Spring Bloomer 6 – Gardenia

Gardenia shrubs are hugely popular with gardeners because of their wonderfully fragrant flowers and glossy, bright, evergreen foliage which is attractive all year long. The gardenia is a heat loving shrub and will grow very well when planted and cared for properly. Growing gardenias in Arizona is one of the more successful landscaping shrubs you can choose. It takes preparation and choosing the right place in your landscape to put the gardenia and knowing how to care for it.

Choosing The Right Gardenia

The gardenia can play different roles in your garden and landscape. They grow to different widths and heights, so considering what role your want it to play will help you with choosing the right gardenia for your yard. All gardenias feature the wonderful fragrant flowers, however there can be differences between when they will bloom and how big their mature size will be.

If you want the gardenia to be the crowning jewel of your flora you will need to plan plenty of room for a larger variant to stretch out and grow. Some varieties of gardenia only mature to be a low, tidy plant that is well used to edge a flower bed or walkway. The Everblooming Gardenia only matures to 4 feet high and can be a wonderful boarder or walkway plant. In contrast the Cape Jasimine Gardenia can grow to a massive 8 feet wide, and just as tall.

The Right Shrub In the Right Zone


Plants are divided into the geographical zones that they grow best in. This is usually printed on the plant label or container. If you are unsure of either the zone you live in, or what zone a particular plant grows in, as your nursery professional.

Arizona is a large state that covers a few different zones based on geography and topography. Knowing your zone will help you choose the right types for your garden. Most gardenias grow well in zone 9, which covers a large portion of Southern Arizona. Northern Arizona includes zones 8, 7, 6, and in very small areas zone 5. Choose plants that are rated for your area and you will see greater success.

Some professional landscapers or passionate gardeners choose a variety of gardenias that have different bloom times. This means that there are more days per year where the landscape will have that wonderful aroma. When done properly, you can have blooming gardenia all the way from May through August.

Choosing The Right Place To Plant

Even when you have chosen the right shrub for your zone, where your plant it in your landscape can affect how it will grow. There are three main considerations for choosing the right place to plant your gardenia. These are which zone you are in, the soil quality, controlling moisture content, and how much light the plant will receive.

Knowing The Soil

The pH balance of the soil is particularly important for the successful growing of the gardenia. You will want the pH to be between 5.0 and 6.5. This is considered a slight acidic soil which might not be compatible with other plants in your landscape, or be naturally present in your native soil. Soil testing kits should be used in preparation for the planting of gardenias to measure the pH of the soil and to know if or how much adjustment needs to be done. If your pH is too high you can add sulfur to your soil. There are different types of sulfur available at local nurseries. Soil pH should be done months in advance if possible. If the soil is excessively sandy or filled with clay deposits you will want to amend the soil with plenty of organic compost. Be sure to test the soil where you going to plant your gardenia, since the quality of soil varies throughout your yard, especially near the foundation of homes.

Knowing The Moisture

Well draining soil and consistent watering is absolutely necessary for the gardenia. These are not drought tolerant shrubs and will not happily wait for the next monsoon season for their water. Soaking the soil isn’t an option either; soggy roots can cause serious problems with gardenias. The compost you add to the soil will help retain the water needed while allowing the rest of the water to drain away.

Setting up soaking hoses around the gardenias that are on timers will help take the guess work out of keeping track of watering the gardenia. This means one inch of water per week.  Clearly Arizona doesn’t always get that from rain, so be prepared to make sure they get just what they need, and don’t overwater.

Knowing The Daily Light

While the gardenia thrives in heat and light in Arizona full sun all day isn’t a good idea. It is best to protect the gardenia from the intense heat and afternoon direct sunlight. This means choosing sites that are on the north or east facing exposures. That will help get the morning light while only allowing some midday sunlight and be protected for the afternoon.

When To Plant The Gardenia

The best time to plant the gardenia is when temperatures are moderate. This means in the fall or spring. When planting in higher elevations or Northern Arizona it is best to plant the gardenia in the spring so the root system will be developed before the fall and colder days.

Gardenias like to be planted a little high compared to the surface of your soil. This means digging a hole as wide and deep as the root ball. However make sure you firmly pack in around 4 inches of soil at the bottom of the hole before you place the plant in the ground. Place the soil from the hole you dug back in around the root ball and cover the section that stands above the soil. Complete the planting by adding a layer of mulch compost. Make sure that it isn’t placed touching the stem of your gardenia. Apply the mulch every year to help prevent harsh temperatures or weeds from affecting your gardenia.

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