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How to Grow Fragrant Gardenia

Updated on December 3, 2012

Gardenia is a beautiful and highly fragrant plant, often given in a pot as a gift.

Originating in the tropical and sub-tropical climates of Africa, S. Asia, Australasia, Hawaii and Oceania, most varieties of gardenia are grown as house-plants, except in USDA regions 9 to 10, where they may be grown outside.

Members of the family Rubiaceae, to which all coffee plants belong, gardenia has many sub-species.

There are over 200 varieties of gardenia in existence, many of which are hybrid (which means they have been cross-bred by man).

  • Gardenia Jasminoides--The most common type of gardenia and which can reach up to 2 feet tall. Highly fragrant, the scent not unlike jasmine.
  • Gardenia Thunbergia--Also known as Star Gardenia, this can be grown as a tree or a shrub and can reach up to four feet tall.
  • Gardenia Nitida--Grows up to three feet tall and produces white flowers.
  • Gardenia Radicans Floreplena--This Japanese dwarf variety is only about 18 inches high and produces double blooms.

Gardenia is grown mainly because it is so highly fragrant, although it has to be said that its creamy white flowers are especially beautiful as well.

Fragrant Gardenia
Fragrant Gardenia

Grow Gardenias indoors or out?

Where you grow your fragrant Gardenia really depends on the climate where you live.

They thrive outdoors in USDA zones 9 and 10.

Their ideal conditions will have a daytime temperature of anything between 68 - 74 degrees F, and 60 degrees at night.

Obviously this is well above freezing point, so if you live in an area prone to frost you must grow your gardenia indoors.

In a pot of course, it can be grown outside in summer and moved indoors in winter.

Fragrant Gardenia
Fragrant Gardenia

Soil conditions for Gardenia

Fragrant Gardenia likes slightly acid soil to grow in. If you are growing in a pot, buy compost suitable for azaleas and acid loving plants. Most normal bagged compost is pH7 which is neutral.

If you are growing outdoors, you will find your Gardenia struggling if your garden soil is alkaline. Try adding some sulfur to the soil surrounding your plant.

As it is likely to get washed away with the rain and need repeat applications, it might be best to grow your fragrant Gardenia in a large pot or raised flower bed. That way you can better control its pH environment.

Grown outdoors, your Gardenia prefers east or west facing situations. While indoor grown plants prefer a position in full sun, outdoor grown plants prefer a little shade for at least part of the day.

star-flowered fragrant Gardenia
star-flowered fragrant Gardenia

Watering need for a Gardenia plant

Fragrant Gardenia do not like having their feet wet, so do not plant in water-logged ground.

In a plant pot, it is better for your gardenia pot to sit on a bed of pebbles where they can benefit from a little moisture around them without getting sodden.

They also do not appreciate spraying or water droplets.

Their leaves are prone to fungal infections.

For this reason do not plant your outdoor gardenias underneath trees or climbers which may drip water on them.

Gardenias have a reputation as being difficult to grow, but if you get their watering needs right you will find they will thrive.

Too dry, and the flowers will drop. Too wet and the flowers will drop. Somewhere in between in perfect.

Gardenias prefer air with moisture in it around them. If your house is centrally heated it is a good idea to leave a glass half-full of water in the immediate vicinity of your plant.

Beautiful fragrant Gardenia flower
Beautiful fragrant Gardenia flower

Gardenia Fertilizer

Gardenias prefer some additional fertilizer during their growing period between April and November. You can use any fertilizer intended for azaleas as they have similar growing needs.


Fragrant gardenias like to be pruned immediately after flowering. Cut each flowering branch back to half its length. This will encourage new growth.


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