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Gardenia

October 22, 2016

QuestionWhen would be the best time for me to transplant my gardenia bush?  I have it in a barrel on my porch now but it has grown double since I put it in there.  I would like to put it in the ground

  

 AnswerIn a perfect world it would have been better to plant in the spring to get the root system established before winter.  That being said, it will be more winter hardy in the ground than in the container, so plant it ASAP.  Make sure the site is well drained with morning sun and afternoon shade. Water well when planting and monitor watering needs when we don’t get rain.  Pay particular attention prior to freezing temperatures. If a plant is dry going into a cold spell it is more sensitive to cold damage.


 

October 2016

QuestionAbout 10 years ago or so, we planted seven dwarf gardenia bushes in two small to medium beds around our patio. At that time they looked great but now have overgrown the areas and all or part need to be removed. They are very healthy but are hard to manage (trim) due to their low growth over the ground.  Do you have any suggestions on transplanting them or drastically cutting them back?

 AnswerThe time to prune them has passed, and I also would not transplant gardenias in the fall, but rather wait until late winter or early spring.  Gardenia plants can get winter damage in a cold winter, and if you move them or prune them this late, they will be more susceptible to damage.  Get through the bulk of the winter then move them. Gardenias set flower buds in the fall for the next summer’s flowers, so by now their flower buds are set for next year.  If they need pruning, do so immediately following bloom next summer.   When you do transplant them if you end up pruning them back or damaging them when moving, you will be losing some flowers for that season, but the plant should bounce back.  


August 13, 2016

QuestionMy gardenia bush was damaged by heavy rain in early spring. When is best time to cut back? Also, what about Crape myrtle?     

Answer

                                                                                                                                                                                    If your gardenia needs pruning you need to move fast.  Gardenias have finished blooming in most yards and will begin to set flower buds for next year in a month or so.  The window of opportunity to prune is short, so shape them up now and then make sure you keep it watered if it gets dry so it can recover.  Crape myrtles are pruned in late February to mid-March, before new growth begins.      


 June 18, 2016

Question

I have two beautiful gardenia trees in pots on my patio.  They are full of buds that have been there for a few weeks but they haven't bloomed except for a couple.  Is that normal or is there something wrong that I might be able to fix? 

Answer

Different plants bloom at different times. I have one single bloom gardenia that has already finished, one double that is in full bloom and another that is just beginning. As long as the buds are green and firm, I think you should be fine. Don’t let them dry out or that can impact the flower buds.


 June 1, 2016

QuestionLast August I pruned my gardenia bushes way back. This spring they looked almost dead with very black leaves on them. They have somewhat revived, but about one fourth of the bush looks dead. When is the best time to prune? Did I wait too late? Mine bloom twice a year, and I waited until after the second set of blooms before pruning.  Should I have waited until spring?

AnswerGardenias are in full bloom across much of the southern half of the state now.  This was a mild winter for our gardenias, and most came through with flying colors.  For now, prune out any dead wood, and if blooming, wait until they are finished before pruning anything more.  The time to prune gardenias is immediately following the first set of blooms. But have a reason to prune. Pruning after the first set of flowers may prevent the later blooms, but waiting to prune until August will hurt your main blooms the following summer.  Gardenias set their flower buds in the fall, so you want to allow recovery time after pruning.  Only prune if needed; if there is plenty of room for the plant to grow, leave it alone.


April 1, 2016

QuestionWe have a large 16 year old gardenia plant on the north side next to our home in Hot Springs Village.  The plant has done well and has produced many blossoms each year--even came back after the big ice storm.  Its leaves have always been shiny and healthy looking.  Right now they are dark with no shine and look like they might have some kind of fungus.  What can I do for this condition?

 AnswerThe black covering rubs off—it is called black sooty mold and it is a by-product of sucking insects, probably whiteflies.  The insects suck sap out of the leaves, typically feeding on the underside of the leaves, and then they give off a sticky substance called honeydew.  Wherever honeydew lingers, a black sooty mold will form.  Control the sucking insects and you control the problem. While black sooty mold will not kill a plant, heavy covering of the foliage can cut down on photosynthesis which can impact growth.  Systemic insecticides will give you the best control.  


 November 7, 2015

Question

I made several cuttings from my gardenia in the spring. They were all six doing fine, set in pots. Yesterday I showed them to some relatives visiting and all were intact. Today I went out to water and one is cut off at ground level, two others are cut of several inches above ground. I first thought someone had actually cut them, but then I noticed on one, below the cut, it looked like something had been chewing on it. Any ideas what is going on?

 AnswerSounds like a squirrel or other creature has had a nibble.  I would suggest you move the cutting s inside now for the winter.  Put them in a sunny window in a cool spot in your house and let them regrow.  They are too fragile to be planted outside this late in the year.  Wait for spring, after all chances of frost have passed and plant in either a larger container outside or in the ground.  


 October 31, 2015

Question

We are planning to put in a hedge to screen us from the property next door. I think Elaeagnus would be best to reach at least 6 feet and would grow quickly. There are many varieties of Elaeagnus and I am somewhat confused as to which one would be the best and will grow in north central Arkansas. Also, how invasive are the roots and what is the best month to plant? Can you help? 

Answer

There are several varieties of elaeagnus, but I would avoid Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellate), since both can be invasive.  Thorny elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens) is a great evergreen shrub which is blooming right now. The flowers are as fragrant as gardenias, but hidden within the bushes.  They tend to have a few wild sprouts periodically throughout the year requiring a little pruning.  Another one that is not as common in central or northern Arkansas is Elaeagnus multiflora or goumi berry, which does produce edible berries, but is deciduous.  Overall, your best bet would be the thorny elaeagnus.  They are quite winter hardy, so fall planting would work well—any time from now through spring is fine.

 October 24, 2015

QuestionI need some help in rooting small bushes and plants. I can't root anything. I snip the cuttings about 6" and I've tried putting them in water with no luck. I've bought root hormone and it doesn't work either. I've tried getting cuttings at different times of the year, mainly in the spring. What am I doing wrong? I would really like to root cuttings from a Japanese maple, Gardenia and a Camellia that I have growing in my yard. 

Answer

  Timing could be part of the problem, and also the type of plants you are trying to root.  Some plants root at the drop of a hat, while others can be a bit more finicky.  For most woody plants, taking cuttings in mid to late June through early July is the easiest time to root.  The stems have had a chance to harden off from new spring growth, but they aren’t overly woody.  The woodier the cutting is, the longer it will take to root.  Take cuttings that are three to four inches in length. Strip off any foliage at the base of the cuttings.  Get a pot and fill it with fresh, sterile potting soil that has been moistened to the consistency of a run out sponge.  Then put your cuttings in.  Use a rooting hormone if you have one.  Then place the pot with cuttings inside a clear plastic bag.  Put it in a bright window indoors—out of direct sunlight and be patient.  You have just created a mini-greenhouse to keep the humidity up while rooting is taking place.  With woody cuttings it can take months and especially now in the cooler months of fall and winter.  Leave the cuttings sealed up for a month or two and then see what has happened


 November 2012

QuestionPlease tell me how and when to prune a 40 year old gardenia that has grown to 12-15 ft at least. It was in my yard when I moved in 39 years ago, about 4 - 5 feet wide at the time. I have never pruned it except to cut blooms off for bouquets. It blooms faithfully every June and September...this year on through October. It seems to have several trunks but I cannot see it clearly. If I cut some of the branches way back at the bottom, will it be harmed? I don't know whether to trim it back into some shape. It is really too big and overtaking some azaleas planted at least ten feet from the trunk. 

AnswerIf it needs pruning, do so as soon after it blooms in June next year. The flower buds are set now for that bloom period, so any pruning now would reduce your flowering. Another reason not to prune in the fall is that it would take away some winter protection. Gardenias can struggle in a really cold winter, so leave it as is until next summer.


July 2012

QuestionRecently, I asked you about my dwarf gardenias not keeping their blooms very long. I have been introduced to Epsom Salt this year and have been doing some experimenting with different plants and having wonderful results. The gardenias also received a dose of ES and are now blooming again. Not many, but a very few blooms and very little, if any, fragrance. We are curious if the salt has produced the extra blooms. We do not recall them blooming after spring last year. 

AnswerEpsom salts are magnesium sulfate, and many home gardeners swear by it for magnolias, tomatoes and roses. If your soil is low in magnesium, this is an easy way to raise the level. Many of our old acidic soils may lack in magnesium. Having you soil tested will determine where your levels are. Gardenia varieties vary tremendously by how long they bloom and whether or not they can re-bloom. Weather conditions can also alter the bloomability. This year, many plants bloomed very early and if they have been watered, I have seen a large number of the plants setting new flower buds. I even have some new buds on my single blooming Daisy gardenia, which has never re-bloomed before. Enjoy the new blooms, but don’t depend solely on Epsom salts as your fertilizer regime, and I wouldn’t use it much later in the season on gardenias.


June 2012

QuestionMy dwarf gardenias were full of blooms this year but lasted only a couple of weeks. What can I do to prolong the bloom period?

 

AnswerDifferent varieties bloom at different rates. I have a Kleim’s Hardy or Daisy gardenia. It has a simple flower and when it is in bloom, it is a solid mass of white flowers that all bloom at one time. But it only lasts for about a week. My double standard gardenia blooms for at least a month with flower buds opening over an extended period. Some varieties re-bloom such as August Beauty and Jubilation.


February 2012

QuestionThis may be a crazy question but here goes. I live in Little Rock and my daughter is getting married June 8. She loves gardenias and would like to use them at her reception as centerpieces, probably floating in water. Gardenias are expensive to buy and I know very delicate. Is there any way to grow our own this spring? I am not good in the garden at all. I have friends who have gardenia bushes so I know they can grow in Arkansas but I don't know the conditions or the timing. I know it might be risky but could this be a possibility? Do you have any suggestions? 

AnswerGardenias grow quite nicely in Little Rock. As a cut flower, they usually start to decline pretty rapidly, so I would float them a couple of hours before you plan to use them. There are numerous plants that will have flowers on them that would be available from local nurseries. I would also put the word out to family and friends to see if they have plants. As early as things are moving this year, I would bet on flowering gardenias by June 8. I know many nurseries sell them loaded with buds for Mother’s Day which would be a few weeks before. Depending on how many tables you have, you could actually get some small blooming plants ordered and use those as your centerpieces.


December 2010

QuestionI've been trying to plant a Gardenia near my backyard deck for years. I love the smell of the flowers and have purchased numerous plants only to have them die in the winter. I purchased another plant last spring and planted it in a pot on the deck. The gardenia is now about 24" tall and I have it in an 18" diameter pot. I had planned to transfer it to a larger diameter pot before winter, but am wondering if I should wait until spring. I have moved the plant to the screened in back porch for the winter. What should I do as far as care for the Gardenia to get it through our winter? 

AnswerI am surprised you have had winter damage in Little Rock. That was common in the 80's but we haven't seen much in recent winters. Gardenias typically experience winter damage when temperatures drop to below 15 degrees. In a container, they would be more susceptible to damage since the soil is elevated. On your porch, monitor the temperature and if it gets close to 20 degrees, you may want to move it to the garage for a night or two. Repotting it now is not necessary. Water when dry, but don't keep it saturated. Gardenias do best where they get full morning sun and protection from the hot afternoon sun. They like a well drained soil and an acidic one. I would consider planting it outside this spring and let it get established during the growing season to have a stronger root system for winter. There are also some more cold tolerant varieties on the market that should overwinter even in NW Arkansas that you may want to try. Frost Proof has been out for awhile and Jubilation is a new gardenia for central Arkansas that re-blooms.


November 2010

QuestionMy gardenia (August Beauty) bloomed again in September, October and a few blooms now in November. There were lots of blooms in October. Will I have any blooms next spring? I have never seen it bloom this much in fall. 

AnswerAugust Beauty is a variety of gardenia that has one of the longer blooming periods. It often has a big display in June and then rests for a bit and rebounds in late summer through fall. I surely hope it has another display set for next spring, but there is nothing you should do now except enjoy any late flowers. I think it was just as happy as we were to leave summer behind that it celebrated a little longer this season.


September 2010

Question I planted August Beauty gardenias in May. I have them on the north side of my house. The leaves are turning yellow and falling off. I have watered them every other day. They look like they are dying. Please help. I saw a vine that is called Hardenbergia violacea--- Happy Wanderer--- Purple vine Lilac. Will it grow in Hot Springs Village? Does it take over like wisteria or Honeysuckle. If it is a good plant, where can I find it? It is very pretty.   

AnswerWhat is the drainage like where your gardenias are planted? How much sunlight are they receiving? On the north side, I would suspect very little. Gardenias don’t like wet feet, so overwatering could be a possibility. Stress from this summer could be causing some yellowing, but overall I think it is water related. Hardenbergia is not winter hardy in Arkansas. I have never seen it in the states, but did see a beautiful vine in New Zealand a few years ago—you are right, it is very pretty.


March 2010

QuestionCan (or should) Rose of Sharon bushes, gardenia bushes and/or mock orange bushes be pruned and if so, when is the best time to do it?

 

AnswerWhen pruning any plant there are three questions you need to ask before grabbing the pruning shears: why, when and how? Why do they need to be pruned—have they overgrown their space, do you need a specific shape or size, or has there been any damage to them. Once it has been determined that you need to prune, then know when is the best time. If they are spring bloomers, like mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), then all pruning should be done AFTER they bloom. Spring blooming plants set flower buds at the end of the growing season. Pruning as soon after flowering will give them ample time to recover before they need to set more flower buds. If your plant blooms in the summer, like the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) they bloom on the new growth and should be pruned before growth begins—in late February until mid March. Pruning later simply delays the first set of flowers. As with all things there are exceptions to these rules—Gardenia or cape jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides) and big leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) and oak leaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) bloom in the summer but set flower buds in the fall. Some newer cultivars of gardenia and hydrangea ‘Frost Proof’ gardenia and ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea actually set flower buds in the fall but also set some flowers on the current season growth. Choosing a plant that fits the location will limit how much it needs to be pruned. If pruning of gardenias or hydrangeas are needed, do so immediately after the first big flush of flowers in the summer.


July 2005

QuestionI currently have a small gardenia bush that is growing in a container - I would like to permanently plant in a small flower bed facing west and want to know if I can over winter it here and it survive? I live in Greers Ferry. 

AnswerYou are borderline for gardenia survival outdoors. This past winter we did have a little winter damage on even well established gardenias. Dwarf gardenias and florist gardenias tend to be less winter hardy. Plant it in a protected spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. I would avoid the western location if possible, since the plant will be subjected to more fluctuations of winter temperature. Pay attention during the winter and consider covering it should temperatures fall below 20 degrees. We can have damage at 15 degrees.


April 2008

QuestionIs it o.k. to trim gardenias now? When is the best time?

 

AnswerNow is not a good time to prune gardenias. Most gardenias bloom from flower buds set last fall. Pruning now would remove those buds. Wait until after the plants finish flowering with their first flush of blooms, and then prune as needed. There are several new varieties that also set some flowers on the current season growth—re-blooming again in late summer. Try to prune as little as possible to prevent losing out on any blooms, but prune as soon as the first flowering season ends. If you choose a plant that fits the location, you may never have to prune.


May 2009

QuestionI have three beautiful gardenias in my yard. They bloom wonderfully every year, but my only problem seems to be white flies. I used the Bayer insecticide that you put into the root system and Malathion, but I still have a problem. Do you have any other ideas? 

AnswerImidacloprid (Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insecticide) does do a pretty good job, but the results will not be instantaneous. The plants have to absorb the chemical. Occasionally a second application applied midsummer is needed for all season control. Other options include: Resmethrin, Permethrin, Talstar, and Mavrik are other options.


June 2005

QuestionI have recently planted three gardenias on the front of my house. These plants receive the morning sun and afternoon shade. My question is what makes the pretty green leaves turn yellow and fall off? Please help me with this problem . I am trying to make a hedge with the gardenias. 

AnswerSeveral things can cause yellowing of gardenia foliage. Some are nutritional, or soil related, and the other can be insects. If the pH is too high, they can suffer from iron chlorosis. This condition usually causes yellow foliage, with green veins in the leaves. Although our soils are often acidic, occasionally liming or other conditions can cause a more alkaline condition. If they are planted next to a new foundation or new sidewalk, often the lime can leach out of the concrete causing a rise in pH. A soil sample can determine the pH and help you lower the pH. Another nutritional problem can be a lack of nitrogen, which can cause yellowing of the foliage. Poor drainage can also give rise to a weak and a more yellow plant. Another, and often more common problem is an insect called whitefly. Adult whiteflies often fly when the plant is disturbed, giving an almost dandruff like scattering of white. The larval and egg stages congregate on the underside of the foliage. These insects suck sap out of the foliage, and can cause yellowing and even a distortion of the leaves. Heavy infestations often give rise to a black coating on the leaves, caused by black sooty mold which builds up on the sweet honeydew given off by the insects. Whitefly is not easy to control. Systemic insecticides applied early in the season can give you some control now, or you can use Resmethrin. Other products are also available. But before you start spraying, try to determine the cause of your problem. Your county extension office is a great place to start.


July 2010

QuestionI made a cutting 4 or 5 years from a gardenia in Little Rock. It has done well in a pot and bloomed for the first time last summer. It has bloomed a lot this summer. I want to plant it outside. When is the best time to plant it and where would be the best location? I live in Searcy County. What kind of protection might I need in the winter? Any help will be greatly appreciated. 

AnswerIf you plan to plant it outside, I would get it planted as soon as possible. You need to allow the plant a chance to get its roots established before cold weather sets in later this fall. Plant it in a protected spot in your yard where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade. The soil should be well drained. Searcy County is pushing the hardiness limits. Be prepared to cover it when temperatures drop to 15 degrees or lower, and leave it covered until they get above that. If it does get winter damaged it will not bloom that season, since it sets its flower buds in late summer. If it is small you can get a large cardboard box to cover. Good luck.


February 2010

QuestionMy gardenia plants were all bent over, weighted down with snow and ice. Is there possible permanent damage to them? Do I do something now to help them?

 

AnswerBy now, I would hope that they have straightened up or are on their way to doing so. My loropetalum was touching the ground and it is already almost totally upright again. Check to make sure that no branches were broken under the weight of the snow. If you do see broken branches, prune those, but otherwise wait until spring to see if any permanent damage was done. Burned foliage should be left alone.


November 2008

QuestionBetween our house and the patio edge there is about a 20" wide ground space. There is a gardenia planted between the house and patio. It needs to be moved and/or cut back. When should it be moved? When should it be cut back? 

AnswerFirst, decide which you prefer, cutting it back and leaving it where it is, or moving it to a new location where it can grow at its will. A large gardenia is a pleasant thing to have when they are in bloom. If you decide to leave it where it is, pruning should be done immediately following bloom in the summer. If you want to move it, wait for the bulk of winter to be finished, and then move it in late February or March. Gardenias need either morning sun or filtered sunlight with an acid environment and even moisture, but a well drained site.


September 2006

QuestionWe have several Cape jasmine bushes rooted in a bucket. We would like to know when we should plant them and which side of the house? These cuttings are off my mother-in laws bush and we do not want anything to happen to them. Are they Cape Jasmine or Gardenia's? They have cream colored blooms and a very sweet smell and very slick shiny leafs. 

AnswerCape jasmine is the same thing as a gardenia, although some will argue the point. Common names can be misleading, but both refer to the plant Gardenia jasminoides. If the plants are newly rooted, I would hesitate to take a chance on them over wintering outdoors, unless they are provided extra protection. If they were mine, I would pot them up and leave them outdoors until mid October. Then move them to a sunny, cool location indoors. Keep them a bit on the dry side while indoors and then plant in their permanent location outdoors next spring. If indoor relocation is not feasible, plant on the east or north side of the house as soon as possible. The quicker they can root the better. Mulch lightly now, then heavier after a killing frost to insure winter survival.      


October 2006

QuestionWe have a rather large Oleander that was absolutely beautiful this summer but it has gotten tall enough that the branches are falling over. Is it safe to prune and if so, how much. Does it need to be fertilized? Also, I need to prune my gardenia bushes but they are still producing a few flowers. When will it be safe to cut them back? 

AnswerOleander is only moderately winter hardy in central Arkansas, a bit more so in south Arkansas and very limited, if at all in north Arkansas. I would not prune it as it heads into winter, or you would expose it to potential winter damage. Get it through the winter and then prune as needed before growth begins in the spring. It will bloom on the new growth so pruning should not interfere with flowering if you do it early. Fertilize monthly during the growing season to keep it blooming. Do not prune the gardenia now. Not only would winter be an issue with it as well, the flowers you are seeing now are bonus blooms. Some varieties set some late blooms on the new growth, but the majority of flowers are set in the fall but bloom in late June to July. Any pruning that is needed should be done after the summer flush of flowers.


October 2006

QuestionI live in Fairfield Bay, Ark and in the middle of trees. My three gardenias are located at the front SW corner of my house, and mostly in the shade due to my trees and the tall trees on the west side lot next to me which are about 10' away. They do get a little sunlight in the early part of the day. They are about 3' high. Can I cut them back to about 1 - 2' to stimulate new growth, and when, or can I cut half of the plant back now and the rest later? What kind and when to fertilizer, and mulch? What kind of pesticide(s) are to be used? When does the gardenia bloom and how often, once, twice, thrice? 

AnswerThere are different varieties of gardenias and size can vary by variety. If you choose a plant that fits your location, you may never have to prune. If you do need to prune, the goal is to prune as soon as the first flush of flowers have faded in late June or July (depending on our season). There are some varieties of gardenias which have more blooms in the fall, but they are usually not as showy as the first summer blooms. If you need to prune, you may not get the late season flowers. Prune only as much as needed, even then. Pruning now is not advisable. It would remove the flower buds for next summer’s blooms, plus it would expose the plant to potential winter damage. You are pushing it as it is, growing them as far north as Fairfield Bay. Fertilize with an Azalea type fertilizer as new growth begins in the spring. Watch for white flies, which gardenias tend to be a magnet for. If this becomes a common occurrence each summer, use a preventative application of Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insecticide in late March to April. Mulch should be on all plants all the time. Organic mulches include hardwood mulch, pine bark or pine needles.


July 2006

QuestionI have two miniature gardenias and I was wondering if you could please tell me when and where I should prune them. Their limbs are starting to spread all over the ground and I have never trimmed them. They are beautiful with all the white blooms but really need help. I think they would look much better if trimmed up. 

AnswerIf there is room for them to grow, and they are full plants, there is no need to prune, however, if they have overgrown their location, you can prune, but do so soon. Gardenias bloom in the summer and turn around and set flower buds in the fall. By now, many of the dwarf gardenias have finished their blooming season. If yours are still blooming, prune as soon as the flowering season ends. If needed, thin out some branches and cut back to a manageable size. Lightly fertilize after pruning and the plants should recover quickly.


June 2006

QuestionLast spring (2005) I set out a Cape jasmine that we had moved with us from Union County just above the LA border. It lived, put out new leaves, and is a nice healthy green, but hasn't bloomed here in N-W Arkansas, Benton County, just 5 miles this side of MO. It is very hardy stock -- a 4- or 5-year old cutting from a plant we moved from an old house place in the Ouachita River bottoms; nothing left of the house but the chimney, and tall pines and oaks growing where the house had been. That plant had survived plenty of neglect, dry summers and ice storms in its lifetime, definitely not a hothouse plant! This cutting had blossomed the last three years that I'm sure of, so what I'm wondering is, does it have to get adjusted to the different latitude and altitude here on the Ozark Plateau? If that isn't a problem with it, what could you suggest? I've fed it plant food especially formulated for flowering plants, and don't know what else I can do to encourage it to bloom. Sweet talk, maybe? 

AnswerI am surprised it survived, but then again, we didn't have much of a winter. Cape jasmine or gardenia is usually not hardy in north Arkansas since it is considered a zone 8 plant --hardy to about 15 degrees. My guess is that it set flower buds last summer but they were frozen or winter damaged. Often times gardenias get nipped back and while their root system survives, the flower buds are lost--since they set them at the end of the summer. Two options would be to either give extra winter protection - particularly when temperatures are predicted below 15 degrees, or secondly to containerize the plant and move it into the garage or protected area for the winter. Gardenias should be evergreen with foliage intact year-round.


June 2006

QuestionWe moved from Chicago (with its wonderful black topsoil) about a year and a half ago. Now that we are into my second Arkansas gardening season, we have a perplexing problem with which we hope you can provide some guidance. When we bought a home in Diamondhead, outside of Hot Springs, we acquired a raised garden plot of some 180 sq ft. We have tried to plant shrubs and perennials that are deer resistant, and have been mostly successful in that regard. Our problem is that some of our plants (especially two gardenias and a caryopteris) over time have been slowly losing their leaves - they turn brown or yellow and then fall off. (Last summer, we thought, the problem was related to extreme summer heat, but it is already occurring again this year.) Other plants don't seem to be affected. Our neighbors have a cat that runs free, and who we are quite sure had frequently been using the garden plot as a convenient litter box. (We have taken steps to keep the cat out of the garden.) Could he be the cause of the problem with our plants? If so, what can we do to fix the soil to be more tolerant of our plants? 

AnswerIt is possible that the cat is causing problems. Have your soil tested to see what the pH is and the salt levels. Gardenias like an acidic soil and can have yellow leaves with green veins if the pH is too high. If you are worried about the cat using the flower beds as a litter box, mulch the garden with sweetgum balls. The sharp spines usually keep them away because they like to scratch the soil when they go to the bathroom. Aerate the soil under the plants and water well after taking a soil sample to try to leach out any ammonia problems and let’s see what the soil sample says.


March 2006

QuestionMy neighbor was recently in the hospital where she received a big, gorgeous, gardenia plant. How does one take care of it? Can it be put outside? What kind of care does it need? Also it's getting yellow leaves. Please help, it's so fragrant and beautiful, it would be a shame to see it die. 

AnswerEnjoy the plant inside for now. This gardenia should be treated as a houseplant for another few weeks, since it was forced into bloom in a warm greenhouse. By mid April it can be safely moved outdoors. If you live in central or south Arkansas, the plant can be put in the ground as a permanent shrub. Plant it on the east or north side of the house where it gets bright light in the morning. If you are live in the northern counties, it will not survive outdoors year-round, but it does make a great container plant. Don't over water it indoors -- allow it to dry out slightly between watering. Give the plant bright light while it is inside and it should make it through until it is safe to move outdoors.


October 2006

QuestionI have several plants that I would like to keep over the winter. Mosquito plant, Mexican heather and begonias. Are any of these winter hardy in central Arkansas? If so, what can I do to get them through? If not, how can I over winter them inside? Also, do I need to cover my gardenia bush for the winter and if so what is the best material to use for cover? 

AnswerExcept for the gardenia, none of the plants you mentioned are reliably winter hardy in central Arkansas. Mexican heather and some begonias have managed to survive a few of our winters, but you shouldn’t count on it. To guarantee these plants back in your garden next season, you will need to either move them indoors or take cuttings for new starts. I would advocate the latter, if these plants are in the ground. The mosquito plant -- a scented geranium is not going to make it, even with extra mulch, so move it indoors or store it in your garage. For the Mexican heather and begonias, after taking some cuttings, add extra mulch when the weather turns cool and see what you have next spring. Gardenias only need protection if the weather gets below 15 to 20 degrees. If needed, cover with something porous -- a sheet, blanket, or cardboard box.


June 2005

QuestionLast August I pruned my gardenia bushes way back. This spring they looked almost dead with very black leaves on them. They have somewhat revived, but about one fourth of the bush looks dead. When is the best time to prune? Should I have done so when I did since that is when they had finished blooming, or should I have waited until spring? 

AnswerGardenias are in full bloom across much of the southern half of the state now. Some plants took quite a hit this winter, and did get nipped back. Several actually died, while the majority that were injured have recovered and have started growing. Some of the damage was superficial--just the leaves were nipped, and the flower buds were undamaged, and beginning to bloom. I don't think there was much you could have done to prevented damage, other than covering them during the huge shifts of temperatures--the 70's to the 20's. For now, prune off the dead wood, and if blooming, wait until they are finished before pruning more. The time to prune gardenias is immediately following bloom. August is a bit late, since they set their flower buds in the fall, so you want to allow recovery time. Last year, many gardenias continued blooming off and on into the fall, so it was hard to prune. Only prune if needed; if there is plenty of room for the plant to grow, leave it alone.


 

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