171 Gardenia augustaCommon Names: gardenia, cape jasmine Family: Rubiaceae (madder Family)
Picture gorgeous, dark to bright green, opposite leaves on a shrub that can grow 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) high with almost equal spread. The leaves are glossy and leathery. Mature shrubs usually look round, and have a medium texture. This is not a "bloom all at once and it's over" shrub! It blooms in mid-spring to early summer over a fairly long season. The flowers are white, turning to creamy yellow as they age, and have a waxy feel. They have a powerful, sweet fragrance, and can perfume an entire room. Air currents waft the scent throughout the warm summer garden to the delight of all.
Cultivars are available that are distinctly different from the plant as described, particularly a prostrate version with very dark green leaves that makes an excellent ground cover in a protected, partly shady area. Cultivar 'Prostrata' grows only 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) in height, with a much greater spread, and produces smaller, but equally fragrant white flowers.
Native to southern China, Taiwan, Japan and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. The common name cape jasmine comes from the mistaken idea that the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa was the gardenia's homeland. Used as a houseplant in cold climates.
CultureRequires acid soil, ideally moist and high in organic matter, but well drained. There are few shrubs so perfect in their properties as the gardenia, but there is a downside: they are susceptible to a host of pests, primarily sucking insects. Gardenias are frequently seen in a cloud of whiteflies, who are laying eggs that will become little sucking larvae. Residue from these will provide a medium for sooty mold to grow, giving the foliage a dull, splotchy black appearance. Scale insects are the second most common problem. Fortunately, gardenias primary pests are easily controlled with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays. Protect in case of severe freezes. Light: Partial shade to sun. Moisture: Moist to average. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: By cuttings -- roots easily in moist soil, especially in warm summer months.
As a specimen shrub, freestanding where its shape and beauty can be appreciated (and good air circulation can help keep pests down). Place near patio or in outdoor living area where its fragrance can be enjoyed.
Its fragrant flowers and glossy evergreen foliage have made gardenia a beloved regular in southern gardens since colonial days. Along with the magnolia, gardenia is a traditional symbol of the American Deep South.
This plant is often seen labeled as Gardenia jasminoides which is now a synonym and no longer valid. See Floridata's What's In a (Plant) Name for more on the mysteries of plant nomenclature.
Gardenias are susceptible to a host of pests, primarily sucking insects. These pests are easily controlled with environmentally safe soap and oil sprays.
Jack Scheper 06/13/97, updated: 10/17/99; 12/5/99, 6/2/01, 1/13/02, 5/13/03, 10/22/03, 2/15/05, 3/21/08