The scent of gardenia is unmistakable
Story by Denise Pugh
The fragrance travels on the wind and comes around the corner quite unexpectedly. The month of June is ushered in by the most intoxicating fragrance. The smell is subtle in the breeze, but as one walks closer to the shrub – a gardenia (G. jasminoides) of course, it is quite robust. Mississippi summers are filled with fragrances like no others, from southern magnolias (M. grandiflora) and gardenias.
If you would like to include this fragrant shrub in your garden, the best time to plant is early spring or fall. Select a site that is protected from the north winds of winter, and one that receives morning sun but afternoon shade. Avoid planting around trees – the competition for water will cause the gardenia to suffer. Dig the hole three times as wide as the root ball but only as deep as the pot.
Once planted, apply a layer of mulch to conserve soil moisture. Water regularly, but assure good drainage. Gardenia enjoys an organic, humusy soil that is slightly acidic. Fertilize in late March and again in June with a plant food for acid-loving plants, fish emulsion, or blood meal. If the leaves begin to turn yellow, I add liquid iron (following the label directions) to the feedings in March and June.
The specimen plant I enjoy is on the south side of my house and enjoys the radiant heat from the brick, but is protected from the north winds and enjoys the high shade of the mature trees across the front of the garden. It blooms steadily for about a month, beginning in early June.
Cut the blooms in the early morning and float in shallow bowls of water throughout your home. June will become a favorite month as you are immersed in the fragrance of this evergreen shrub.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Gardenia, Cape jasmine
Botanical Name: Gardenia jasminoides
Recommended Cultivars: ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ is smaller (2-3 feet tall and wide) and hardy to Zone 7.
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 8-11
Size: 5-6 feet, height and spread
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Color: Ivory white
Type: Evergreen shrub
Light: Morning sun, afternoon shade
Flower: Showy, fragrant, good for cutting
Use: Float blooms in shallow bowls of water throughout your home to bring this summer fragrance indoors.