In fact we are predicted weather in the 20’s in the next few days. Once we are in spring and temperatures are not predicted to be in the 20’s is the time to help those gardenias with yellow leaves. Our area is full of clay soils, and many times we plant in soils mixed with clay. The reason for the yellow leaves is that the plants are suffering from iron deficiency. The simplest way to correct this is to dissolve a tablespoon of epsom salts in a gallon of water and apply per plant. Repeat this several times when the plants start putting out their spring foliage. This is the easiest way this can be handled. But if you want to add iron to your soil to correct the problem, you can buy products that do this at your local garden center. As for cold damaged plants, you need to leave them alone until the new foliage begins to appear on the plants. Then you will know which branches have been killed by the cold or damaged to the extent that they need to be removed. Once the dead foliage is removed then shape the plant so it will grow back to be an attractive plant. Encourage new stems and foliage with a light application of 15-0-15 every month in the spring. If the damage is so bad you don’t think the plants will recover and be attractive, you might want to remove and replace.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

2 thoughts on “Gardenia Care

  1. John I have some gardenia plants that are blooming butI am seeing a white powderlike growth om some of them. some one told me to mix some dish washing liquid and water and wash them then rince good.. I don’t want to kill them. What is that white stuff/ is it a germ of some kind/ what do I need to do/ Help! I am Patsypurrr1@yahoo.com

    • White flies and they will get worse. Spraying on dish washing soap my work but I have not tried it. Use an all purpose insecticide spray that will control white flies and apply accordingly.

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