Up the gardenia path | In the Green Room

There are few things more crisp and summery than a freshly-bloomed gardenia, stark white against a deep green glossy backdrop of foliage.

It’s enough to make me think about taking up tennis, and drinking some pink thing with gin and cucumbers. 

Across the city hundreds of gardenia buds are waiting eagerly in back gardens.

They anticipate just the right amount of warmth to unfurl their neatly folded petals.

In spring I get sentimental, can you tell?

Of course, any gardenia-lover wants to see their plants prosper in the warmer months, and there are just a few things to be sure of to make sure these slightly fussy flowers flourish.

Gardenias originated in Asia, where the conditions are quite different to WA: the sun is less harsh, and water and nutrients are in abundance.

Make sure your gardenia is planted somewhere it can take full advantage of the morning sun, without being blasted by the heat of midday and the afternoon, or its leaves will burn.

This can also be achieved in a western aspect by erecting a temporary shade cloth, or if they are in a pot, moving them to somewhere more protected.

It is important that gardenias are not allowed to completely dry out: water them deeply every couple of days, especially in warm, dry, or windy weather.

Water the plant by placing the hose near the base, to avoid getting water on the leaves or flowers that can bounce and spread disease and fungus between plants.

Perhaps the most challenging thing with growing gardenias in WA is getting the soil and nutrients right.

Gardenias are notorious acid-lovers, requiring a pH of 5-6.

This is a problem in our limestone-ridden state, and the best way to reconcile this is to keep them potted, where the soil can be controlled.

If they’re in the ground, however, be sure to mix plenty of compost in (mushroom compost, coffee grinds and cow manure are good), and spread a layer of pine bark or lupin mulch over the garden bed in spring.

Feed with an azalea/gardenia/camellia food, which should provide the correct trace elements for these kinds of plants.

However, if it’s more practical to use an all-purpose fertilizer, you may want to add trace elements yourself, to avoid the iron and magnesium deficiencies that can lead to chlorosis (leaf-yellowing).

Happy gardenia-ing!

Do you have a gardening question for Jess? Send your queries to jess.cocker ill@fairfaxmedia.com.au