Gardenia Floribunda syn. Jasminoides
The most common species is gardenia jasminoides, so called because of the scent of its flowers, as intense as that of jasmine. It forms a beautiful dense and compact shrub, well branched, with dark leaves, with very marked veins, quite leathery; it is the most common species, both as a botanical species and as a variety cultivar or hybrid. The origins of this gardenia are Asian, and in particular it is from China and Japan that these plants reached Europe, some centuries ago.
The flowers are big, double or very double, and have fleshy petals, velvety to the touch. The scent is almost excessive, especially if we have a plant with many flowers in a small room. The flowering is continuous, from spring to autumn, it can stop in case of drought or very high temperatures; typically the gardenias that we find in the nursery are forced to bloom at any time of year, even in mid-winter, to make them attractive to sale.
A gardenia bought in the middle of winter, typically on arrival at home, will lose most of its buds, trying to re-establish the natural cycle of the seasons.
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This species is native to the Hawaiian islands, where it forms ample shrubs, tall up to a couple of metres, very long-lived, which tend to become erect, not much compact, and to empty in the lower part; the leaves are big, elongated, very coriaceous and rigid, evergreen, of dark green colour, glossy; for the whole year, they produce, at the apex of the branches, small perfumed flowers, formed by a tubular part, which divides in six or seven lobes; the flowers are candid, and vaguely recall the flowers of the tropical jasmines.
Little diffused species in cultivation, it is protected in its origin places because the climate changes render it at risk of extinction. The flowers are followed by big fruits, which resemble by shape the kiwis, which contain the fertile seeds.
Also known as the Tiare flower, Tahitian gardenia is widespread throughout Polynesia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean; despite its name, this plant is not present in Tahiti. It produces large evergreen shrubs, compact and dense, with well erect and well branched stems; the foliage is bright green, persistent, oval in shape, slightly leathery; the flowers are tubular, with six or seven lobes at the apex, very perfumed, blooming all year round, but in particular in spring and autumn.
The perfume of the Tiare flowers is well known also in Europe, because they are utilized for producing the oil of monoi, that is, an oil prepared by allowing the flowers to macerate in the coconut oil, utilized then as restructuring product for the hair and in the sun creams.
Species native to southern Africa; it produces an ample shrub, with a rigid erect central stem, which can reach the two or three metres of height, which carries several short ramifications; the bark is grey or white and smooth; the leaves are oval, quite coriaceous, smooth and of a bright green colour; the flowers are tubular, very long, and at will they open in eight to ten lobes, of white colour, even when withering.
The flowers are very perfumed, and bloom in summer; the flowers are followed by the oval fruits, of green-grey colour, which can remain for months on the plants. Plant much diffused in South Africa, where it is also cultivated as hedge or as imposing single specimen.
Cultivating the Gardenia in an apartment
Gardenias are very common in Italy, both as indoor plants and as garden plants; the most common varieties come almost all from Gardenia jasminoides, and therefore have the needs of a tropical plant, accustomed to a climate not too hot, but not too resistant to cold, and with high demands regarding the humidity environment.
Clearly, the greatest difficulties that can be found in Italy growing a gardenia, relate to water, and especially that present in the air: unfortunately during the hot Mediterranean summers, and in winter in the apartment (because of the heating system) the ambient humidity is very low. The result is usually gardenias that vegetate quite well, but that remain completely devoid of flowers for many months. Despite this, the beauty of the plants, has led them to settle in many houses and gardens.
Gardenias are acidophilic plants, so first of all they need a fresh, quite rich, and acid soil, specially prepared, mixing peat, a little sand and fertilizer; in the nursery we can also find already some soil for acidophilic properly mixed and fertilized. Typically the apartment gardenias are kept small, because the cultivation in pots does not allow the shrub to develop at will, even specimens of some years then do not exceed one meter in height.
They find space in a well-lit area of the house, but do not move to direct sunlight, which can cause excessively high temperatures, and especially air too dry. Let’s avoid placing our gardenia near heat sources, but not even close to a door or a window that are opened often, to avoid that it is subject to temperature changes.
Watering should be very regular: throughout the year our efforts should tend to maintain a slightly moist soil, but without exceeding and without drowning the roots, so let’s water every two or three days, waiting for the water to dry between two waterings, water that must be free of limestone, or we will encourage the development of chlorosis ferric.
It is essential to keep also the air fresh and humid, vaporizing very often the foliage, but avoiding the flowers; therefore, let’s spray the leaves when the plant has no buds; when, on the contrary, the flowers appear, let’s avoid the sprays, and, rather, let’s place the plant in a wide saucer, with gravel on the bottom, and constantly some centimetres of water, which will progressively evaporate. The fertilizer is supplied every 15 days, choosing one for acidophilic flowering plants.
Cultivating gardenia in the garden
Gardenias can survive even short, not excessively intense frosts; there are also particularly resistant varieties, but generally they do not survive frosts with temperatures below -10°C. If we live in an area with decidedly very cold winters, we will have to cover our gardenia in winter or cultivate it in pots, in order to be able to move it in the greenhouse during the cold season.
It is cultivated in a good soil for acidophilic plants, fresh and well drained, so that it is not subject to water stagnation. These plants in Italian gardens must find a place similar to the undergrowth, characterized by a bright, cool, humid half shade and without excessive temperature changes. So, let’s avoid very sunny or windy positions, and prefer a flowerbed leaning against the house, which is quite shady.
Watering will be regular, intensifying them in the summer period, and thinning them out during the winter, when the plant usually needs little care, seen the cold and naturally humid climate. In order to increase the ambient humidity, especially during the summer months, we shall have to vaporize also in the garden the foliage of the gardenia, avoiding to touch the flowers, which otherwise become brown and wither quickly.
Often also the specimens of gardenia we buy among the indoor plants in nurseries can survive also in the garden; it is clear that they need to be able to adapt slowly to the climate in the open air; therefore, if we wish to buy a gardenia in the garden, we should avoid planting it in autumn or winter, because with great probability it will have lived its first months in nurseries with a warm and humid climate, and therefore it will not be immediately able to withstand the cold.
So, rather, let’s buy a gardenia in the spring, so that we can accustom it to the climate of our garden during the long summer months.
Pests and diseases
The most typical problem with gardenias is the fall of flowers: it happened to everyone to see a beautiful gardenia in the nursery, full of buds, and to have bought it hoping for a long and fragrant flowering; once we got home, we saw the buds darken and fall irreparably, within a few days.
This behaviour is due to the great difference in ambient humidity between the air of the nursery and that of the house, which is usually very dry; in the nursery it is possible to leave large tanks full of water to evaporate slowly; in addition to this, the presence of many plants nearby creates a climate more similar to that of a rainforest, very different from that present in the house, especially in summer, but also when the air conditioner or the heating are in action.
If we want a gardenia full of flowers, we must remember to guarantee it the correct ambient humidity. Another typical problem of gardenias, and of all acidophilic plants, is chlorosis, or gardenia with yellow leaves: an acidophilic plant, watered with water from the aqueduct, tends to turn yellow during the months; and this yellowing worsens despite our care, which usually consists in fertilizing, increasing watering, moving the plant to a brighter place.
Ferric chlorosis is due to the lack of bioavailable iron in the soil, often triggered by an excess of limestone in the water of the watering. To prevent this disorder from arising, it is essential to water the gardenias with demineralised water, or with tap water left to rest and decant for at least one day. Even the right fertilizer and periodic repottings with a good soil for acidophilic, can certainly help a lot.
The Gardenias propagate with great facility by cutting, utilizing robust branches, which have not carried flowers, and taking them in spring or autumn; the small branches must be about ten centimetres long, and the leaves in the lower part must be removed from them, and the leaves in the upper part reduced; when we take a cutting we utilize a well sharpened shear, in order to make a nice clean cut, without crushing the thin branch.
The cuttings are then to be placed in the rooting hormone, and then in a tray of cuttings, filled with good soil for acidophilic plants, mixed with little sand. Let’s keep the soil humid, in a sheltered place, till when we will see the first small shoots from the cuttings we have prepared.
The gardenias produce also small oval fruits, which contain fertile seeds; these small seeds can be sown, in autumn or at the end of winter, in a warm bed, keeping them humid and in a warm climate till the germination. The gardenias are quite slow in their development, it is therefore much more interesting to propagate them by cutting, because from seed it will take years before obtaining a small shrub full of flowers.
Gardenia jasminoides: Gardenia with yellow leaves…what are the causes?
One of the problems that most frequently occurs to those who decide to place a gardenia plant at home is the yellowing of the leaves. It can often happen, in fact, that a few weeks after bringing a gardenia plant into the house, the leaves begin to turn yellow apparently for no reason.
In fact, there may be many reasons for this, and in this paragraph we will try to list them briefly. One of the causes can certainly be over-watering. If you exaggerate with the amount of water in fact the roots begin to have problems of radical asphyxiation, a problem that quickly results in a yellowing of the leaves due to the difficulties of vegetation of the plant.
Another problem that can cause widespread yellowing of gardenia leaves is the choice of the wrong soil or cultivation medium. The gardenia in fact is an acidophilic plant that needs a soil with a low pH to grow optimally. With a different pH the plant has difficulties in absorbing nutrients and consequently the leaves turn yellow.
- The Gardenia plant is native to China, it is highly esteemed by growers, and for this reason it turns out to be
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