The heady scent of gardenias lingering on the evening breeze lends an air of romance to balmy Southern Florida nights. This evergreen member of the coffee family is prized for its large, beautiful and highly perfumed flowers. Depending on the variety, blossoms can range from two to five inches in size. The jasmine, nutmeg and vanilla notes of the gardenia’s spicy scent intensify as the blossoms linger.
Gardenias thrive in a warm, humid climate, making them popular in the Miami area as small trees, shrubs or as borders or groundcover. Plant them in full sun to partial shade and supplement sandy or seashell soils with organic fertilizer, compost or peat moss. Gardenias prefer an acidic environment so avoid cultivating them near concrete walkways or foundations. For use around swimming pools or outdoor living areas, consider planting them in raised wooden flowerbeds, window boxes or containers.
Gardenias appreciate regular watering. An inconsistent watering schedule can lead the plant to drop buds before the flowers open. Keep them uniformly moist but not too wet. Cut back gardenias after the last blooming. Late summer or early fall pruning will encourage spring blossoms.
The deep green glossy leaves and scented flowers of the gardenia summon the magic of Southern summer evenings.