Gardenia dying. Emergency propogation needed.

sunslight(Utah z5-6)June 2, 2008

My potted, home depot variety, gardenia vecchi, after growing well for 3 yrs are about to say bye-bye. In fact I've lost three of my five (potted house) plants in the last three months. They are now just bare twigs, sticking up from the pot.

I have 2 plants that are still viable, but they are loosing ground fast. I want to get as many cuttings going from these, before it is too late.

Part of the problem is I only see semi to hard wood. The tip of the stems, have some leaves, but there is very little soft wood, maybe an inch, before it goes to bark.

From the tip of the stem to about 4" down the bark, the wood is pliable. I guess this is my semi-hard wood?

The rest of the way down the pencil thick stem is very hard wood, with no leaves and would break if I tried to bend it. But I understand, that cuttings can even be made from this?

I'm assuming my best and probably only real way to get cuttings going is from the 4" growth, that includes the stem and woody bark that will still bend?

I have no idea why these plants are dying--but that's gardenias.

It does look like root rot, leaf tip burn, and iron chlorosis.

I was surprised though when a pH test showed the soil to be at 8! Last spring it was at 4.7.

The green leaves remaining, quickly show tip burn, then the leaf goes yellow, with green veins, the tip burn goes on down the now completely yellow leaf, and it falls off. Some of the new leaves only break, before they are burned away.

My watering is by misting, with an occasional watering of the soil.

After I mist, the next day, tip burn is showing. which I really don't understand. The plants are not outside, nor are they in sunlight, and my water is not vinegar--althoug the plants sure look like that's what I hit them with. When I tested the water, its pH is around 7.

I tried to amend the soil with agricult. sulfur, but it hasn't help (yet). So even if there wasn't root rot or tip burn (from where it comes, I don't know), with the soil at a pH >8, there's no way these plants are going to be healthy. --in an aside, anyone know how to acidify my misting water? I tried MS2O4, but that didn't seem to help.--

So, I don't, at least I don't think there is enough new growth to make a soft wood cutting. The stem (bark) though is pliable to about 4" down from the tip. I assume these 4" with yellowing leaves at the tip will be what I have to use for cuttings. This would be semi-hard cuttings?

I know there are tricks to help woody cuttings get going, but I don't know what they are, and especially how to handle gardenias, that everyone says are very easy to grow from cuttings.

Please come to my rescue on how to take and prepare these cuttings, so they have the best chance of survival. --this will probably be severe cutting back of the mother plants and not much will be left once the cuttings are taken.

I appreciate your help.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tcuser(ZONE 7)

pH 8 is normal. Our tap water usually has pH = 8. Make sure that your water does not contain herbicides. Leaves could become yellow and drop if there is too much ethylene gas. Move plants outside for fresh air to see the problem stops or not. Some masters in this forum will help you with propagation.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 8:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

thanks. there actually has been ethylene gas around. Using it to ripen fruit.

I thought G. took a pH or 4-5. Just like other acid loving plants, azaleas, rhododendrons. Am I wrong?

I do hope some one will tell me how to do a woody propagation. I have my perlite, rooting hormone, et. al, ready to go, just don't know what to do with a woody, either semi or hard growth cutting.

Should I smash the end with a hammer and stick that into the rooting compound, or try to scrape off an inch of the bark, to get just barely to the cambium layer?

Whatever, I've got to do it quickly. So come on friends, help, help.

I'll get the Gard. out of the house and into a sheltered location, right away. I sort of hate to do that because our climate is so dry. 20% humidity or so in the summer & I have to mist the plant several times a day to give it even a little humidity.

I didn't know about the Eth. gas. Thanks.

Now, fellow plant savers, tell me what to do for the woody stem propagation or maybe a URL to go to that will help?

/at least my Valencia orange, madagascar jasmine, and 12 orchids made it through the winter, indoors. Gardenias are tough. 00 anyone happen to know where I can get a relatively inexpensive, August Beauty (I think that's the name). I understand, they are supposed to be easier to keep alive than most.

Looking forward to more help.
And thank you very much for the help you give.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 10:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Were I growing my Gardenias as you are I am sure they would look like yours. In the same soil for three years steadily getting more alkaline with your alkaline water. Gardenias are very sensitive to such conditions and I doubt if you will be able to start cuttings with such weak material, even though Gardenias do normally start easily from cuttings. If I were to try and save what you have left(not sure that I would)I would repot into new acid soil and stop watering with alkaline water. If you feel the humidity is too low put your pots in a tray of gravel with water to increase the humidity without the misting. Al

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 10:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

thanks calistoga. I pretty much agree with you. But a challange is a challenge or in this case, a lost cause.

How can I move my water down to more acidic, so I won't be constantly putting pressure on the pH to go alkaline?

--I guess a little sulphuric acid would do the trick--then I would have no worries at all about whether my garenias will live or die.

But is there a way to acidify the water so it will help the plants instead of hurt them? Will a bit of liquid iron + epsom salts do the trick? I do have some pure agricultural sulphur. I don't think it's water soluable though & I know it doesn't say how much to use /gal to drop the pH. It does say how many lbs/sq ft. to lower the pH, but that's not much help.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 6:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How are you testing the pH?

The Epsom salts wont have the effect you want/desire, but the liquid iron may...depends on the source of iron.
The ag sulfur "can" work...but, VERY need certain biological's active to convert elemental sulfur to sulfate...the sulfate is what gives you the acidification/reaction(but not all sulfates will do that...mag. sulfate,no, calcium sulfate,no).
Couple of things to try...
1. White Vinegar 5%- Mild Acid you may have around. Start with 1 tbsp/gallon. Add, shake up, let it sit for 15-30 min.s?? (needs some reaction time)...test pH.The amount of limestone in your water may be two high for this to be an option (pH is not always a problem, even at 8...but alkalinity, caused by free calcium & magnesium in your water, will cause you head aches and drive your pH up. The higher the alkalinity, the more resistance it has to change....more acid needed is the end result for this situation).
2. Iron sulfate- Apply 4-5gms (3/4tsp??) per 1gal. of potting soil. Uniformly apply over entire surface of plant, water in. This is a strong shot,but not too over board for your rescue request. This sulfate DOES cause the reaction you want. You can probably find it in a garden center, farm supply store (wear gloves, keep it off your clothes). It works quickly and one application may last 3-4 weeks

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 9:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

I have a pretty accurate meter for the pH. However, it doesn't work well in liquid. I can take the pH of my potting soil, then apply water to it and see the change(pH goes up). It's easier though, if I'm checking just water, to do a color comparison with a chart and litmus paper.

My outdoor soil is quite alkaline. When I water, I get a nice, white foam on top of the water--but it's not so alkaline that it's (I forget the word) like that you get in the desert.

However, I'm not using garden soil for my gardenias, but potting soil + miracid. And the soil pH is being driven up by my watering.

I do have liquid, iron sulfate (it does do a job on clothes and hands). I'm afraid that the vinegar will burn the leaves that are already in trouble. Iron sulfate, I think, can do nothing but help them--all the plants (leaves) are obviously chloritic, anyway.

I'm uncertain how you say mix then apply my liquid iron. 4g/1gal of potting soil, okay. but the "apply over entire surface of plant," I'm not certain what you mean by that. do you mean for me to pull off part of the top of the soil, put the +iron potting soil on as a replacement, and water that in? Please clarify that for me.

Is there a way to get the liquid iron sulfate in through the few leaves that are left, without burning them? It'd be nice to get some of the chlorosis chased away before trying to make cuttings.

I have some iron-sol that I can use on the surface of the potting soil, as well; also gypsum, but since the soil isn't sodic (is that the word?) gypsum isn't really what I want. I think the liquid iron sulfate is my best bet. Please tell me again how to apply.
(would applying that to my cuttings help them also?)

I thought pH was the measure of alkalinity & from that, it was an indicator of the amount of dissolved minerals.

I guess I don't know the difference between a high pH and high alkalinity. I know my water is just above neutral, but if it's raising the pH of my potting soil, then it must have too much in the way of limestone/other minerals in it. The water tastes good, though. -- but probably not to my Gardenias.

Thanks for the input. So, how do I use the iron sulfate for both a top coat on the soil, as well as a spray for chloritic leaves? (I was surprised that mir-acid says to not use if as a foliar spray.)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 8:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I'm afraid that the vinegar will burn the leaves"
While viniger can act as a great herbicide, the "dose makes the poison".You would normally need a 20-25%+ solution of vin. and water to burn leaves (that would be a low dose, I normally spray 100% vinegar if trying to burn something back)

"I'm uncertain how you say mix then apply my liquid iron. 4g/1gal of potting soil"
I was actually refering to a granular form of Iron sulfate, not the liquid you have on hand. What is the percentage of iron sulfate in the bottle?? and any other things listed?
There may not be enough to give you the change you want.

What is Iron-Sol??

Here is an explanation of Alkalinity from NCSU.Some of it may be confusing, but may give you an idea....

"Alkalinity is a measure of a water's capacity to neutralize acids. Bicarbonate ions (HCO3- ) from dissolved salts such as calcium bicarbonate (Ca(HCO3)2), sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), and magnesium bicarbonate (Mg(HCO3)2); and carbonate ions (CO3- - ) from dissolved salts such as calcium carbonate (CaCO3) are the major chemicals contributing to alkalinity in irrigation water. Hydroxide ions (OH- ) are but a minor contributor in most cases. Ammonia, borates, organic bases, phosphates, and silicates can also be minor contributors to alkalinity.

Since bicarbonates and carbonates are the major components of water alkalinity, most laboratories assume that Total Carbonates (TC = carbonates + bicarbonates) equals alkalinity. In most cases, this is a safe assumption. For most waters in North Carolina, bicarbonates account for more than 90% of all alkalinity present.

The term "alkalinity" should not be confused with the term "alkaline," which describes situations where pH levels exceed 7.0."

and a bit more....

"Consideration of alkalinity naturally leads to Hardness. Hardness is not alkalinity! Hardness refers to the amount of calcium and magnesium in water, generally expressed as if it were all calcium and if all of it were the compound calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Hardness can be expressed as mg/L or ppm of calcium carbonate.
High concentrations ("hard water") of calcium and magnesium in the water will generally be accompanied by similarly high levels of bicarbonate and a high alkalinity. That is why water hardness is sometimes used as an indirect indicator of water alkalinity. As previously mentioned, bicarbonates will cause a rise in substrate solution pH over time. Thus, it is wise to use less limestone in the substrate when high hardness water is encountered. The calcium and magnesium bicarbonates you are adding with the water are equivalent to "liquid limestone."

"So, how do I use the iron sulfate for both a top coat on the soil, as well as a spray for chloritic leaves"
Keep any form of iron off your leaves, they are stressed and a foliar application would be a small band-aid...solve the problem in the container to help the plant would be my opinion.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Take a cutting and submerge it in a glass of water. Keep it close to a window, but not in the direct sun. These suckers will root in about 2 weeks. I did it last fall from some wilted cuttings from a neighbor's trimmings. I submerged the entire cutting in water, leaves and all. This rooted cutting will be a better plant for you. They will be used to your growing conditions. I have had far better luck with my rooted cuttings than the plants I bought growing already. They go in shock when they leave those greenhouses.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 1:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

Thanks. I'll try that with a few of my cuttings. Submerge the entire stem, leaves and all? How did you stop it from decaying or getting fungus--any treatment to water?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 12:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

Forgot to say thanks for the good explanation on alkaline and alkalinity.\
The water here is pure mountain spring water and is very hard.
I found this in the gardening section of a newspaper:
Plants suffering from iron chlorosis do not grow well, do not produce good fruit and are less winter hardy. Controlling iron chlorosis is frustrating and expensive. Adding iron materials to the soil is often recommended but should be done only after other methods have been tried. One common method mentioned in many garden texts is lowering the soil pH. This is not possible in Utah because of high lime soils. The idea sounds enticing, but don't fall for unproven treatments.

Which is just what was said in the 1st answer to my question. The high lime prevents the soil pH to be lowered.

I misspelled "Iron-sol." It is "Iron Sul." Iron sulphate at 20%Fe, 30%S. There's a metion of folliar feeding for near immediate results, but no instructions as to how to dilute it. It also says that when using, I should add some nitrogen (ammonium sulfate) as well.

The liquid iron is 3%S and 4.6%Fe(chleated). It says for potted plants (which my Gar. are) use 2 Tbsp/qt of water for every 6" of pot size--but again that soil treatment and not leaf.

I need to get something in to the plants as a temporary solution, until the stems are healthy enough to take cuttings.

Any idea how/ratio to apply these for a foliar feeding?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 1:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"It is "Iron Sul." Iron sulphate at 20%Fe, 30%S"
OK...what you have (Iron-Sul) is considered a water soluble form of iron sulfate. It will give you the acidification you want in the container, but I will need to dig up a rate.This would be much "spicer" (harsher or bigger chance of burning) if used as a foliar.

"The liquid iron is 3%S and 4.6%Fe(chleated)."
This form will not give you much acidification at all compared to the Iron-Sul, but would be a safer product to use for a foliar . What is the brand name??, I am suprised it does not have a foliar rate.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

sunslight, I swear they were on the ground wilted. The man had pruned them in august and thrown the cuttings on the ground. I thought I'd submerge the entire cutting in a cup of water to perk it up and forgot to take it out of the water. The thing had roots all over the place a few weeks later. It rooted better than any gardenia I've ever rooted and it's a cutting I forgot about. It was a red translucent plastic cup. I don't know if the color of the cup helped or not. Try filling the water so just the top set of leaves are out.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 9:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

Hey, echinaceamania--gee.
Those must have been healthy cuttings.

I just tried my 1st cutting from my plant.
It was about 6" long, with leaves at the top, placed in a small vial of water. With the whole thing set on top of the 'fridge, so it'd get some constant heat. and all that placed in a plastic bag, to retain moisture.
I misted the cutting every couple of days.
Results: total failure.
Top leaves dried out to "crinkly" consistency.
Stem, produced zero roots.

Lucky you. I'll try your method with another cutting and see what happens. Did you weight the cutting down so it was under the water?

Within the next few days I'm going take cuttings from everything that even looks like it might work, put it in some rooting compound and then into a perlite mix.

--I'm wondering if I should just forget it and try to find (I think the name is) August Beauty (or something like that) on eBay and start over.

--It's a bit funny. I went to a large greenhouse/nursery here and asked about gardenias. They had one. It was essentially a bare twig. My dying ones were 100% better than the one they had in their greenhouse.

If these new cuttings don't take, I'll have no choice, but to try to order some new ones.

How come I can grow an orange tree, orchids, star jasmine, Madagascar jasmine, Plumeria, inside, here in Utah, but no luck with the gardenias?

Oh well, I guess that's just the nature of the plant.

--wish I had soil and moisture as my uncle, back home in Louisiana, where he has gardenias as foundation plants. They are always in bloom and gorgeous.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 10:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know if it had something to do with the time of year or not, but I rooted mine in water in Fall and Winter. One thing you didn't do that I did, is mine was close to a window. I bet you anything that your cutting failed because it didn't get any light. Put your cuttings close to a window. Try submerging one in the water. I just took a cutting about 4-5 inches long and put it in a red plastic (see through) cup and filled the cup with water to submerge the cutting. I also rooted some just in water without being submerged. All of my cuttings were in indirect light. That should help. I'll try rooting a cutting from mine tomorrow. I'll let you know if it works!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 12:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sunslight(Utah z5-6)

Thanks, I'll give the water rooting one more shot.
I thought it was getting plenty of light, but maybe not enough.

This time I'll put it under lights. The total submersion sounds like an interesting try.

Schmoo, I wasn't able to get right back to you on the kind of liquid iron I tried. It is "Green Light" Iron *& Soil Acidifier. It's 3% S and 4.6% chelate Fe, with a bit of Zn and Cu trace elements.

It's worked on other things but maybe my G are just too far gone?

This is all very frustrating. I do appreciate everyone's help.
Why do people try to grow gardenias where there aren't any?

I may build a greenhouse--perhaps if I keep one section of it only for tropicals that'll work? Except a visit to my favorite commercial greenhouse here (very large), when they showed me their one, gardenia, which was a stick with all the leaves falling off and a cost of $25 (sure!), even they admitted it's nearly impossible in this climate. But I'm not going to give up.

So again, thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 10:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I grew mine this past winter indoors under a 400 MH grow light I bought. I started seed indoors and grew some plants under it. The gardenia loved this light and bloomed all during the winter. They bloom well indoors under these lights because the temps indoors are cool. I took them to work and put them on my desk so they'd smell up my office. I now have them outside under a crape myrtle tree. They seem to like the partial shade. Buying a light is a lot cheaper than the greenhouse and you can enjoy them indoors.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 12:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi sunlight and everyone else. I was reading your troubles. I have a beautiful gardenia in my garden. Im not sure of the species but know from this past blooming season of how gorgeous its blooms are and how heavenly they smell. I feed my Gard prior to bloom a good dose of blood meal. During the bloom I do lots of deadheading. Makes her bloom even more. And Now she is done blooming and needs to be pruned.
Soooooo sunlight would you like some cuttings from my gardenia? Would anyone like cuttings from my gardenia? LOL


    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 12:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love that smell too! I have 3 of them growing now. I'm rooting some more. If I want mine to bloom I bring them inside for a few weeks under a grow light. The cool nights indoors makes them bloom!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 1:09AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Coleus Propagation/Pinching
Hi, Here are my new, first time growing from seeds,...
Cathy Cokley
Avocado tree from a seed
If I cut the sprout of my avocado tree from the seed,...
Clonex gel turned liquid
When my Clonex gel was about a year old and I went...
Grafting Black Walnut
Has anyone done this? I'm going to try this spring,...
Source for berry cuttings
Hi, I'm having a hard time finding anywhere on the...
Sponsored Products
Skull Island Planter
$57.99 | Dot & Bo
Townhouse Bed Frame in Black
$129.00 | LexMod
Painted Rust Outdoor Wall Lantern
$77.40 | Bellacor
Ridged Bronze 4 1/2" Wide LED Outdoor Step Light
Lamps Plus
Baltimore Ravens Insulated Six-Pack Carrier
$27.99 | zulily
Design House Highland Outdoor Uplight - 7.5 x 13 in. - 508978
$85.99 | Hayneedle
Breville Personal Pie Pan
$79.95 | FRONTGATE
Diamond and Jewel 3-light Inverted Pendant
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™