Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Maddening Gardenia

I know a lot of gardeners have trouble growing gardenias.  People try all kinds of advice to get those things to hold their blooms, grow, or even flower.  Or even just: not die!

Now, I never tried to grow a gardenia before I moved here so I'm not positive, but I truly truly believe the trouble is that despite what those evil lying plant tags say, they (gardenias) actually have a very limited growing climate.  If I had to guess I'd say they like:  humid as you can make it, zones 8a-10a, warm nights, part shade, crappy sandy soil that drains faster than a pasta strainer.  Thats what they like.  And even the part shade isn't that important, but the other things are.

Now why do I believe this?  Namely:


Yes, thats right, this is growing in the 'hell strip' outside of my next door neighbors house, beside the cement.  There's another one in a similar hell strip situation around the corner,  in half day sun living it up too.  Nobody waters these.  Nobody fertilizes, trims, or cares for them in any way.  I suspect the garbage collectors regularly smack em up with the bins.  And they look just as good as the two I actually throw some water on every so often in my garden.  Around the block a lady has them in patio pots in full sun and those suckers bloom themselves silly.


So here is my advice... if these plants grow literally like weeds in places they like (they compete with the oleanders and crape myrtles for the hell strip spaces) and you are struggling like crazy: it is not meant to be.   These plants, I suspect, have a narrower band of adaptability in reality that plant sellers would have you believe. For me, because of these same climatic conditions I can not grow most spring bulbs, I can't grow lilacs (or I can they just won't flower...sound familiar?), I probably can't grow half of the things that are in commercial garden existence.  So sure, try them out, but trust me, if they aren't working: its not you, its them.  They honestly don't care how nice you are to them, they are extremely picky about things you can't control.

I am coming to some of these same conclusions myself over what is just not meant to be.. it isn't worth wasting my time with in my Charleston climate.  Because no matter what zone you are in, there is SOOOO much that will grow!




18 comments:

  1. Bravo, Jess. Very well-put. Why fuss and fume over what you CAN'T grow? Instead focus on what you CAN grow and get over it. I've killed at least 6 (hardy) Gardenias in as many years. It's futile. From now on when I see them blooming at the store I'm going to stop, lift the plant to my nose and breathe. Then I'm going to set the plant back where I found it and move on. Even though your lovely photos make me want to run out and give it another go, your words are wise.

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  2. This is so true!! Thanks for visiting.

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  3. I agree! We try and try here, but they never look good. A few of my neighbors have them in full sun, and they bloom but have no leaves. So I thought I would be clever and planted mine in part shade. Well, mine has leaves but no blooms. Roses are easier for me :)

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  4. Oh my, that's funny. I always assumed they wanted to be pampered. I say that after pampering a number of them to an untimely end years ago. I always figured the humidity was too low here, which was probably part of the problem, but it seems I also killed them with kindness. Who knew they'd make such a fabulous hell strip plant where you are!?

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  5. You are 100% correct. I get really upset with my gardenias that just don't do as well as the neglected ones I see around. But I keep trying. I like the shrub itself, so I persevere. And you are so wise ... planting the right plant is trick!

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  6. So true! I had gardenias when I lived in SC and they grew fabulously. Considering I was a novice gardener at the time, I guarantee you I didn't do anything special with them. I think I just dug a hole and plopped them in. I don't waste my time with plants that I know will hate my garden. There are too many other options. :o) BTW - where in VA did you live??

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  7. When we first moved here, I asked someone about a plant that appeared to be dead in late winter. He said not to worry - this is Charleston - everything grows here! And most does - but you are right - not all! It is OK with my husband that our gardenias don't grow. We visited Middleton Place when they were in full bloom and he couldn't get out fast enough he was so allergic!

    Love your blog!

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  8. I so agree Jess. If a plant isn't thriving I'll give it a chance and move it because there are different soils and microclimates in different parts of the garden. But if they don't cut it, they're shown no mercy - it's either another gardener who wants to adopt them or the compost. Because of this policy I never pay much for plants I buy.

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  9. everyone and everything loves Charleston. My gardenia thrives here in the Pee Dee region with little effort...my Mother carried them in her wedding and I wore a single bloom in my hair for my own. Will always be one of my favorites

    Enjoy your blog

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  10. So true Jess...I have come to that conclusion as well...out with the fussy things and in with those that are meant to grow here.

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  11. Long ago I eliminated (read let die) all the plants in my garden that needed any kind of special care. There are so many wonderful plants out there that why struggle with unsuitable ones?

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  12. Thanks for the comments everyone! I am slowly getting there, and switching my 'mind's eye' garden. For me its tall phlox, this year, I'm just giving up. I.DONT.CARE.ANYMORE! I just keep experimenting.

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  13. This was a funny look at these temperamental plants. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. I have tried to grow them numerous times as houseplants and the humidity was always the problem. I sprayed that sucker endlessly too. Gardenias are one of my favorite plants and I only ever got one to live more than two years. With the way the climate is changing, we may have Gardenia here someday. That is the key too for growing what WANTS to grow. I think many of our staple plants are not going to be happy in the future as the weather gets warmer, dryer, or wetter, depending on where one lives. Most of the plants in my garden grow like weeds, but I can see stress on some of them already this year with lack of snow and rain fall.

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  14. I love your attitude. I try to pick things that will flourish here - it makes me happy, it makes the pollinators happy, and it makes the plants happy! The rest I just chalk up to "visiting someone else's place" plants. :D

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  15. Hi Jess, Now that I live in the south, I hate gardenias! A bunch of sick ones came with my house, and new "friends" keep donating THEIR sickly plants, thinking I'll do better, since I garden a lot - not at all. Your post gives me the courage to rip 'em out - thanks!

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  16. Hmm, the gardenia I planted six years ago has less leaves than when I started it and has never bloomed! Time to free up some valuable gardening space?

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  17. I planted a gardenia last Summer and decided on one of those really cold nights to cover it and it was never the same, so out it went :(((

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  18. Hello, new follower here and I’d like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/clever-chicks-blog-hop-15-vetericyn.html



    I hope you can make it!



    Cheers,

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

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