Help for my gardenia!

breeharDecember 14, 2012

This is my first time posting, but I couldn't find the answer anywhere. My husband bought a gardenia for me through 1-800-flowers about 18 months ago. I think it's a dwarf gardenia. I've kept it in the original pot, and when I water it I let the water drain out of the holes in the bottom before I put it back in the bigger decorative pot. I only use RO water because I read that tap water is bad for it, and we have REALLY hard water here. About once a month I fertilize it with Miracle-Gro for azaleas. It sits on a south-facing window sill, and it's very dry here, but we keep a whole-house humidifier going all the time. I mist the leaves with water about once a day, and I only water the plant when the top feels dry, about every 3 days. I never put it outside.

It has bloomed for me once, just a couple of blooms, but it has always seemed pretty healthy. Now, some of the leaves are turning yellow, which I've read can be bad or just normal. However, my leaves that are yellowing are still green around the edges, and that's the part that I don't understand. Is this normal or a sign of concern? I read that older leaves start yellowing around the edges first, but mine seems to be doing the opposite. Any suggestions?

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A picture would help.

But you might like to know that soil ph level for azaleas are a tad lower than that for gardenias. I don't use any special fert for my gardenias and they still grow beautiful.

I have an azalea seedling that's also growing on nothing special. Just normal fert.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 2:41AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb!

"I read that older leaves start yellowing around the edges first, but mine seems to be doing the opposite." Have you repotted your plant since it's been with you? What you describe sounds like a decline in the health of the roots.

"I never put it outside." They grow in the ground in full sun here. I would assume it needs more sunshine.

If you could add a pic of your plant to this discussion, you could get more specific advice. If a pic is on your computer, just click the "browse" button above where you type a reply to select it. You may add more than one pic, but only one per message, so if you have more than one pic, just make more than one response.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 9:54AM
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Well, your plant must of done a lot better since you asked for help here.

Great suggestions all.



    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 3:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hey, Mike, I don't usually have trouble understanding your comments but I don't get that last one.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 4:33PM
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I'm sorry for not responding to the replies sooner. I have a 3-yr-old with the flu. I took the gardenia to a local nursery and talked to a woman who seemed knowledgeable. She looked at the roots and said that they look good and healthy. The leaves that weren't yellow looked healthy, with no brown tips, and I have some new growth. I had some white mold on top of the soil and the roots were moist so she told me to water a little less often. The yellow leaves are mostly underneath towards the bottom of the plant. She said it looks like the plant needs more sunlight so I bought a grow light to help with that.

I guess maybe the plant wasn't as bad off as I thought, but the yellow leaves were sure worrying me. I appreciate the replies and wasn't trying to offend anyone by not following up sooner. Any thoughts on how much grow light time the plant should get everyday? TIA!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 4:57PM
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No offense taken here and I hope that is not how it sounded:-)

It's just that this thread with an exclamation point came across like there was immediate help needed and I thought since you did not come right back, it must of perked up for you right away.
I I also thought the help offered here was qite timely.

I am glad you figured it out and in fact I was also going to tell you that it does need more light, but figured you found that out.

They are horrible plants when it comes to low light conditions or even good light conditions in winter because the center leaves don't get the sun like over head sun in the warmer months.

If you are loosing leaves all over, then that is a concern. So I am glad you are not. Your gardenia will adjust as long as you watch your watering practices.
What ever you do, don't let it get to the point of wilt either because that can do as much damage to the roots as over watering. If this ever happens, then you will see a mass loss of leaves. Good luck:-0)

I am sorry to hear of your little one. I hope he or she gets better fast. The flu is a bad one this year.

Good to see your plant improve and we are always glad to be of help here.

Purple, now you get it? I was on the way out the door on that post and could of added more info. But here I am:-0) and hoping you are faring well these days:-)
I've been a bit under the weather these days too.


This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Dec 19, 12 at 18:39

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 6:35PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Awww, everybody's sick, including me. Ugh.

Mike, yes, I get it now, thanks! I didn't assume or think anything offensive, just didn't understand it. Except from feeling like I'm going to feel really crappy for the next few days, things here are great!

I'm hesitant to compare a potted plant in a colder climate to the ones in the ground here, but the ground shrubs here do get a yellow leaf here'n'there even when they seem otherwise very healthy.

Bree, glad you were able to show it to someone helpful in person. Hope your little one feels better soon!!

"Any thoughts on how much grow light time the plant should get everyday?" Not really except the ones outside are covered with buds. Do Gardenias bloom according to day length? I don't know. More light doesn't necessarily mean more hours. Supplementing the natural light by running the grow light while the sun is up may be sufficient. Hopefully someone who knows these things will pop by to advise you on this.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 7:13PM
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Okay, forget the yellow leaves. Now I think I have a bigger problem. The whole plant is drooping and the leaves are turning brittle like they're dehydrated. I cut back on the watering, but I didn't let the roots get bone-dry before watering it again. It's been droopy for about 3 days so with sufficient water, wouldn't it have bounced back by now? I do have a lot of little green shoots that were coming in before the drooping set in, although my plant has never been a good bloomer. It probably doesn't help that I live in the desert of SE New Mexico, but I've been running a whole-house humidifier to try to get the humidity up. It's still only less than 30% humidity in the house though. Would shutting it up in the bathroom with a vaporizer help? Should I take the plunge and repot it? My gardenia was a gift from someone special so I really want to save it, but it seems like it's on its last leg.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 3:14AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Did the lady at the nursery say anything about repotting? I see that the inner pot probably has a drain hole but is it getting a chance to drip out away from the cache pot when you water? If water is sitting in the cache pot, that can be lethal to a plant.

Are you familiar with possible pests like spider mites or scale? It looks like there's something seriously wrong with this plant but I'm not sure what.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Hello Purple..

If there is a severe soil and or watering issue, always to follow a weak plant is spider mites.

I would check the roots and make sure they are still alive to play with. Unfortunately, always when they get to that point, it's usually to late.
It's hard to repair dead roots after that point on gardenia.

They need an open porous mix that is allows free oxygen exchange and does not let salts accumulate around the root zone, a number one killer of gardenia.

Maybe if that one dies, at least you will be well armed with the suggestions of the best people I know here.

Good luck


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Thanks for the quick responses! I don't know if the picture really helps you, but it seems to my unexperienced eyes that the roots are still alive. Is the soil too compacted? The gardenia is planted in the little plastic green pot it came in. What I do is take it out of the cache pot to water it and hold it over the sink until no more water is draining out. The inside of the cache pot is and always has been bone dry. I asked the nursery lady about repotting, and she said it looked fine the way it was and that the roots didn't seem jumbled or crowded or whatever.

I've looked for pests and haven't found a single sign of any, nor did the woman at the nursery. One thing I have noticed is that the stems are flaky towards the top. I read about stem canker but couldn't find a swollen spot. The stem coming out of the soil looks just fine, smooth and brown. But after it hits the point where it branches off, the stem is whitish and flaky, almost like it's molting. Any ideas on what causes that? Sorry for the incorrect terminology. I have no gardening skills whatsoever. Just ask my poor gardenia :)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 10:18AM
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Bree, no worries:-)

Now that I have a minute to look at it longer, I really still have a feeling the roots are crying for help.
It really could be one thing or a combination of several.
It's like if we lost one planet, our earth would spin out of orbit, that is how fickle gardenia are.

Do you remember ever accidently letting your plant dry out to the point of wilt?
Might you be fertilizing too much?
Are you providing all the micro-nutrients for it?
How often do you have to water?
Is that mix compacted at all? Can you easily push your finger through it?
When are you misting? They are prone to disease if misted at the wrong time of the day without air movement.

By the way, it's a myth that they need humidity to thrive. They do like it and much more prefer humidity, but can grow just as perfect as you woul like as long as the roots are well cared for and can take up moisture properly.

Let me see if I can call an expert for you that may know exactly what the cause may be. It's worth the shot for him to take a good look. It it were not for him, all I would grow is anything but gardenia. I respect his authority on this matter. It might take a day or two, but let me see:-)


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 1:33PM
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You're the best. Thanks for taking such an interest in my little plant :)

For the last 18 months I've watered whenever the top layer of soil felt dry, usually about every 3 days. Since I was told I might be overwatering, about a month ago, I've waited about 5 days to water. I watered it a few days ago, about a day before I felt like it would have started to wilt. Lo and behold, the day after I watered is when it started to wilt so I don't know if that was my fault or not.

The top soil dries out pretty quickly, and no, I'm not able to just stick my finger down into the soil. I fertilize with a little Miracid about once a month but haven't done it for a couple of months now. What kind of nutrients should I be giving it? Maybe it's just screaming for some vitamins. I mist it at all different times to try to boost the humidity for it a little. Usually about 3 different times a day.

Did the picture of the roots upload on my last post? Hmm, I'm not seeing it. It has little white shoots in various places and the nursery lady told me that was good, that the roots were growing (?). I have no idea what the soil pH of it is.

I appreciate any and all suggestions. You're right... If this one does die, I'll know better for next time. But next time won't be a gardenia :)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

As they roots have grown to fill through the soil, it's taking them less and less time to use the water in the soil for various reasons. A bigger plant uses more water. The amount of water trapped in the soil spaces is less if there are less soil spaces because the roots are filling the spaces instead. Plants may also have times when they're kind of resting and times when they're growing much faster. During the times of faster growth, they'll use water more quickly. Also in times of high heat and/or wind if outside. So it's not really possible to have a schedule that always works well. For that reason, many growers shift to more aerated mixes that don't get soggy no matter how often you water.

I'd be willing to bet that a plant of that size in that size of a pot for 18 months is in desperate need of repotting (root prune, old soil removed, placed in a pot large enough to accommodate a root ball required by a plant that size, with fresh soil.) I really think the lady at the nursery missed an opportunity to sell you some new potting mix (although I wouldn't buy/use that.)

I can't see the bumps on the stems clearly, but scale insects are not normal bugs, they don't move around. Hopefully whatever those bumps are, they don't look like this. That might make the soil stuff a moot point if you can't get rid of them. That's hard to do and these things can kill plants.

Understandable if you have disappointment if this plant doesn't make it, but why learn to grow a Gardenia if you won't put the knowledge to good use? Really a rhetorical question because good growing applies to any plant. But you've smelled the blooms right? Smiles!!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Purple nailed it and what a kind person she is!
Very encouraging and it would make me want to try again!

I remember falling in love with my first gardenia years ago, and killing it before the winter was over.
I killed about a half a dozen since then, until I fell upon these forums. It was then I was determined to understand this plant and learn to read their minds.

I think I have it now, although I am sure one or two will rebel no matter what I do. I justb threaten them at that point.

I now have a half a dozen and all thrive year after year, so much, I have to cut them back or they will get to big to keep indoors.

You'll get it and in the meantime, do as Purple said and if it doesn't work out, you'll be armed for the next time around.

Purple, e-mail me. I have something for you from my Mom.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:38PM
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So how do I go about repotting it? Any special soil I should buy? How will I get the pH of it just right? It's in about a 4" pot now. How much bigger should I go?

I looked at the pics in the link, Purple, and luckily no, mine didn't look like any of those.

I appreciate the encouragement!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 1:50AM
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Here's the best pic of the stems that I could get. You can just rub your finger over it, and it sloughs off. Weird, huh?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 1:53AM
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I think it's fertilizer burn.

Remove ALL media from the roots and give it a good wash. Looks like you may have two cuttings in the pot. Do not worry if you have to break some roots in doing so. Use fresh sterile media for repotting up. Do not add or reuse the old media.

Gardenias can root easily in water. Trim and use some cuttings for rooting and you might get some new plants.

I hope your plant recover. And if does, do not use the same fertilizer again.

This post was edited by Tolip on Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 5:05

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 5:02AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Luckily that doesn't look like scale on the stems. I can't believe you were told those roots look fine. That's one of the worst cases of a plant being potbound I've seen in a long time. Tolip, I agree, definitely time to repot, and not totally sure this plant can survive either way (left alone or repotted.) I'm sorry, Bree, it looks pretty bad but at least it doesn't look like it has any kind of pests.

There are some good pics of repotting here and here.

Does looking at those make you feel like you know what to do? Ask away if it just causes more questions...!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:06AM
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Purple, I took a peek at your repotting process and I wondered where I was at that time when you posted that.

Fantastic information and my dear friend Dori is right, you are a GEM!

Very kind of you to continually help out many here and also encourage me and offer great advice.

By the way, I see a few white roots there it is just may be salavagable if you can get rid of all teh dead ones.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 12:02PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks, Mike! You don't have the email thing enabled, btw... I tried but there's no link to send you email. Forgot to say that earlier.

Would you chop at the roots or just try to tease/untangle them? Don't think I've ever faced a root ball quite that thick and tight, yet small.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Wow, I didn't know it was quite that bad. Silly me, I thought that's how roots are supposed to look :)

So I should rinse off all the soil I can and untangle the roots until they're kind of hanging straight down? Is *that* how roots are supposed to look? After it's repotted, should I fertilize, use epsom salts, just leave it alone?

What type of potting mix should I buy? I have plain ol' Miracle Gro potting mix, but I've gathered from reading this forum that it's maybe not the best choice. I read Mike's post about how he repotted his plant (very informative btw). Unfortunately I live 100 miles from the closest nursery so whatever they have at Lowes will have to do. Welcome to the middle of nowhere!

I'm going to try repotting tonight so maybe it will spring back to life. At least now we have a really good idea what the problem is!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 3:37PM
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Purple..Here you go:-), let me see if you have it right here. If so, expect an e-mail after I write here:-)


I would not tear away the roots since you risk destroying the healthy white one I see poking through. There is many healthy roots.

In most cases, for a fibrous root system we would cut or saw off the bottom half of the entire root mass, then cut wedges into the remaining roots and repot, filling the areas where you removed roots with fresh soil. The next year, at appropriate repotting time, you cut out the other wedges you'd left the first time.

After you have done that, I would slightly pull away the dead ones that look brown.

I would then sink the entire root ball into some sort of fungus and bacteria destroyer such as

Or part bleach to ten parts water to kill of the bad bacteria.

Once you have done that, fill new pot with your porous mix and then fill in all the empty wedges, This allows the healthy roots left behind to grow into the new mix.
Then by next summer, you can remove the root ball again cutting away the old wedges so that eventually all the roots will be in your now new mix.

After the repot, just put it in lots of light and don't feed for a couple of weeks, or put just a small amount of slow release in your mix.

If all your stuck with is MG, then I would get a bag of perlite and use 5 parts of perlite to 1 or 2 parts of MG.
Do they sell pine bark fines, or mulch?

Don't be to quick to pot unless you do it right.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 8:48PM
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Hi Bree! Not to butt in here or anything, but I noticed the 'flaking' stems, and mine does that, I think that's normal. I've murdered lots of gardenias in my time, for some reason the one I have is actually staying alive- it's right next to our wall heater and gets dried out very fast! I had trouble when I would bring it in for the winter (it was outside on the deck all summer and fall), all the leaves would turn yellow and almost fall off. Then, it was a balancing act to not over or under water. Mine is in a huge 4 gallon pot (I got it that way). It's pretty pot bound, but it seems to like it like that. My 'secret' for keeping it alive so far is to use an old tea bag in the watering can every month and fertilizing it with pee and also giving it some chelated iron/copper in the spring. I withhold fertilizer in fall and winter.
Some of the younger leaves and stems on my plant are drooping like yours, I think it may be because I was underwatering it. Oh, also I also fertilize it with some worm casting tea from my worm farm as well, just don't go hog wild on fertilizer because they really hate the attention!
Mine rarely flowered at all until my hubs put 2 nice big grow lights above it in the ceiling, and now I'm getting loads of buds!! Took long enough, I think I got the plant in 2009.

If you really need a laugh, check out the suicidal gardenia thread. It's got tragedy, triumph, hysterics and mental illness, all courtesy of this beautiful and tempermental plant. Between you and me, I think the reason my gardenia is surviving and thriving because it knows that I'm fawning over my arabian tea jasmine and my plumeria who are flowering wondefully! So, make sure to show your gardenia who's boss! You also may want to read one of the most fascinating book on plants I've read "The Secret Life of Plants".

Here is a link that might be useful: suicidal gardenia thread

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Hey Mersipoo, Hi to you too.

Hope you are well.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:16PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Those are great instructions, Mike!

Mersie, thanks for bringing up the suicidal Gardenia thread. A classic!!

Bree, I live in the middle of nowhere too! Frustrating sometimes but generally I love it. I make a mix with mulch and compost from my pile, so usually leave the store-bought soil discussions to other people.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 9:29AM
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