Gardenias, a cure for yellowing leaves

nemosr(10b)March 20, 2005

I have done the following first aid on my Gardenia with yellow leaves. I first removed the mulch from around the base of the plant. I than spread 1/2 cups of regular yellow corn meal. I than diluted four table spoons of Liquid Iron and 1/2 cup of Epsom Salt in 2 gals.of water and sprinkled that over the corn meal. I than replaced the mulch. Next I sprayed the top and bottom of the leaves with a solution of three tablespoons of Ultra Fine and one tablespoon of Liquid Iron (Chleated Iron) with one gallon of water.

I finished off the first aid with two cups of fertilizer (Sunniland 8-4-8)placed over the mulch and watered in.

The result is that I have had no more yellow leaves and a whole lot of additional new leave growth. Next will be those wonderful fragrant blooms.

I hope this information will help.

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Do you think this would work with a camellia?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 11:16PM
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Camelias are acid soil loving plants. I can't see why what I did with my gardenias to end the yellowing leaves wouldn't do the same for your camelias.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 8:43AM
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Thanks. Could you tell me what Ultra Fine is and if you think I could find it and the chelated iron at one of the big box stores?


    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 11:15AM
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Ultra-Fine is a year around pesticidal oil. Among the pests it controls are Whiteflies that frequently attack the underside of Gardenia leaves. It is in a concentrated form that you mix with water and spray on the foliage top and bottom. Chelated iron, is also concentrated and mixed with water and can be used by applying it directly to the soil and also it is recommended to be sprayed on to the foliage. It corrects iron deficiency which results in yellowing leaves. Two brands I have used are "Hi-Yield" and "Ferti-Lome".

All of these products should be available at Lowes or the Home Depot.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 12:52PM
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roseyp8255(z8 - SC AL)

Thanks for the tip - i too will try it!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 7:15PM
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Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 1:05AM
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Wow, that's a lot of trouble. I usually just scatter a handful of Essential Minor Elements, some Aluminum Sulfate (for acidity), and a cup of epsom salts around once a year, and it works like a charm. I don't bother with pulling the mulch back or anything.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 6:55PM
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Where do you get Essential Minor Elements? What about Aluminum Sulfate? Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2005 at 7:58AM
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sewnfool(8 SE coast)

Well, I just scatter my used coffee grounds under the Gardenias, and add a banana peel once or twice a year. I do the same for the camillias and azaleas also. As for the insects, I have been known to spray with a very mild solution of Dawn dishwashing soap( like one or two drops in a 2 gallon sprayer) to keep the smut from the aphids in check. Otherwise I leave them alone. The only other thing I can think of that you could try is one tablespoon of epson salts watered in very well, as it seems to release the minerals in the soil for the plants use.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2005 at 4:28PM
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Coffee grounds-good Epsom salts-good-Tea leaves-good.For the leaves-a diluted(very diluted) mix of dish detergent and cooking oil sprayed on the leaves,Hose off the next day,unless it rains-also don't do it in hot sun.Works.The grounds and tea of course go in the ground-used-not fresh!....M

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 5:42PM
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Coffee grounds-good Epsom salts-good-Tea leaves-good.For the leaves-a diluted(very diluted) mix of dish detergent and cooking oil sprayed on the leaves,Hose off the next day,unless it rains-also don't do it in hot sun.Works.The grounds and tea of course go in the ground-used-not fresh!....M

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 6:11PM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

what does the epsom salts do?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 12:28AM
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Dieter2NC(z7b NC)

Epsum salts is magnesium sulphate. For the gardenia it will help prevent yellowing of the leaves, for most other plants, particularly roses, it promotes branching, making for a fuller, bushier plant.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 8:20AM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

oh kewl! Thanx!!!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 12:05AM
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I don't typically like to use commercial fertilizer but will on some plants. Mine responded nicely to Miracid here in Texas since we have such alkaline soil and they like acidic soil. I didn't do it this year and have LOTS of yellowing on the leaves with many of them dropping off. I guess there's something to be said for Miracid! What about using diluted vinegar? Anyone done that?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 3:52PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

This spring, I put ironite around some sickly looking camellias and they look great now.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 7:07PM
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mlwgardener(7b NE MS)

Stay away from the vinegar! It's used to kill unwanted weeds. It will kill wanted plants too. I know, I got my directions mixed on a plant last year and used vinegar when I should have used something else. I remembered the next day that vinegar killed plants and liked to have flipped out cause I'd done this. Needless to say the plant died. So, unless someone else can tell you why you should use vinegar, I would NOT! Hope this helps, Mona

PS, thanks for the tip on Epison Salts, my gardenia is looking a little yellow, so it will get a dose today. I've already added Iron.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 6:39PM
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bamamandopickr(7a/b AL)

Great! I love this forum. My gardenia is yellowing from the bottom. I guess I should try the epsom salts. I've been treating it with the Miracle Gro for acid-loving plants. Maybe it's just time to spray again.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 10:10PM
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When I purchased my gardenia, I was in Wal-Mart and a older lady from Mexico, stopped me and told me the story of when she was a young girl in Mexico and how the boys would put the gardenia in the girls hair, when they were courting them. She said she had a yard full of gardenia plants in Mexico and how beautiful they were. I told her that I had a hard time keeping my plants alive, she said that I needed to use Ironite. I purchased a bag with my gardenia. I have not had my plant very long, but I do not have any yellow leaves, they are dark green. It has not bloomed yet, since its too young, but I have high hopes.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 11:03PM
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So we planted 5 small August Beauty gardenias last year in the late summer. Their leaves did turn yellow, and almost all of them fell off, which I figured was just an adjustment to planting, and then the winter. I did give them liquid chelated iron, and this helped only a little. I decided not to worry about it and see how they would do this spring. So far, I have noticed 2 died, and have removed them. I replaced one of the 2. The remaining gardenias from last year do have a lot of buds, and one of them is starting to grow small green leaves. The amount of yellow leaves has slowed, and I have been giving them acidic loving fertilizer. These seem to be slow-growing plants in general, at least for me. Since they are getting buds, and haven't lost them, I am guessing that they are recovering at their own pace. I am still worried about one of them, it is not getting many leaves and has barely any left. Since they are all planted in the same location and are treated the same (watering, etc.) I'm not sure what to do. Should I just replace this one? They don't seem to have any "bugs" or infestations on them, and watering is easily controlled this year because of the drought, so I am watering them only 2 times a week, one time with the fertilizer. I will try the other suggestions next, but my question is are these plants going to take 1-2 years to really adjust and begin growing happily? That is fine with me, I am patient. I have noticed this with the small trees and our hydrangeas- they really didn't start to look nice until it was their 2nd or 3rd growing season planted. Has anyone else had this experience here in central NC? We have only been down here a few years.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 11:32AM
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shic_2006(4a 5a)

Based on your description, I consider "liquid iron" the cause of deaths of some of the plants. Over-fertilizing and over-watering damage those individuals closer to the pouring source. Even if you consider they are treated the same, some closer to the chemical may have drowned or have been burnt to death. It takes a long time to understand how to treat a flower gentally.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 1:55PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

cmb, I have the same experience. I put in 6 gardenias two years ago. two are doing great, 2 OK and 2 not so good. I have no idea why. Some plants just adapt quicker and some not at all.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 6:36AM
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queenamy(Zone Seven)

When I got my gardenia plants this spring at a flea market, the grower said use 1 cup vinegar in 1 gallon water. He said do not do right away, as they had been treated to vinegar a few weeks before. Anyway, they are all blooming and only have 4 or 5 small yellow spots on two plants (out of the 7 we bought.) Other gardeners and sites have confirmed this. Maybe the plant that was killed was not an acid lover? Or maybe you did not dilute?


    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 4:18PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

I've got 2 Gardenias about 3 years old that I transplanted to a more shady area, and 1 newer one that's about 2' high. The 2 older ones have the yellow leaf drop. I tried the cornmeal thing last night. I guess the next thing I'll try is Epsom salts, then vinegar in a water base, then acidic fertilizer, and then what?? How long do you wait to see any results?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 7:18AM
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I will wait and see how they do I guess. Maybe I will replace the one that isn't recovring much.

I didn't start the liquid iron for a while after planting, basically I waited until my friend visited. She had gardenias and said it looked like they needed the iron. I didn't use much, less than I used for my potted hibiscus. It DID help the hibiscus to lose a few yellow leaves.

These are definitely challenging plants. Between trying to keep my oleanders alive during the winter and the picky gardenias, it is definitely a challenge!

Thanks for the advice-

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 1:50PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Since this thread has been rocking on for a couple of months now, I hope you don't mind me chiming in.

I put down the cornmeal, and have applied the Epsom salts. How long should I wait for the next treatment...acid fertilizer or chelated iron?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 1:54PM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

Will the application of Miracid help the same way Epsom salts will or should I use both? I also have some Miracle Gro Shake "n Feed Azalea, Rhodendron and Camelia formula that looks high in iron and magnesium, will this help rid the plant of yellowing leaves?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 4:54PM
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Hi, I just purchased a couple of gardenias to have indoors as I do not have a yard. They are beautiful but since I moved about a week ago, they became droopy and everyday the leaves are all over the floor. Sigh.... They have bloomed so many flowers but they have also kind of dried up. At first before I found this forum I was just putting them in the sink and watering them, then I read not to water them to much. Ah what to do?
They are large and the original pots they came in do I have to re-pot them? I grew up with gardenias as a young girl in Puerto Rico, my grandmother had one growing right outside my bedroom window. My favorite flower is the Gardenia. Please help me save my plants. Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 8:19AM
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I want to try the epsom salt treatment. What is the ratio of epsom salts to water that I should use?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 4:32PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

This is a very interesting thread. But, it sounds almost like directions for mixing up a witch's brew. (No criticisms intended here, just an observation.) At the risk of sounding like a know it all, I would like to tell you all what Steve Bender says in The Southern Living Garden Book about Gardenias. If I were you, I would listen to him. My thoughts are the ones in parentheses. Listen to those only if you want to.

Gardenias need good drainage, acid soil, and lots of organic matter. (This is me now: you can provide all of these things by working a couple shovels full of peat moss into the hole at the time of planting.) Plant them "high in the hole" (If you're planting a potted plant from the nursery, let the surface of the soil in the pot be a good inch higher than the surface of the ground you're planting it in. Mound soil from the ground up and around the root ball. This planting technique helps meet that good drainage requirement.) and do not let them be crowded by other plants. (This is very important! They need a good two to two and a half feet of space on all sides of their trunk. If they're too crowded they will have yellow leaves, develop sooty mold, and have even more insects than usual.) They will sulk and have yellow leaves if they have to compete with tree roots. (I have personally experienced this and it is gospel.) Mulch the plants instead of cultivating around them (their roots are near the surface and will be damaged by alot of cultivating.). Feed every 3 to 4 weeks during the growing season with an acid fertilizer (Miracle Gro or Holly Tone would be two), fish emulsion (plants like this like no other fertilizer I have ever tried in 30 plus years of gardening) or blood meal. They need regular water (an inch a week) and appreciate shade in the afternoon, but will do fine in full sun if all their other needs are met.
It is true that gardenias seem to be insect magnets, but they are so tough, you can usually get away with doing nothing, allowing nature (ladybugs, for instance) to do its job, as long as you have followed the above directions. (This assumes that you don't use alot of insecticides that kill the bugs that want to be your friends.) Horticultural oil is a good pest control, but you are only supposed to apply it in the wintertime! It could do real harm to your plants in the heat of summer.

For those of you that have lost some shrubs, you should know that Gardenias are among the easiest plants to propagate on the planet. Take stem cuttings right now (July-August), and you can have them rooted in two weeks in a glass of water or stuck into moist soil in the shade. In a year, they'll be at least as large as nursery stock plants.

While all these ideas for Epsom Salts, etc. have some value, the truth is, you are just guessing at what your plants really need. It is cheaper in every way (time, trouble, and money) to start with the good solid fundamentals of gardening and to follow the advice of the experts. If that fails, get a soil test for $5.00. Then you'll really KNOW what you plants need. If you live in the south, chances are if you follow Steve Bender's guidelines, you won't need anything else to grow gorgeous gardenias.

And by the way, if you don't have the Southern Living Garden Book, you can get one for the price of two shrubs (that might die without good information) or three containers of fertilizer. I couldn't garden without it myself. (And no, I don't work for Oxmoor house.:)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 6:12PM
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I have 5 gardenias. I planted them close to the house, within 5 ft. By mistake I planted butterfly plants behind them to cover a bad area of the house. The butterfly plants have overgrown the gardenias, but the gardenias had green leaves and started budding. I moved the gardenias out away from the butterfly plants into a sunny area, morning and midday sun, shady in the evenings. The leaves have started yellowing on all, but one is blooming now. I hope the conditions are ok. Do they like to be shaded, like an undergrowth(butterfly plants)? I am going to try all of the suggestions except the vinegar. I shall update you on the progress.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 11:39AM
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I have a gardenia that has been in the ground for 5 years and no problems until this spring. Now she has a band of yellowing leaves from top to bottom on one side. She is in bud but I am at a loss as to why she should suddenly develop this problem. Even though we had drought conditions (we now have to water by hose)I have checked the moisture and she seems to have enough water and feed her Holly Tone - which I do in Spring and while she is in bloom - so I don't know what's happening this year. Any suggestions as to what is wrong and how to correct it?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 9:58AM
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hi, just a little thank you & good luck to all. i coddled my gardenia for a year without success. then i read the suggestions from the garden gang and did them all- corn meal, iron, coffee, transplant, acid fertilizer, released roots,and talked to her. something worked; she went from having a dozen leaves on mother's day to a lush, fragrant, flowering bush.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 9:35AM
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I have three large gardenia bushes in pots on my deck. My yard was heavily wooded with lots of shade. In early July we had a bad storm and we lost several of our trees. Once all was cleaned up there was a lot more sunlight on the deck. My gardenias have always had lush green leaves and beautiful blooms. They now have many yellow leaves and the leaves are falling off. I am wondering if the remedies in the forum will work on potted plants? Should I repot? Do you think the additional sun has caused this?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 8:56AM
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Can anyone tell me how often I can use chelated iron on my gardenia? I used it about a month ago when the leaves were yellowing and all the buds had dropped. It did work - The leaves stopped yellowing and buds have developed again - but now the yellowing is beginning again. Should I use the iron once again? How often is too often?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 5:19PM
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Iron deficiency yellowing can also be helped by putting rusty nails in or on the ground around the ailing plant, but I imagine the results may be slower since the process of rusting may make less iron immediately available than a chelated solution.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Vinegar is the secret to foolproof, low-maintenance gardenias, and works almost like magic. About 20 years ago, my mom sent me a clipping from the Arizona Republic newspaper that said to use 1 tablespoon of vinegar in 1 gallon of water per gardenia plant. Pour around the base of plant, being careful it doesn't splash on the foliage. If you get it on the foliage, just rinse off with water. I've been doing this ever since on container and in-ground gardenias of several varieties. I only need to do it 2 to 3 times a year, sometimes only once. At the first sign of yellowing leaves, I'll use the vinegar, and the results are almost immediate. I think it unlocks the nutrients in the soil, and within days, the leaves are dark green and glossy again, and blossoms are popping open. I feed the container plants with Miracid once or twice a summer, but when this doesn't seem to be working, I give them a gallon of vinegar water, and they perk right up. You only need to do this when the leaves start to yellow, or blossoms fail to open, or when there's any other sign of disease or weakness. My gardenias are all bug-free and low-maintenance, and I've never seen an aphid or any sign of bug infestation on them, even when an adjacent tree was covered in whiteflies or the roses next to them have mildew. I have two Mystery Gardenias in containers, that are at least 12 years old and huge for container plants. For about two months every summer I get anywhere from two to ten big blossoms per day, that I take inside and put in bowls all over the house, and it smells like heaven. The garden next to the front door is also full of in-ground gardenias of a smaller variety (Radicans, I think) that blooms almost constantly, and needs nothing but Miracid once a year, and vinegar once a year. Also, I have to water the container plants every day, or they will wilt. They drink a lot of water. They also like water sprayed on their leaves and blossoms in the morning before the full sun hits them.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 1:07PM
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