How Do I Care for a Dwarf Gardenia?

O. Parker

Providing a dwarf gardenia with the right care is an important part of keeping this cultivar healthy and thriving. Climate, soil conditions, sun, water, fertilizer and pest management requirements vary depending on the type of plant. As a frost-tender shrub, the dwarf gardenia can be grown outdoors in mild climates. In cold climates, it is best to grow a dwarf gardenia in a pot and keep it indoors for the winter.

Dwarf gardenias require specifically formulated fertilizers.
Dwarf gardenias require specifically formulated fertilizers.

The dwarf gardenia is a small cultivar of Gardenia jasminoides. When purchasing or selecting this dwarf cultivar, it can also be found under the name Gardenia jasminoides "Prostrata." Cultivar means "cultivated variety" and indicates a plant that has been carefully bred to display certain desirable traits. This cultivar is smaller than its full-size relative and has a trailing growth habit. In contrast, gardenia plants commonly grow as small shrubs.

This cultivar is well-suited as a ground cover in the garden. It grows just 2 to 3 feet (about 0.6 to 0.9 m) tall with a ranging spread of 5 to 6 feet (about 1.5 to 1.8 m). The dwarf gardenia grows best when planted in a spot that gets part shade to part sun, or between two and four hours of sunlight a day. Like most gardenia plants, this dwarf cultivar must have good drainage around the roots. In poorly drained areas, dwarf gardenias tend to turn yellow and drop their leaves prematurely.

In areas where winter temperatures rarely drop below 10 to 20°F (about -12 to -6°C), dwarf gardenias grow well year-round outdoors. In areas with winters that commonly drop below this temperature range, dwarf gardenias can be grown in a large pot or planter outdoors during the mild months and moved into a greenhouse or indoors in the winter. It can also be grown as a house plant year-round. Even houseplants benefit from a little fresh air sometimes, though, and can be placed out on the deck on a sunny afternoon.

Gardenias, including the dwarf gardenia, are acid-loving plants. A fertilizer formulated specifically for gardenias or for other acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas provides the best balance of nutrients. While these plants like good drainage, they also require consistent moisture. Consistently moist and loamy, humus-rich soil is ideal. In clay soil or in low spots that don't drain well, dwarf gardenias can be grown in a raised bed.

White fly, scale and aphids are common pests affecting these plants. These sap sucking insects are small but not too small to see, and they tend to gather on the underside of leaves. A strong jet of water or a treatment with an insecticidal oil or soap spray can help control insect infestations on indoor and outdoor plants.

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