By Kate Karam, Monrovia
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia
If you live in a warmer zone, gardenias are just one of the much-envied garden treasures you can grow. How to describe the intoxicating, haunting scent when this flower unfurls its petals? Floral like jasmine? Sweet as orange blossom honey? Warm and sunny? Its fragrance is complex, but its appeal is simple. Once planted in partial to full sun, in the organically rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soil they love (yes, they have needs) and given a few years to settle, they bloom on repeat from late spring through early summer. But what if you could have a gardenia that can perform even better?
Gardenia varieties are improved when grafted onto Gardenia thunbergii rootstock due to its superior root system and its resistance to root-knot nematodes*, a key benefit to the southeastern part of the United States. This vigorous rootstock is also more efficient at soil nutrient uptake. We grow a range of grafted gardenias that you can find at local garden centers in zones 8–11.
If you've had troubles successfully growing gardenias, consider trying one of these four varieties. You might be surprised at how well they take and how quickly you are rewarded with those shiny leaves and perfumed blooms. Oh, and if you need inspiration for using your gardenias in cut flower arrangements, here are a few ideas.
*While most nematodes–translucent, unsegmented worms–are beneficial, a few species of these are plant parasites.
Fragrant white blooms are larger than any other gardenia and the first to bloom. A superb evergreen landscape accent or container plant for courtyards or patio. Up to 8' tall and 6' wide. Partial to full sun. Zones 8–11.
This most popular, upright gardenia is an excellent single specimen capable of scenting an entire courtyard or patio garden. Shady foundation? Wow. Up to 5′ tall and 3′ wide. Partial to full sun. Zones 8–11.
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