The Gardenia - a Florida flower beauty and my favorite
Various types of gardenia
One of the flowers that has been adopted to and assimilated well in Florida, is the gardenia. The sub-tropical and humid weather in Florida affords perfect growing conditions to the sweet-smelling gardenia flower, plant or tree. It has fast become my favorite flower because of its beauty and fragrance.
The gardenia belongs to a genus of 142 species of flowering plants in the coffee family, Rubiaceae. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and Oceania. The gardenia flower originated in China and has been cultivated there for nearly one thousand years. The gardenia is quite a popular flower in Japan and the Japanese have popularized the drawing of the gardenia. It is the national flower of Pakistan.
It was named after Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791), a Scottish born American naturalist. Another common name for the flower is cape jasmine.
The flower grows on evergreen shrubs and small trees and are very popular in southern Florida. The flower gives off the fragrance of vanilla, jasmine, and nutmeg and the fragrance becomes spicier as the bloom of the flower ages.
The flower, when on the bush, is surrounded by dark green leaves that grow in whorls of three or four around the bloom. The flowers grow solitary or in small clusters. The colors of the flowers are white, creamy white or pale yellow.
The plants and trees flower from mid-spring to mid-summer, but I have found in Florida they bloom year round. Because of the humidity and subtropical climate they seem to thrive in Florida. If water touches the flower, however, the flower begins to turn brown.
The Gardenia jasminoides can be cultivated as a house plant and is wonderful to bring the sweet fragrance of the gardenia inside.
Gardenias, whether plant, tree, or potted inside needs warm humid tropical or sub-tropical climate. They should be in bright light, but do not have to be in direct light. Gardenias need acidic soils and good drainage no matter where they are planted. They should NOT be planted near cement house foundations, walks or driveways as the concrete damages the acidic soil it needs to grow and thrive.
How to plant, grow and care for your gardenia
Whether planting a gardenia plant or a tree be sure to plant your gardenia near a door, window, or deck because of the sweet fragrance it gives off. You want to be able to enjoy the the sweet vanilla, jasmine and nutmeg fragrance of the flower.
The gardenia plant and tree generally grows from two to eight feet tall and wide but there are exceptions. Some plants have been know to grow as high as fifteen feet. The plants and trees are evergreens and the creamy white flower grows in a round shape with dark green glossy leaves surrounding it.
Plant the gardenia in an area with full sun to light shade and be sure to plant it in moist, rich, well-drained soil. In Florida, mulch is used around the plant to trap in the moisture and help keep the sand away from the plant. It is best to apply two to three inches of organic mulch to also help reduce weeding and maintain a constant soil temperature.
Always plant the gardenia in the spring or the fall and if planting more than one plant, space them three to six feet apart so they have room to grow. The pH of the soil should be between five and six.
When planting, dig a hole only as deep as the root ball, about two feet deep, and two to three times as wide. Set the plant in the hole and fill the hole half full with soil and then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain and then fill the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly.
Gardenia plants require at least one inch of rain per week or the equivalent of watering the plant. Fertilize the gardenia plant or tree with an acidifying fertilizer once a month.
Once the plant or tree has grown up, prune it in early spring to shape the bush or tree. Be sure the pruning is done no later than October 1 or the blooms will be reduced. Gardenia plants and trees bloom heartily if taken care of properly.
Check for white flies or mealybugs regularly and spray with a horticultural oil of insecticidal soap if they should appear on the plant or tree.
Uses of the gardenia flower
There are several different uses of the gardenia flower. It can be used medicinally for clearing, calming and cooling properties it brings to the human body. Just smelling a gardenia relaxes me.
The gardenia flower has deep floral meanings. To present gardenia to someone says "You are lovely" and it has been known as the symbol of a secret love over many centuries. Therefore, always give the gardenia flower to someone you really care about.
The gardenia is used in bouquets, especially bridal bouquets because of the sweet fragrance it gives off and because of its symbolic meaning. It France it is used as a boutonniere in the lapels of men's suit jackets when they attend special occasions.
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved
© 2013 Suzette Walker