Gardenia "issues" id help

sugi_c(9a)February 7, 2013

Hello, All:

I'm the girl formerly known as "The Gardenia Killer". I can grow from seeds, manage amazing rose gardens, houseplants, or resuscitate the dead -- but I look at a Gardenia sideways and it's a matter of weeks before the thing WILL die. I smile at it - it dies. I water it - it dies. I don't water it - it dies. And I don't mean, "Oh, it did great for two years but it's dying!" I mean: "I bought it in January and by March, the thing died."

So after about 8 years of vowing off Gardenias entirely, I don't know what came over me yesterday and I -- wait for it -- bought another one. ONE, only.

To give you an idea of how nervous this makes me -- I woke up twice to come out during the night to make sure it was still there.

I bought it, came home - repotted it with some new potting soil added mixed in with coffee grinds, and drenched it once, including showering off the leaves -- and have let it sit since then. At the store, this was outside; here, it's inside in a sunny window inside a relatively cool room (at this time anyway).

This is what it looks like as of 3 AM last night (don't ask why I was taking photos at 3 AM):

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So, today, in daylight, I continue my obsessing and took a couple shots of the two issues I see as of this moment. As much of a curse I am to any Gardenia -- I am certain I did not start these issues on this plant since I just got it yesterday afternoon, but knowing this plant's fate, I'd like to take some measures to extend its life as much as possible.

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Issue A -- the top image:
Some of the newer leaves on the plants are becoming and/or coming in malformed. No bueno, I know -- but what is it and what fixes it, please?

Issue B -- the lower image:
What is that?
It does not rub off, and as moldy as it appears, it doesn't seem to be on TOP of the leaf but rather part of the leaf. Yellowing leaves -- I am very familiar with on this plant but this, I have not seen. Or perhaps I just killed the plant before I noticed it.

Any help/advice you can offer in addition to ways of fixing it would be most appreciated. I don't hope to make this thing bloom -- I just would like to keep it alive with some resemblance of foliage until, say, August 2013. That would be about as long as I've kept any Gardenia alive.

I should be shot for doing this to myself again.


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

oh sugi ...

do you know the definition of loving something to death??? ... lol ..

you have had it since yesterday afternoon ... and you have bathed it.. transplanted it.. rubbed it.. and apparently stayed up all night with it..

i might suggest.. you ignore it until it needs water again.. after it nearly dries ...

you have no clue.. how it was treated.. prior to yesterday afternoon.. the damage could be transportation issues.. wholesaler issues.. your bringing it home.. etc ... you cant really worry about all that ... and it cant be anything you did in 24 hours ...

the rust colored stuff.. with my well water.. everything has that reddish cast .. when i use water not coming thru the conditioner ... i might suggest it was such from the wholesaler ...

sooo.. pretend its a teenager.. back off.. let it does its thing.. let it get settled down.. and accustomed to your place.. and quit being a helicopter mom ..

you arent a true gardener.. until you have killed every plant three times .. and i know the status of that one thing that you just cant grow ... you have tried everything.. and when i get to that point.. i try benign neglect .. but for proper water ...

good luck


ps: this is NOT a houseplant.. it is a tree or a shrub.. and IMHO.. the number one.. and only variable is PROPER DRAINAGE ... and that starts with the media ... and your watering protocol ... both prefer a sip of water.. and then near total drainage ... as compared to many other houseplants .. so i wonder what media you used upon repotting??? ... reason out this dichotomy ... and you might move down the road to success ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:27AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb! I admire your bravery in trying again. When I feel like doing something nice for plants that don't need water yet, just breathe on them. What is exhaled by people is inhaled by plants, and vice versa.

The two pots I can see in your pic are quite attractive but, if they don't have holes in the bottom, that's a difficult situation for any plant. When you next repot a plant in a pot like that, I would urge you to find an inner pot you can sit inside the decorative pot. That way the inner pot can be removed when it's time to water, so the excess can drain through. When it finishes dripping, it can go back in the decorative pot. The mossy stuff at the surface is really cool and I like the way it looks. If it's preventing the soil from drying as quickly as possible, I might fluff it up a bit for more air flow at the soil surface. Can't tell from looking at it.

The coffee grounds make me nervous too, especially mixed with potting soil, could be a very low PH. There are many people on the fragrant forum who do well with indoor Gardenias, at least during winter, although people in such a warm climate as yours usually keep them outside all year. Frost doesn't bother Gardenia, if you ever have any. Are you able to put your Gardenia in the sun? At least 6 hours of direct sun would be great, but less might be fine in Z10 CA...? You may want to read some of the Gardenia discussions there also.

I wouldn't worry much about the older leaves since the new growth looks so nice. You can remove the ugly leaves, the plant will be inspired to make more, more quickly. The more air flow, the better for Gardenia. If there are any puny twigs in the center of the plant, or crossing branches, I would remove those.

I used to kill a lot of plants too until I learned more about and experimented with different kinds of soil mixes. There are a bunch of different ingredients and ways people make mixes that are much more chunky, porous, airy, than bagged potting soil, but the principle is the same. The fine particles of peat (or any fine particles, like sand) create problems in pots because roots need air as well as moisture. The buildup of chemicals from tap water can have devastating effects also. The more sensitive plants can be quickly killed in muddy, soggy, airless mucky soils. With a really good mix that does not harbor any excess water between particles, it's virtually impossible to overwater a plant that is getting plenty of heat, sun, air flow (and is not a cactus or succulent.) I'd be happy to give you some links to more specific reading if you like.

Good luck with your beautiful new plant!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:14AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

The pH isn't much of an issue with coffee grounds (6.2 on average) since gardenias like it on the acid side. I'd be more concerned about how they adversely affect drainage. What kind of potting mix did you use? My city water is bad for plants for a number of reasons (chloramine, alkaline, etc) and since I switched to collected rainwater several years ago, my 10 year old gardenia has none of the ills it used to have.

I agree with Ken about the leaf damage (looks like old damage) and the discolored leaf could have been a past watering issue. The first pic makes it look a bit chlorotic (but the other pics look fine) if so, a bit of chelated iron may be in order.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 4:21PM
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Ken -

Re: "you have had it since yesterday afternoon ... and you have bathed it.. transplanted it.. rubbed it.. and apparently stayed up all night with it" -- haha, I sound insane LOL!! But yes, that is very true. The only thing I haven't done is mist it! Please also include that I've now thrown it outside on the balcony facing the same sunny direction -- but in 60 degree temps instead of 70 indoors.

Unfortunately, I wanted to grow this plant INDOORS, but my place seems a bit warm for it, correct? It's 70 without any heat in here and my other plants love it, but I suspect this beautiful beast won't, since it just doesn't like anything I do anyway, haha.

Purple - I can breathe on it. Check! LOL
The potting soil I used was just Miracle Grow potting soil that claims to prevent under and overwatering (good marketing lol), mixed in with coffee grinds to make it a tad more acidic. The mulch is just dried reindeer moss very loosely put atop the soil. It's really porous so I think airflow is decent (for mulch, anyway); I just didn't want the soil baking while I "starve" the plant from water to ensure I don't overwater it, since, you know, I'm never watering this thing again.

The pot is actually quite interesting. It has a netted basket at the bottom, glued in, that lets water drain into a reservoir below the soil and it has a rubber plug on the bottom that lets me drain the excess. The pot is at least an inch+ shallower than how it appears due to that net plate. LINK INCLUDED BELOW.

It's my first time using this particular pot, too, but the resin material was so nice that I decided to give it a shot.

I'm about 10 miles south of San Francisco and it's quite cold at night 40-something, and around 60-65 during the day with full blasting sun making it feel like 85 on that balcony. As mentioned to Ken, I've now placed it outside in a corner on the sunny balcony; it should be receiving full sun in these temps between 8am-3pm or so.

Now I'll probably burn the thing to a crisp!

...or maybe I should bring it back

Thank you, both, for the feedback and tips!!


Here is a link that might be useful: ARTSTONE WATERMINDER

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Hi TJ -

I think you're absolutely right about needing iron and will get that on my next trip to the garden store!

So you don't think my few malformed leaves are a major concern right now? In total, I'd say it's about 5-6 leaves (all new, not old) that are disfigured as the closeup above shows....

Thank you for the feedback!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 5:39PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Sounds like good advice on the iron stuff, I'm sure TJ knows more about that than I do.

Sugi, your posts cracked me up. Sending good vibes to you and your Gardenia!

"since, you know, I'm never watering this thing again." Seriously, my son was asking, "what's so funny Mom?"

Have you ever read the famous "Suicidal Gardenia?" I think you might enjoy it.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:06PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

"So you don't think my few malformed leaves are a major concern right now?"

No, not right now. After reading what your potting soil is, I'm more concerned about it. Sounds like something with those water gel things in it. My soil is equal parts of small pine bark, Turface MVP and perlite. To this I add a combo of peat and compost (more of a leaf mold than compost, really) but keeping that less than 10% of the whole.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:54PM
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Purple: I'll get back to you in 5 days after reading that thread. My GOD, how long is that? But that Robert gentleman had me in stitches! LOL

TJ -- this is the soil. I guess I could have done this part from the get-go but I had to move the gardenia to open the storage door where this soil was. Now, at least I can say you killed my plant LOL.

Soil front:

Soil back:

Have I already killed it?

This was just some leftover potting soil I had. This, and a filter full of coffee was mixed together then thrown into the pot. After reading what seems to be one quarter of the suicidal gardenia thread that Purple posted, I'm thinking I should have just thrown it in cow manure and put a cardboard box on top of it, and it would probably grow and bloom like crazy. Ugh!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:17PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well... it's been 5 days. How's things with the manure and box?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 5:02PM
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Damn HOA stopped the manure truck and wouldn't let them upstairs, Purple! Haha. ;-)

"Finicky" is okay so far. But I usually don't kill these within 2 weeks. Usually, it takes me a month or so, so the lack of it dying or yellowing so far really means very little.

I do have a funny story for you.

I've been ignoring this thing. Let it out onto the balcony and since then, I've been completing the potting for many other plants nearby and haven't even glanced at it never mind water it. I put more energy into ignoring this thing than I do taking care of any other plant.

Anyway -- after I had potted everything, I brought out my rag and Windex to clean up my ceramic pots. After 30 minutes or so, I sat back to enjoy my "finally finished" balcony...and then slowly glanced at the gardenia. I examined leaf by leaf and realized it's fine -- so far. So, I sat back again and decided perhaps I should mist it.

I sprayed it down about 7-8 pumps only to see the leaves getting soapy/bubbly....and I thought, "Geez, what now!?!" so I moved in closer....only to smell ammonia. I immediately looked at my hand and realized I picked up the Windex and not the damn water bottle right next to it.

The funny part, Purple, is the image of me dashing inside with pot held before me, cursing like a sailor, and showering the entire thing off in the sink with water spraying everywhere to get the Windex off. "Oh my God, what have I done! What have I done!?!"

Thankfully, the neon green moss kept any from actually going into the soil, I would guess. I then realized the moss was actually dripping in neon green coloring (how is THAT okay!!?!), so I took the plant back outside and mulched with really acidic soil I had bought for the blueberry plants instead. Probably better for her anyway.

She looks happy today. She was due a watering anyway-- and that, she got in full force, haha.

And she shines like clean windows, thanks to me.

This post was edited by Sugi_C on Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 17:36

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 5:33PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

OMG that's funny, thanks for the crack up! Of course I hope "finicky" doesn't mind, but very funny story. We've all done something like that. And that's why I'd never live in a place with an HOA, you're right, they won't let enough manure in!

A few days ago, it was really sunny in the morning so I put several plants outside that really need sun and heat. An hour later, I've forgotten all about them, the sun is gone, never came back out, starting to rain... Finally about dinner time I remembered they were out there, it was like 39 degrees by then. So instead of a warm day of sunshine, ends up they were out in the cold windy rain. Except for some Portulacaria cuttings, (which have dropped most of their leaves by now,) I think everything's ok, time will tell. Grrr winter!!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 9:09AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

"Oh my God, what have I done! What have I done!?!"

==>>> have i mentioned elsewhere.. that there really should not be this much drama.. in the houseplant world??

i mean really now.. i wont water.. i wont water.. i wont water.. oh what the hell.. lets douse it in windex ...

your life isnt boring.. is it???

rotflmbo ...


    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:35PM
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Purple - hehe, been there, done that. Killed many a houseplant by doing just that. Shows you not to care, friend! Needing to revive plants blows.

Far from boring, Ken...and yes, much of my own drama with myself, unfortunately!

She seems to be no worse for the Windex bath at this point. Thanks to my dramatic run, Ken! ;-)

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As you can see, she really hasn't done much of anything since the last post. But she hasn't croaked yet so that's a plus!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:55PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

ya know.. they spray bean with some type of ammonia ... here in lenawee county MI .... soybean capital of the world ....

is a form or nitrogen.. at least thats my story.. and i am sticking with it.. lol ...


    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 5:01PM
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Well, I've never sprayed Windex on my gardenias before and those all died. So....

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:12PM
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Not being one to leave well enough alone -- after reading and reading, the soil in this one kept on bothering me. It looked fine, but still....since planting my blueberries, I kept on wanting to use that soil for the gardenias.

So, after days of pondering whether I should do this or not, I lifted this baby up out of the pot, took all of its soil and mixed in some lovely blueberry soil that my garden center makes onsite, and then replanted it.

That was two days ago.
And she's still here, looking purty and doing absolutely nothing.

I do see some new growth peeking out. but so far, the buds remain unopened, plump and not doing a single thing.

Now you see why I'm the gardenia killer? :-D

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:36PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

"...buds remain unopened, plump and not doing a single thing..."

After are lucky the buds are even still there. They tend to drop at any cultural change.

So let's recap. Since you got it it was...
given an ammonia bath
a water bath
then repotted again

All in about two weeks.

Evidently not satisfied with simply killing gardenias, you have now taken to torturing them first. ;-)


This post was edited by tsugajunkie on Thu, Feb 21, 13 at 19:56

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:53PM
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TJ - right? I swear, it's the plant. These plants make me into a freak!

I'm not sure which is better - torturing the thing to death or doing the very best for it and then having it die anyway!

And don't forget it was inside at a south-facing window, and now it's outside facing the same direction but with cover.

I shall leave it alone now.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:00PM
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I dunno, folks...
I think this bloom will actually open sometime this year. The green is gone and it's changing, it's changing!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:46PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Step...away...from...the plant.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 10:25PM
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I read your comment in the car and started laughing.
I only approached with a camera and lens --. I haven't tortured it since the last trauma!

But I am counting the seconds to watering tomorrow morning!!!

Um, and I was in the car with a new gardenia, hehe. Clearly you can understand why I might need a backup, right?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 2:39AM
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Meet my bloom:

Surprisingly, the one I have been watching hour by hour STILL has not opened. But yesterday morning, I could smell gardenia...and I thought of how bizarre it is that this closed bud was giving off such a fragrance. It was only then that I noticed on the far side of the plant (that I don't see from my angle without turning) had bloomed!

I gave it some iron pellets to hopefully take care of the chlorosis but I'm thinking I'll also need to up the acidity in my water....or buy liquid tackle this problem more effectively.

TJ, you will be horrified to know that I repotted once more, and this time into actual 5-1-1 instead of my own modification. I even root pruned it.... I couldn't help myself!! But that was two weeks ago, and now I am happy with the soil so I really will leave it alone. :-)


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 5:55PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well this is a pleasant surprise this morning! Congrats!!

I was going to tease you and say I think I see a caterpillar but I just can't bring myself to do that...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:00AM
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There probably IS a caterpillar on this thing somewhere! LOL

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 9:46PM
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Well, I'll be....

I think this was my very first post on this forum. In any case I look back on it feeling a bit embarrassed because within a few months of my last post, I killed this plant too.

Fast forward a year and a half, and I have a totally different view on soil and plants in general, thanks to much of the knowledge on this forum.

It's still a bit early to declare victory, but....I bought yet another gardenia after formally giving up when the one posted here croaked. Im ashamed, but I did. What's the difference between 201 and 202 victims? A serial killer is a serial killer, right? LOL

Now, in week 8 of this plant being in my possession, look at it!
There's not a single yellowing leaf; there's no dried leaves or scorched leaves; buds have formed and they're not dropping off or withering away!
And most importantly, the thing ain't dead.

Granted, I don't really touch her except to turn her around. OK sometimes i wipe her leaves and sing to her LOL.

She stays behind that balcony pole and faces west with sun on top of her at about 1pm for a couple of hours, then by the late afternoon, the crape myrtle shade her some -- tad hot but with the pole sheltering her a little also, she seems fine, at least in September. She's not dying so who am I to argue with where she likes it?

At the time I bought her, I had nothing on hand was Pro-Mix HP and I've fertilized her once so far, with Miracid or what used to be Miracid (the one for Azaleas & Camelias). I only water her once a week even living outside in 90 degree plus weather, but I will give her a quick spray with a water hose once or twice a week in between, just because I'm me and I can't help myself. Haha.

Well here ya go!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 11:24AM
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