Yellow & brown leaves on my August Beauty Gardenias

tryintogrowemOctober 23, 2008

I have read through a ton of the postings on this issue already and am not sure what category my poor gardenias fall into--too much water, not enough water, need Magnesium, need Nitrogen, etc. I planted them about 3 weeks ago and fed them Miracle Gro for Acid loving plants at the time of planting. As you can guess, the soil is sandy but I mixed in some potting soil when I planted them. 2 have already died and I really want to save these guys. The leaves in the middle towards the bottom are where it starts to yellow, then leaves turn brown and plant dies ! I am afraid of adding too much stuff to the soil and killing them by trying to remedy the issue. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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puglvr1(9b central FL)

I wish I could tell you exactly what might be wrong. I live in zone 9 FL also. I assume you have your gardenias planted in the ground?

I can tell you what I've done with mine, not an expert, but so far they have survived...I've had all four of them since Dec. of last year(10 months). Three are potted and one is planted in the ground. All of them are grafted "miami supreme" except one, a "Dwarf gardenia Radicans"(potted). I have read/heared that if you plant them in the ground they recommend for FL the grafted varieties because of "nematodes" in our soil, some type of root eating disease or bugs?. The container grown ones, are fine...

I fertilize mine every two weeks with acid loving plant fertilizer at about 1/2 to full strenght, I also add chelated iron once a month. Sometimes I give it epsom salts(1 tble to 1 gal.water) if I don't have any iron. For me these plants have been very heavy feeders. Mine LOVE being watered every other day when the temps are hot outside. Mine are also in morning sun only. No hot afternoon sun, in the summer time, it started getting very dehydrated (started drooping), so I had to take it out of the afternoon sun. In the winter full sun is fine, you won't have to water as often, just keep an eye on it.

I wish I could have been more help...Good Luck!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 6:23PM
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Looks like you are overwatering. If you have plenty of leaves yellowing, browning and then dropping, overwatering is the most likely problem. It doesn't matter how the yellowing starts or develops within the leaf so long as there is rapid yellowing then browning and dropping of MANY leaves, it is most likely overwatering (even if you think you are not overwatering). I believe 90% of gardenia deaths (and michelia alba deaths) are caused by overwatering. The other 9% by too much fertilizer or soil ammendments (manifested as browning of leaf tips) and 1% by other causes (insects, pests, underwatering or not enough sunlight).

Try to stop watering until the soil dries out and water only when the leaves become droopy (sign of dehydration). Don't water so long as the soil around the roots is moist or wet. Get your drowned plant more sun for faster drying of the soil.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 12:21AM
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Maybe I'm an ignorant gardener, but I've had August Beauty Gardenias for about 6 years now. Everytime I see yellow leaves I think they are dying. However, due to lack of knowledge, I just stand there and pull off the yellow leaves and dead flowers and they perk back up with green leaves in no time. They seem to always survive my torture to them. I have Mystery Gardenias that I almost pulled up to throw away after the first year cuz they looked so ragged. I'm glad that I didn't. They have finally caught up to the August Beauties and come into their own. My conclusion has been that the Gardenias just shed because they get tired of the same old wardrobe! It seems the less I do to them the more nurtured they look.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 10:05PM
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Redblaze, you got that right..I think part of the problem is, people read or hear 'x' plant is a challenge. So, they start adding this and that, overwatering then underwatering. Way too much fertilizer. Chemical insecticides. This is the beginning of their problems.

Pot up or in the earth, water, and let it be. Too much TLC can be fatal.

Trying to Grow, what type of soil did you add? Was it heavy, black soil or something else?

Follow Tropical's advice. Are you sure the other two are dead? Clip stams or scrape bark..if it's green under bark, your Gardenias are alive. If brown, I'm afraid they're goners. Don't give up so fast..Toni

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 7:42AM
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Ok....The overwatering I can understand. But mine were fine until I noticed the buds were droopy and leaves starting to yellow. Can the same be said of maybe underwatering? When I watered my Gardenia after I noticed all this in the shower with a good drench, the flower buds perked right up that same day, and so did the leaves. But now, my leaves are still turning yellow fast. What explains this?
Could it be because it is adjusting to indoor conditions?
I do not think I am overwatering. In fact, my soil is FAST draining, and if I go more than 3 days without water, the blooms droop down.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 3:42PM
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Which came first, the massive drooping or the massive yellowing of leaves?

If massive drooping of leaves comes first, then you are likely underwatering. If massive yellowing of leaves comes first, then you are likely overwatering. Of course these are generalizations and you may have something else or even have a completely 'normal' plant especially if the leaf yellowing is not that widespread and frequent.

Here's a guide: If after you remove all yellowed leaves one day, they are back again the next day or two, then you have a problem and it is not normal. If that trend continues, you'll have a bare leafless plant in a month or two.

One thing I forgot to mention is that insufficient sun for most plants can also cause rapid leaf yellowing. Too coarse and too 'fast draining' mixes with lots of air pockets and chunky organic materials is conducive to fungal growth and root rot under indoor conditions where sun exposure is limited or insufficient.

Do any of you believe plants prefer special soil mixes with fertilizers over good, healthy, humus rich garden soil with lots of earthworms?

I think these 'special' soil mixes have created more problems than solutions for gardenia owners here.

Those with gardenia growing problems should try to stop giving their gardenias special soil mixes, special fertilizers and other special treatment. Gardenias are not used to it and may even resent it. All they want are three basic things: plain good garden soil, lots of sun and water as needed. You'll be surprised at how basic and simple their needs really are and how happy they can get with just ordinary garden soil. Just don't overwater. Try it and see for yourself.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 5:12AM
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Hi Tropical.. Which special soils and fertilizers are you referring to?
I agree with you about good old-fashioned soil. I If you're talking about digging and potting outdoor soil, there'd be problems..weeds/insects. Unless it's baked.
On the other hand, if you mean, packaged 'sterilized' soils, (soils, not soil-less mixes) it does the job.
But here's where the confusion starts.
Plants are natives to different areas..Fl's natural soil is sandy, at least that's what I've heard.
Cactus come from sandy areas too.
So, plants grown in Fl, say citrus, are planted in sandy soil, right? So, in order for me to grow a potted citrus, would it not need duplication to Fl's earth soil?
Or let's say I have a cactus..Cactus also come from sandy regions. If it was planted in a rich, black soil, and not properly watered, would it not rot?
Do you understand what I'm asking? lol..

I'm uncertain where GArdenias originated, but because they require semi-acidic soil, wouldn't it need be mixed with 'speicial soils?' I use Peat, though many are anit-peat, lol, peat does make a difference with pH..Toni

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 5:29PM
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Hi Toni,

I have all my gardenias previously planted in pots in plain loamy garden soil (rich black soil) with lots of earthworms and humus (decaying matter). They were very happy and green until I transferred them to the ground. Our local topsoil is actually contaminated with construction debris particularly concrete fragments, making our topsoil extremely basic. After transplanting to the ground, majority of my gardenias rapidly became chlorotic. However, I just let them be because there is nothing I can do about the soil. The contamination and leaching of lime to the topsoil is extensive. Despite the 'bad soil', my gardenias are still growing happily and they still bloom for me despite the chlorosis. They have grown from 1 ft tall plants in the pots to more than 3ft tall in the ground.

I think the fuss about gardenias liking acidic soils and dying in basic soils or in 'less-than-perfect' garden soils are highly exaggerated. These plants (gardenias) are actually highly adaptable to various soil types like other plants. They even survive sandy soils fit for a cactus but they just won't be 'picture perfect' (similar to my gardenias).

What gardenias (and michelia albas) do hate however is too much moisture in the soil particularly around their roots. I had ALL my gardenias rapidly dropping leaves and leaves turning yellow when my helper watered them daily despite the daily rains in our area. I was lucky to have immediately spotted the rapid leaf yellowing and dropping problem as I rarely attend to or inspect my gardenias anymore. (I have more problematic plants to take care of like my 'chilli thrip' infested roses, unhappy hydrangeas and suicidal apple seedlings.)

Anyway, after telling my household helper not to water my gardenias anymore because it is rainy season in our climate, the leaf yellowing and dropping stopped. That's how sensitive these plants are to overwatering.

Anyway to illustrate my point, here's a photo of my chlorotic gardenias (variegated and non-variegated) planted in the ground with less-than- perfect 'basic' soil:

In contrast, I have 'Euphorbia milii' plants which are supposed to be 'succulent' plants similar in 'soil' and water requirements to cacti. Here they are thriving and flowering profusely in pots filled with rich, black, loamy garden soil which is 'less-than-perfect' and actually counterindicated for a succulent plant like Euphorbia milii. (Succulents prefer sandy soils as they are adapted to dry, arid, climates.)


    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:03AM
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May I chime in?
Since I do not live in the sunny warmer climate such as you, wouldn't my gardenias rot in the type of soil your saying to put them into, since 1/2 the year they are sitting indoors with a lack of summer warmth, sunny skies, and lot of warm sun. I can see them drying out fine where you live, but under conditions such as mine, they would rot faster than you can blink an eye. That kind of "garden soil" would takes days to dry out after one watering. Not to say decaying matter would bring quite a host of insects, and maybe even fungus indoors.
That is why the "special soil". Each of us has to worry what kind of soil is going to dry out and drain better in different grow areas than others, and what kind of soilles mix is not going to decompose, break down, compact, and rot the roots of my plants.
I would plant them in swamp soil loaded with compsot and tons of worms and could keep them outdoors in full hot sun all day if I lived anywhere south of zone 8. ;-) lol

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 8:47AM
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Hi Mike,

Just try garden soil in one of your dispensable plants... a dying gardenia perhaps which you think is hopeless. I know gardenias are quite expensive there but you never know unless you try. As I've mentioned in the other thread, what works for the nurseries may not work for you. Nurseries control humidity at around 60-70% in their greenhouses. Typical American homes have humidity at 40% or below during winter. Anyway, see my other inputs regarding plain good soil vs. fast-draining mixes in mersie's thread here:


    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 10:39PM
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My Gardenias were doing good until last week. but now for some reason the leaves are turning yellow with black tips all over the plant. Can any one give me advice on what i am doing wrong, it`s not the iron because ones a week i treat them to coffee grains to help the iron and water them every other day, can any one give me some advice on what to do. P.S thanks

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 5:54PM
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Hey Rick, you selected a really old thread. lol.

Actually, your Gardenia doesn't look bad except for one yellow leaf and on brown tip...unless mars are hidden??

2013/4 has been an extremely harsh winter. Hard on plants, let alone Gardenias.

How many leaves are brown/yellow? 1/3? 1/2? More/less?

Dry air has been a problem here, 'with 2 humidifiers and an indoor fountain running.'

Have you added fertilizer, iron, yet? Toni

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:19PM
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