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How to put a gardenia to work for you.

How to put a gardenia to work for you Exotically perfumed and porcelain-petaled, gardenia flowers look like pampered hothouse beauties. But the plants are no sissies--in the hot climates that they prefer, they're hardworking garden shrubs.

Gardenias don't like fog or cold, clammy soil. They thrive on warm days and nights, plenty of water and nitrogen, and gritty, fast-draining soil. Given these conditions, plants grow and bloom abundantly.

Placing gardenias near outdoor sitting areas and under windows lets you savor their evening fragrance. Use them in sunny borders, near patios and pools, or as informal hedges. Gardenias also grow well in containers and raised beds--good solutions that can overcome limitations of your climate or soil.

Plant as you would azaleas and camellias, in a rich, well-drained acid soil, setting the rootball high so water won't collect around the crown. Mulch to retain soil moisture.

Place in full sun near the coast, but provide some protection farther inland, since intense sun and drying winds can brown the flowers and bleach foliage. Filtered shades is best in northern California's interior valleys.

In borderline gardenia-growing climates, maximize heat by planting gardenias in the warmest corner of the garden or by growing them in containers placed on protected, heat-holding patios.

It's hard to overfeed gardenias. For peak boom, fertilize throughout the growing season, applying an acid or high-nitrogen plant food every three to four weeks. In very hot weather, feed more often with dilute doses. If plants develop yellowed leaves, treat for chlorosis with iron chelate or iron sulfate. Prune off scraggly branches and pluck faded flowers.

This month, you'll still find plants in bloom in most nurseries. Here are the most popular choices:

Gardenia jasminoides 'Mystery' has the largest flowers and leaves. Heaviest bloom is May to July; sometimes flowering continues to November. Plants eventually get 6 to 8 feet tall; they need pruning to control legginess.

G.j. 'August Beauty' resembles 'Mystery' but stays a little shorter. This heavy bloomer is named for its habit of flowering a second time, between August and October.

G.j. 'Veitchii' is a free-flowering, bushy plant 3 to 4-1/2 feet high. It's the easiest to grow in cooler climates and has a long blooming season: May to November, or even longer in warm-winter areas.

G.j. 'Radicans' is a miniature 6 to 12 inches tall, with variegated foliage and inch-wide flowers. It's well suited to containers. For a border or small-space planting as pictured at left, space plants 12 to 24 inches apart.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1985
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