Gardenia and Michelia for SoCal Desert?

toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)January 3, 2012

I am in Palm Spring area, Z9 and Sunset Z13. Surprisingly, I have a few gardenia doing very well in full sun, bloomed none-stop last spring and summer.

Can I grow Michelia, like Michelia Alba in the desert? should I grow it as shade or sun? The soil here are very sandy, so how should I amend to make it work?

For gardenia, after a season of blooming, when to fert?

Thanks for helping.

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Yes you can grow one out there and in fact, you can grow just about anything there.

The key is to provide a very fast draining soil that holds moisture. If sand, then one needs to fertilize like crazy since they are fertilizer pigs. You could add some organic or compost material if need be.

I would plant it in dabbled sun and out of any area that gets lots of wind. A well protected area from strong winds and morning or late afternoon sunshine would the trick.

I have burnt the leaves of mine in full hot sun and or a windy area. They can take very cool conditions for short amount of times.

Good luck


    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 8:00AM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Hey Mike, thanks for the advise. Do you think the Michelia Albas can be trimmed to form some sort of informal hedge? I am picking a few spots on the north, and north east side of the house. Soil around my house are sandy, but they don't seem to drain real fast (is that even possible?). I intend to mix 2 parts compost and 1 part soil when planting them.

How big is yours?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 12:51PM
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musaboru(Inland Calif.)

Michelia x alba and figo do not stand up against the sun real well in inland California. Their leaves will burn easily with the combination of low humidity and full sun here. Like Mike said, give them morning sun or later after noon sun.

I grow all mines in a container and this makes it easy to move around in extreme conditions such as light frost, Santa Ana winds, heat wave, etc. Michelia x alba is especially sensitive to these.

I'm sure you can manipulate the growth into a hedge-like form by pruning/topping it, although it'd be very informal with those gigantic leaves. Michelia figo might be a better choice for a hedge as it is more compact-growing.

I find the Michelia x foggii 'Jack Frost' to be a better contender for full sun. It also grows pretty fast for a Michelia (I'll take a picture later). The way mines grows and branches out makes it seem perfect for an espalier, although I've seen pics of it growing into tall columnar bushes. Fragrance is very much like cinnamon-banana-eggnog that develop hay overtones in the evening (yes, the scent consistently changes during the evening and back in the morning). The main downside is the flowers shatter pretty easily (lasting only 2 days, sometimes 3). The flowers are quite large for a Michelia also.

Michelia maudiae can handle normal conditions under full sun but during heatwaves, it will develop some browning leaves in my experience. It also grows relatively fast in my experience.

Another Michelia for full sun is Michelia champaca, so you may have more luck with this than the alba. Champaca will require a few years planted in the ground to bloom. I believe it needs to be at least 12 feet tall if I recall correctly.

Michelia alba is the best bloomer of any Michelia I know of (I have a few flowers right now too). Michelia figo and it's hybrid M. 'Jack Fogg' blooms intermittenly throughout the year here. Haven't had M. maudiae bloom yet, it may require a few more years or less than Champaca.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 1:07AM
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musaboru(Inland Calif.)

Error: 'Jack Frost' is incorrect, I meant Michelia x foggii 'Jack Fogg' (or just Michelia 'Jack Fogg').

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 1:17AM
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musaboru(Inland Calif.)

Here's example of Jack Fogg that was growing in full sun, but currently I have it next to a south-facing wall to protect it from harsh winds. It's does pretty well here in inland California.

Anyways, I got this Michelia 'Jack Fogg' back in late 2010 through mail order and it was a little over 1ft tall. And now it's almost 4ft and loaded with flower buds.

The fuzzy buds stay on the plant for a quite a while and blooms intermittently.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 12:36PM
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