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Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Posted by Hishigata 8 (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 3, 13 at 23:33

Hello fellow Texas gardeners,

I recently remodeled a home and am now attempting to landscape the weed garden that has been cultivated here for the past 30 years by assiduous renters. It is a large yard and I am slowly reclaiming it. I put in alternating camellias and gardenias along the southwest side of the house last fall/winter. A large pecan tree there provides dappled shade during the summer and moderate sun all winter.

The camellias are still small, but they produced many large lovely blooms all winter. The camellia plants are currently covered in glossy green leaves and show good growth despite the start of the summer heat. The gardenias however look a bit sad. Their branches are spindly and bare. Bit by bit their leaves yellow and fall off. The august beauties are doing well but live in pretty much full shade by the porch. The frost proofs however only have a few blossoms and are speckled with yellow leaves.

The camellias look fabulous, why are the gardenias so pathetic!? I have read I may need to add nitrogen, iron, or more acidifier. I planted them with lots of compost and acidifier last fall, do I need more already?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

You say you live in central Texas which I equate with San Antonio-Austin. If youre within this area, you most likely are dealing with highly alkaline soil and watering with highly alkaline water. Camellias and Gardenias really do not like these conditions at all. It sounds like your gardenias are suffering from iron chlorosis with can be remedied with some iron and compost


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I'm also doing a complete overhaul of my yard/garden, planted 2 camellia bushes and am attempting to care for a gardenia bush in a large clay pot. The camellias are doing well so far but I had read that growing gardenias in many parts of Texas is difficult. I'm in Fort Worth, where the county is split between hardiness zones 7b and 8a and the clay soil is high in alkaline. Not favorable conditions for delicate gardenias from what I read. I don't know how much help I can be, seeing as how I'm a gardening beginner, made several polite attempts at getting some help here and NOBODY SEEMS TO WANT TO HELP ME IN THESE FORUMS...but I digress. I can tell you that even in a pot, where I would bring it indoors during the winter with good potting soil, the right kind of fertilizer (made for camellias, azaleas, etc.), watering, adding coffee grounds to the soil, even pouring leftover coffee from the pot into the soil, mulching, spraying with a baking soda/soap mixture to ward off powdery mildew, placing in an area where it gets dappled sun/shade all day and temps, as of late, being ideal for gardenias, mine still struggles to bloom and the leaves are yellowing and falling off en masse. I knew I was taking a chance when I bought the gardenia bush but thought I'd give it a shot anyway. It's proving to be much more fuss than I want to deal with. These gardenia bushes are like high maintenance women. I'm trying to read and teach myself as much as I can about gardening in this difficult area of Texas but in the interim, I've decided to go virtually risk-free and start with Texas sage.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

People are very willing to help but we can't help on topics we aren't knowledgeable about.

Growing acid loving plants in an area with alkaline soil may fall in that category. We can't help, because we don't know how to do it.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

That is EXACTLY why I did not respond, Lucas. If I have no information to help, I simply do not post.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

A friend from South Carolina sent me beautiful, rooted cuttings of gardenias to try because they do so well for her.

I'm in the Cross Timbers soil north of Fort Worth so I have slightly above neutral ph and alkaline water. I planted in a compost-rich, dappled sunlight garden and babied with azalea food to acidify the soil and they still died. Some plants just cannot be grown easily here.

I also don't offer guidance if I lack experience in a particular plant. Can you say blind leading the blind?

Paradisecircus, I'm sorry that you felt that nobody here was helpful.

Some folks here take chances with plants better suited to other climates/soils and I am happy when they succeed but I have no advice that you would find helpful. My advice would be, don't bother planting that here :-)


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

The efforts you describe to grow gardenia in Ft. Worth are the reason the gardening guides for Texas will emphasize selecting plants that grow well where you are. The Texas sage you mention falls into that category.

If you lived in Houston or east Texas your gardenia would easily thrive, especially with all that attention.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Yes, let it be known that when a post seems to go unanswered it is because that way it remains at the top so it will be seen. Then perhaps someone will eventually come along that can help.

I've had no luck keeping gardenias going either.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I've tried both and failed miserably. Neither like our soils and climate here. My in laws in central LA have both-huge and healthy with almost no care. They get almost twice the rain we do and live in a pine forest though.

A replacement plant to consider for the Gardenia in part sun/shade is Dwarf Myrtle. That's what I used and had great success with. The white flowers aren't quite as showy, but it's evergreen and gets about 3' tall and wide.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Hi Hishigata. I'm also trying to grow a gardenia for my first time so I didn't reply..... but I read your post with interest. When I first planted it, I prepared the soil with peat. Most mornings, I pour the coffee grinds around it. We have it planted under an orchid tree, so it receives the morning sun and the afternoon shade. So far, my leaves are still glossy and it looks healthy. Good luck with yours.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Thank you all for your advice, even if it seems the consensus opinion is gardenias and camellias in Texas is a fool's errand. In my ignorance, I assumed if they sell it here, it will grow here...clearly not the case.

Since it seems this is a topic on which few people have experience, perhaps we post what we learn and the results of our efforts, so future forum members will have a resource. Sunnysa and Paradisecircus perhaps you can share updates so we all learn what does and does not work with your plants?

I live in Austin so it is quite warm and my soil is basically alkaline clay (the ph is around 11!!). I dug huge holes for the gardenias and camellias and filled the bottom with pebbles for drainage. I planted them in a mix of shrub garden soil, home-made compost, sand, soil acidifier, and a bit of the original clay-like dirt from the hole.

Gardenias are blooming but look sickly. I put coffee grounds around 2 of the plants and purchased acidic fertilizer (Holly-tone). I will look into iron which seems a little more involved. Can anyone recommend a product/ application method for iron?


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Holly Tone is what the lady that sold me the gardenia recommended. The bag says to mix one cup into the soil, water it, and let it settle. We did that while amending the soil with peat moss..... before planting. I have not added anything more other than the coffee grinds. I would be interested in reading your progress.

This post was edited by sunnysa on Sun, Jun 9, 13 at 16:43


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I've never had much luck with camellias and gardenias in DFW area. You'd have to build 2 feet high plant bed with acidic sandy soil hauled in from east Texas to make that work... I give up.

Roses and abelias are much easier to grow, that's for sure. See Earthkind plants and Texas Superstar plants.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

You would also need to water only with rainwater because local alkaline water will eventually overcome your efforts to keep the soil acidic. I do grow a gardenia in San Antonio but I don't expect it to thrive like the ones I grew up with in my hometown of Houston.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Oh, they'll try to sell you just about anything! It's your job to figure out what will grow in the space you have, with the amount of care & water you want to give it, before you buy anything. :)

One thing to keep in mind with potted plants, unglazed clay pots dry out much faster than glazed or plastic pots. During the heat of the summer they may need to be watered in the morning and in the evening, maybe more if they're in full sun.

Gardening in Texas is a challenge, a lot of us have opted to go with the lesser challenge of planting native and adapted plants that like it where we live. It may not be easy, but it's fun!


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Well now that I'm feeling a little less bitter and have done enough reading on gardening to at least not sound like such a noob, I'd first like to apologize for the rudeness. I had posted several questions here over last few months that went unanswered but hey, it is what it is. They were related to totally different issues but not about the gardenia.

As for the OT, I can report that thus far, the gardenia has held up. After picking off all dead, diseased or damaged leaves and faded blooms, it's looking good and has new growth on top and young branches coming out from the base. I'm battling some early signs of powdery mildew that I may need to treat with a fungicide. The camellias were planted in April I believe. I mixed in coffee grounds with the soil, fertilized with an 18-6-12 granular fertilizer and watered them in with root stimulator. They sit in a bed on the northwest side of the house where they get shelter from wind, dappled shade most of the day and a teeny bit of western sun. That will soon be dappled too as soon as my abelias grow a touch taller, where they sit a little more westward for more sun and were intended to shade the camellias a bit. I haven't had any issues with the camellias. I have two "White By the Gate" camellias and the worst ive dealt with so far has been critters eating some of the lowermost leaves but ive read that isn't detrimental to the plant. We'll see. Its early yet. I'd be thrilled if the camellias make it but unsurprised if they don't. The gardenia was for sheets and giggles. I'm almost betting on when it'll decide it dislikes me and dies. Those risks aside though, my other plantings have been tougher plants that are hardy in TX: abelia "Edward Goucher", crossvine "Tangerine Beauty", Texas sage, serum and an oleander, which I plan on replacing. Hope your gardening is going well!


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

The report on how things are doing for you is appreciated. Wishing you all the best in your gardening endeavors!


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Para... Thanks for the post. I'm also a 'noob' and did not know that gardenias could not be easily grown here.

When I first planted my gardenia, I was so afraid that it would up and die on me, that I took three cuttings.... just in case. Would you believe that the cuttings have rooted and are doing fine? I couldn't believe it! Everything is looking green and healthy. Having said that, I still expect them all to die on me..... without so much as a fare-thee-well! :-)

I have the cuttings in separate pots with a mixture of peat, sand, Holly-tone and Hi-Yield aluminum sulfate. They have full morning sun and afternoon shade. I do not soak them, but do not let them dry out.

This post was edited by sunnysa on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 18:09


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I don't answer when I know nothing about the problem, which is most of the time.

I'm sorry you felt you were being ignored paradisecircus. I looked back for your posts and didn't see any that went unanswered, but the search feature here doesn't always catch everything.

One thing I think would help a lot is if people put their specific area. Hishigata is in zone 8, as am I, but if she is in Austin or San Antonio, even though it's only 150-250 miles different, there are some gardening differences.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

In regards to the zones, yes I forget to post that. I get confused sometimes since Tarrant county is split between zones 7b and 8a. I think my house even sits on that border!

Gotta love how large and variable Texas is! I lived in Houston for 6 years. Whole yard was boring boring boring. Pristine Augustine grass (HOA was a pain in the @%%!!) and holly shrubs that needed absolutely nothing other than shaping once a year. I literally didn't have to do anything to our yard other than run the sprinkers at the appropriate times and have our lawn guys trim once a week. It wasn't until our first spring in the house that we realized a gardenia shrub was growing by the patio. It grew there for 2 years with ZERO care, as I didn't know how to care for it and figured it would shrivel and die. I thought it was dead anyway. So weird to me. It was small and only got one bloom at a time and got a grand total of 5 blooms that spring. But I was floored that it survived with me doing nothing to it. Meanwhile, my gardenia here in DFW that I coddle, feed well, groom, sing to, kiss goodnight, and otherwise neurotically fret over seems to merely tolerate being here.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Welcome to Tarrant county. It has a lot of variation within it. As a noob I thought I was going to have to amend my soil but I got lucky, I am in a soil sweet spot. The best advice I have to offer is what a wise gardener told me.

Look around you! He said, "There are huge magnolias and some big pine trees: your soil definitely has some acid. Look at the old houses, notice what is growing there." Then he dug into the soil and felt it. It was dark, and sandy and sticky. He announced it was wonderful and would need little help." That's all I know and why I went with camellias.... grins! If you happen to have some old houses nearby they are a great source of information.

BTW welcome aboard! c


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Thank you Cynthia! And that is excellent advice! I decided early on I wanted to "work with what works", use native when I can and garden as responsibly as possible. But I also want the garden to be unique and naturally elegant (as opposed to heavy landscaping to make the look formal). I'm still learning what's considered desirable, what isn't, what's bad to plant, etc. Been going to Half Price Books ALOT. Ha!

I've been fortunate with some of my soil. The beds were already prepared so all I had to do was start planting. Other areas are more difficult. My backyard had NOTHING in it, so it's just a long empty yard with a long line of boring fence to match. Can't plant anything along the fence because all my neighbors trees shade it and the ground is heavily compacted clay. So I'm sure I'll be on here crying in my beer over that as well when I get to the backyard. Two words are already coming to mind: raised beds :)


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Just to add to the thread. I am VERY new to gardening. Meaning, I decided to finally re-do my yard and thought, buy plants, plant them, water them and they'll grow. NOT SO MUCH!!!! However, I did buy a gardenia because my neighbor aross the street has one and she went on about how fuss free they are blah blah blah. Well, what did I go do? Go buy 3 frost proofs and planted them in front of my house where it receives sun until about maybe 1 then shade after. All did well for about 2 weeks then all of them started yellowing. The one in more shade not so much but the last 2 are really yellow and some of the leave are brownish. After MUCH research on these forums, I think I may be on an up hill battle but I am going to try really hard to keep them alive and thriving. I'm going to replant them with better drainage and better mixing soil for acidic plants and report back. The nursery said I might be over watering. I've attached a pic just in case someone can look at it and say, YES, stop watering. I'm hoping since my neighbor can grown hers so can I.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

  • Posted by ruthz 8 dfw texas (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 24, 13 at 11:33

I have a fairly large camellia that I've had for many years.
It grew very slow and not many blooms for a long time, but the past few years has done great. It's in a SE corner flower bed with sun & shade and no special treatment.

I've planted gardenias for years and haven't been successful yet. I will keep trying thou.
I know gardenias do grow here.
Where I used to work, every year A guy would bring tons of flowers for all of the office employees.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I've grown gardenias successfully in pots, but after a while I decided I didn't want to deal with the whitefly that seems to haunt them. Lou


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Hi, EM... welcome and thanks for the post. I'm also a trying to grow a gardenia.

Have a question.... are you watering every day? It appears we have a different type, though I don't know the name of mine.... lost the tag. Your leaves appear to be somewhat smaller. However, I water only twice a week... usually Sun and Wed. Lately, I've been using only rain water that I've collected and stored... but it's about to run out. When I do use tap water, I'm careful not to get the leaves wet. I only water underneath the plant. If I mist it, I use the rain water. So far, this has worked really well for me. I purchased it without blooms and it now has two flower buds on it and new leaf sprouts as well. It has full sun in the am and shade in the pm. Hope this helps. Good luck and please keep us posted. Really hope your gardenia makes it.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Hi sunnysa, I was watering them every other day, then was told by the nursery I bought them at to only water twice a week like you're doing. So I watered them on Friday and was going to water tonight. Maybe I'll start collecting rain water too. I'm going to try really hard everything I possibly can to save both of the ones that look like this. Oh, mine are called frost proof and purchased them at strong's nursery nearby where I work.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I think I inherited a small Gardenia when I got this place last year. It gets morning sun, noon and afternoon shade, and will bloom in the spring if kept well watered and fed with food for acid loving plants. If it dies I won't replace it. So far it seems OK. But I wouldn't plant one with a southwest exposure.

If you go to a locally owned organic type nursery you're much more likely to get something that works well in this area. Try looking up your county extension office: they often can tell you what works best in your area.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Scottie, thanks for the post. I'm still trying to keep mine healthy and welcome any advice. You mentioned that you feed it. It that a liquid type or granular? I have not fed mine at all since I planted it because the lady at the nursery said to feed it only in the Spring and in the Fall. But now.... it has three baby buds on it. I am wondering if I should start feeding it while it is budding out? Some websites say do not feed it while it is blooming and others say feed it. It appears that more buds may be forming. I was so very surprised that it had buds in this awful heat. I would really hate for the buds to drop off.

Thanks.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I saw my first yellow leaf today. Not the whole leaf but just at the tip. I've decided to go with the advice of feeding it while it's blooming. I followed these directions for feeding gardenias on ehow:
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1. Buy the right type of fertilizer. Since a gardenia is an acid-loving plant, this is the type of fertilizer you need. You should also buy a fertilizer that is enriched with iron compounds. A water soluble type fertilizer is the easiest and the most preferred type to use. Many people finds that fertilizers that are also good for azaleas will work perfectly for gardenia plants as well.

2. Wet the soil before adding any fertilizer mixture to it. This will keep the fertilizer from burning the roots of the plant.

3. Mix your fertilizer at about 1/4 of the recommended strength. If you use it at full strength, you may actually over fertilize the gardenia, which may harm it. Causing the leaves to turn colors and to eventually fall off of the plant.

4. Repeat every two to four weeks up until the month of November. You should never fertilize a gardenia between the months of November and February for this is their dormant months.
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I hope it works! Would be interested in your progress with your gardenias. Thanks.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Well, I am sad to say my gardenia AND two camellias are likely done for. The odds were stacked against me-- a) I planted too late b) DFW heat is murdering them c) as a beginner gardener, I'm just not skilled enough yet to handle high maintenance plants. Especially since they're new plantings and d) trying to establish those types of shrubs in this heat was unwise. They did fine at first. I used good soil, the right fertilizer and food, appropriate watering, checked for pests/disease everyday. What finally sealed their doom was my dear lovely husband doing his part by manning the irrigation system. He input the start time for every single zone (8 in total) instead of just one start time for the first zone and the system tried to go through the irrigation cycle 8 times! I caught it when I got up in the morning and realized the sprinklers were STILL going (had them set to start at 5am). The overwatering murdered the gardenia and camellias. Gardenia is turning yellow again and losing leaves. Camellia developed leaf gall, root rot or both plus sun scald from getting a bit too much western sun.

I'm not happy about losing these beautiful shrubs but I knew I was taking a risk with them, especially as a beginner. But it was a good test. I have a small variety of plants that range from super-low maintenance to very high. It was a good learning experience but I know that for now, I don't think I want to mess with those kinds of plants. Creating and maintaining the delicate balance of elements these shrubs need is just not something I think I want to mess with yet. Meanwhile, I'm having better success with my Texas sages, abelia, crossvine, star jasmine, angelonia, creeping rosemary and kalanchoe.

So I'm out of the gardenia and camellia game (for now). But after some time and learning, I'm sure I'll revisit them again. I am determined to have at least one shrub that produces gorgeous, elegant, velvety white blooms.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Paradise, thanks for the update. They are definitely beautiful plants. I can certainly understand about losing both the gardenia and the camellias, too. If my gardenia dies, I don't think that I would try again. It's too bad about the overwatering. Thanks for the post.


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Thank you! Yes it is a shame, but husband was so jazzed about having the irrigation system working properly, he had a grand time pushing all those buttons on the controller and doing test runs. I just didn't have the heart to tell him his mistake cost me the shrubs. So in this particular situation, ignorance is bliss :)


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Hi all, I know I'm late to the discussion, but wanted to offer some hope to Fort Worth people wanting to grow gardenias.
I bought a Veitchii in May. I planted it in morning to mid-afternoon sun with my hydrangeas. I use a soaker hose in that area and, depending on the temperature, water every 2-3 days during the summer. I have alkaline and slightly sandy soil that I did not amend at all. The most I did was feed it some Mir-Acid every few weeks. After the blooms that were on it when I bought it died, I waited for more. For 3 months I watched as it regularly developed buds...then dropped them. I resigned myself to the idea that this was just going to be a nice foliage plant. Until today. I actually had one that wanted to open!
Now I don't consider 1 bloom a success, but I think it takes me out of the 'failure' category. I'm obviously not even remotely an expert, but what I have learned about trying to grow a gardenia is that you must be a very patient person, and not frustrate easily; because if you are then this plant may be the end of you...lol


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

Leah, thank you for the follow up! For me personally, I've decided to hold off on camellias and gardenias until I'm more skilled and more patient. Ha! My sprinkler fiasco aside, my August Beauty gardenia was already going downhill. I could've done more to save it but I realized that I wasn't willing to keep up that level of maintenance yet. But I will definitely keep the Veitchii in mind for when I decide to give it another shot. And I say YES, one bloom IS a success! Considering how much attention they need in Texas, I think that deserves a YAY!


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

It's a YAY for me, too. The white bloom looks really healthy against the dark green foliage. I'm so glad you got one bloom that didn't drop off. Good job!

I had three buds. They stayed on for about three weeks and one by one, they dropped off. I was really hoping for just one to bloom. I'm kind of thinking that it was because I began to feed them when they developed buds. Somewhere I read that they need to be stressed to bloom.... when they are stressed, they develop flowers to survive. I just know that if they bud out again, I won't feed them. The leaves are so healthy... glossy and green and the bush is already quite large. I guess I should be happy with that, lol.

You are so right.... it's a waiting game. :-)


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RE: Gardenias and Camellias in Central Texas

I've managed to keep 2 out of 3 miniature gardenias alive for a year in Plano (gardenia jasminoides Radicans). The plants that survived are under mature red oaks or in complete shade, and bloomed beautifully in the spring. I fertilized with Garrett Juice and Superthrive until about July, and they did take some watching as to water. The plant that died just could not get enough water under a mature red oak. I think the dirt was too shallow there- too many roots, and I will not replant there.
I do love them and after reading this thread I feel lucky.


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