Caring for gardenias indoors

Whether you’ve received your gardenia plant as a gift or you treated yourself to one of these fragrant beauties, gardenia indoor care requires time and attention. Gardenias are native to China and Japan, where high humidity, bright light, and cool temperatures create the perfect growing conditions. That’s not always easy inside the home, but it can be done.

Gardenia Indoor Care Instructions

Many people wonder why they receive a gardenia plant full of blooms and buds and within weeks, the plant drops its flowers, loses it buds, and starts to die. The answer lies in the conditions in which you’re growing the gardenia.

Light Requirements

Whether you grow your gardenia plant indoors or outside, they all need bright, indirect light. Inside the home, this means near a sunny window but not necessarily sitting on the windowsill itself. A southern-facing room is ideal, with the plant placed somewhere inside the room but not sitting under the burning rays of the sun all day. Most indoor plant lights provide the right amount of light but you may need to experiment with how close the gardenia remains to the light source, moving it closer or further away as need be.

During the spring, summer and early fall, a southern window may provide all the light your gardenia needs. In the winter months, many gardenia lovers supplement the natural light in their homes with artificial plant lights to keep their gardenias happy. The lower angle of the sun and shorter days makes even southern-facing natural light limited for the gardenia, and adding another light source helps provide the bright conditions the plant needs to remain healthy.


The hardest part of gardenia indoor care is keeping the humidity high enough, especially in the wintertime. Those who live in homes with hot air heating know the awful drying effects such a heating system has on the skin and hair of people. On plants, it’s even worse. You can buy a hygrometer or a combination thermometer and hygrometer and keep it by your indoor plants to measure the relative humidity and adjust it accordingly. Hygrometers measure humidity, while thermometers measure temperature. Gardenias prefer the relative humidity around 50 to 60 percent.To increase the humidity near your plants, you have several options. First, you can purchase an inexpensive spray bottle and mist plants daily. If that seems like too much work, you can also place the plant on a dish or saucer filled with gravel or pebbles. Add water daily to the pebble tray. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity near the plant. A humidifier for your home can increase humidity to comfortable levels throughout the house or room by room, depending on your needs.


While gardenias don’t like to be saturated with water, a constant supply of moisture ensures the plant retains it blossoms and remains healthy. To tell if your gardenia needs water, stick your finger into the soil. If it feels dry, water it. If the soil is so soggy it feels squishy, you’re watering it too much.


Speaking of soil, your gardenia will need rich, well drained soil. Try an organic potting soil for the healthiest plants. The soil needs to be a bit acidic for best results. Get a soil tester kit and check it. The best soil for gardenias should have a pH between 5 and 6.If the soil is lacking in acidity, there are a few things you can do. Some gardeners swear by adding pickle juice to their gardenia soil. Vinegar may work just as well, just be sure it is diluted in water because vinegar can kill plants and is often used as a natural herbicide to get rid of weeds. Dilute at a ratio of one cup vinegar or pickle juice to one gallon of water and use it to water your gardenias once a month. You can also use a product called Miracid to keep the soil at the right acidity for your acid-loving houseplants.

One thing to keep in mind if you have just purchased your gardenia is that is is probably in the correct soil already. It isn’t a good idea to repot a new gardenia because it will probably go into shock and drop all its buds. Gardenias do best if they are slightly root-bound so there is really no need to repot it unless you see roots coming out of the top of the plant. If you don’t like the pot it is in, just place it inside a slightly larger, decorative pot.


Indoor gardenias need the same or similar fertilizer as their outdoor cousins. Use a fertilizer specially formulated for gardenias. Any fertilizer used for plants that like acidic soil also works well. Use fertilizer according to the label directions.


Deadhead or remove spent blossoms. Don’t be afraid to prune your gardenia as necessary. Pruning encourages healthy new growth and blossoms. For most gardenia varieties, pruning should be done right after the plant is done blooming. If you wait too long to prune, it will not bloom the next year.

Don’t Give Up On Gardenias

Don’t give up on gardenias if your first plants fail to thrive or die. Gardenias can be tricky. For some people, growing the perfect gardenia becomes an all-consuming passion. The quest for the perfect scented creamy-white blossom makes growing gardenias a rewarding hobby for the amateur horticulturist.

For more information on growing gardenias, please see Purdue University’s fact sheet.

Gardenia Plant Care Tips From a Flower & Plant Expert

Caring for Gardenia Plants

If you’ve recently received or purchased a gardenia plant—with its beautiful dark glossy foliage, fragrant blooms, and several buds—you might have difficulty getting these buds to mature and open. If the air is dry, the buds have a tendency of not opening (and dropping off). The problem is that the average home is warm, with low humidity. A gardenia plant, however, requires high humidity.

Indoor Gardenia Plant Care

The ideal conditions for gardenia plants are between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and 62 degrees overnight. They could do well in bathrooms, where daily showers add moisture to the air. But unless there’s a window, they won’t be getting the proper lighting.

Proper lighting is near a window but away from direct sunlight, which can burn the plant. You might be able to add humidity by placing the plant on a tray containing pebbles and water. An extreme measure would be to run a humidifier nearby. Remember to check the water level in the tray daily. Keep the soil of the plant evenly moist, never letting it dry out completely, but don’t let it get soggy, because over-watering rots the roots.

Gardenia Plant Food

Feed the plant weekly with a water-soluble plant food intended for acid-loving plants, following the package directions precisely, not more than every two to three weeks. Less during the darker, shorter days of winter.

Even without flowers, a gardenia plant is a beautiful, attractive houseplant. Remember that all green plants are natural air purifiers. Enjoy yours!

Gardenia Houseplants: Tips For Growing Gardenias Indoors

If you have been successful growing gardenia shrubs outdoors, you may wonder if you can grow gardenia plants inside. The answer is yes; however, there are a few things to learn before you run out and purchase a plant.

Gardenia Houseplants

While there are many indoor plants that require little attention, gardenia houseplants are not this type. One of the most frustrating things about these lovely and fragrant plants is how finicky they are. If you plan on giving a gardenia plant to someone for a gift, be sure that they know how to care for it or they will be terribly disappointed.

Growing gardenias indoors, within the confines of your home, requires close attention to humidity, light and pest control. If placed in the correct environment and given proper care, an indoor gardenia will reward you with glossy green leaves and aromatic flowers.

How to Grow a Gardenia Indoors

Gardenias are native to Japan and China and thrive on the south and west coasts of the United States where they often reach up to 6 feet tall. Indoor gardenias require cool temperatures, moderate humidity and plenty of bright light to thrive.

When you first bring your gardenia home, it is essential to have the best spot picked out because they do not respond well to being moved around. This spot should have plenty of light, at least half a day of direct sun, and be in a room with a temperature that is about 55 F. (13 C.) during the day and 64 F. (18 C.) at night.

Care of Indoor Gardenia

Once you have found a good place for your gardenia indoors, your next challenge is moderating the humidity. This is especially challenging during the winter when the indoor heat kicks in. The drying nature of most heat can cause a once beautiful gardenia to fall to pieces, literally. There are a few ways to increase indoor humidity. The first is to group houseplants close together, the second is to spray a light mist of water on foliage during the early morning hours, and the third is to run a humidifier.

Keep your plant free of drafts and never place a gardenia where it will receive the direct force of hot air from a furnace.

Provide water when the soil is dry to touch and add fertilizer or acid-loving plants during the growing season.

Remove woody stems to encourage prolific blooming.

Pests on Gardenia Houseplants

Keep a close eye out for gardenia pests such as aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, root nematodes and scale bugs.

Aphids are most common and can be treated with a solution of one part liquid soap and one part water. Spray both the top and the bottom of leaves. This same soap solution will often treat mealybugs and scale as well.

If you suspect your gardenia has spider mites, you can confirm this by shaking the leaves over a white sheet of paper. Fold the paper in half and check for red smeared spots. Treat spider mites with neem oil (Note: This will also work on the previously mentioned pests).

Whiteflies are found on the underside of leaves. It is important to remove infected leaves and treat the entire plant with neem oil.

Yellowing leaves may indicate root nematodes; unfortunately, there is no cure for this.

Gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides: “Heaven Scent”

You know how certain smells can take you back to a specific (and I hope good) time and place? Gardenias do that for me. My grandma lived in Pasadena, California, where as a child I visited with my family every summer. Near her back porch happily lived a row of prolific gardenias. Their romantic fragrance gracefully wafted into the house to signal summertime whenever we opened the creaky screen door. Nowadays, every time I get a whiff of that intoxicating sweetness, I am right back there with grandma.

While gardenias are worth the fuss, they can be fussy. But if given the correct growing conditions (and a little gardener’s luck), these sometimes finicky shrubs will really produce and reward you. Please keep reading to learn whether gardenia is the right plant for your garden.

Above: The common gardenia, which goes by the horticultural name Gardenia jasminoides, is native to Asia. It has been growing in temperate English gardens since the 1700s. Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

In the US, gardenias are a classic Southern—and in my case, southern California—plant. They are often put on a pedestal (at least among plants) because of their richly perfumed, creamy-white flowers and glossy, almost-polished evergreen leaves.

Above: A gardenia bud unfurls. Photograph by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flickr.

Gardenias are native to tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia, and Australia. With this geographic pedigree, it makes sense that these shrubs need and thrive in warm, preferably humid conditions. This is the reason why I recommend planting a gardenia where it gets reflective heat off a partially shaded wall to maximize the radiant warmth.

A tip when buying your gardenia is to choose one without buds so the plant has time to adjust to its new environment because all too often people buy budding gardenias and then eagerly wait for the flowers to open but catastrophically the buds drop without future development. Depressing bud drop also can occur on established gardenias when suffering from insufficient summer moisture or lack of light. Related, a lack of buds forming can be caused by not enough sunlight—see what I mean about gardenias being a bit finicky?

Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

Another common concern with gardenias is yellowing leaves (chlorosis) caused by root rot or, more often, an iron deficiency which can be luckily remedied with a feeding of a liquid chelated iron.

When introducing gardenias into your garden, the perfect time to plant is in the spring and fall when temperatures are even and neither too hot or too cold. If you are planting a gardenia in the ground and the pH level of the soil is too high, amend with sulfur or mix into the ground a nursery-bought soil formulated for acid-loving plants before planting. If planting in a container, use a potting soil formulated for acid-loving plants. After that, mid-spring and mid-summer are the times to apply a slow-release fertilizer created for acid-loving plants.

Above: Photograph by Tatters via Flickr.

Home remedy tip: I water my gardenias with leftover pickle juice about once a month to acidify the soil. Remember to plant your gardenias a tad high in the ground and then mulch with compost, pine straw (also acidic), or chopped leaves.

I have hunted out the best gardenia varieties like a crazy plant stalker, and while they all smell lovely, some smell super lovely. Also, each variety has different bloom times, flower size, growth habit, and flower potency. Start by researching the varieties and decide the purpose your plant will have in your garden. Do you need to border a walkway or a foundation? Then pick a compact smaller variety like everblooming gardenia, topping out at four feet and amenable to being pruned. If you want to make a statement, choose a variety like ‘First Love’, which can tower at eight feet. My favorite? Gardenia jasminoides “Mystery” (grows quickly to five by three feet) because the velvety flowers are large, prolific, and saturated with sweetness. Trust me.

Lastly, if you are a true gardenia groupie, I say plant a handful of different types so that you can gloat about having flowers from May through August.

Cheat Sheet

  • Gardenias are perfect to cut and bring indoors; add them to a small bowl of water where they can dreamily float about. The hardy flowers are also a favorite choice for weddings and proms.
  • Place gardenias in pots on decks where their fragrance can be appreciated (or near doorways).
  • Add gardenias to a cutting, cottage, or tropical garden.
  • Versatile as a single shrub, hedge, screen, or container specimen in large pots.

Above: Photograph by Juantiagues via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Gardenias, like azaleas and camellias, prefer acidic soil.
  • They also like a lightweight soil that is well draining but with high moisture retention. When in doubt add compost in copious amounts to the planting hole.
  • Keep gardenias moist, but they don’t appreciate soggy roots–so clay soil is out.
  • Gardenias can survive full sun, but if you live with blazing hot summers you should site these beauties for a northeast-facing exposure to receive bright morning light, a bit of midday sun, and relief during the hottest part of the day. Tip: Choose your planting spot wisely because gardenias are prima donnas that don’t like being moved.
  • These glorious shrubs unfortunately make poor houseguests unless sited in a greenhouse or sunroom. There is simply not enough light or humidity in a home to set bloom.

For more growing tips, see Gardenias: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design and find more ideas in our curated Garden Design 101 guides to Tropical Plants and Shrubs. Read more:

  • Gardenias: Rethinking a Corsage Flower
  • Back to Africa: At Home in My Mother’s Garden
  • Gardening in Paradise: 10 Ideas to Steal from Key West

Gardenia lovers may want to purchase a beautiful gardenia bonsai for the home, but be warned; they’re not the easiest plants to keep healthy and flowering. Like most bonsai, gardenia bonsai require attention and care. If kept healthy, however, they can be an exquisite and fragrant flowering bonsai for the home.

Caring for a Gardenia Bonsai

Bonsai are plants trimmed to remain small and sculpted to forms imagined by the gardener. Many different types of plants can be grown as a bonsai. They aren’t necessarily dwarf plants either, but are specially trimmed, shaped and cared for to remain small. Bonsai originated in China many centuries ago, and the concept rapidly spread throughout the Asian world. It’s a popular art form in Japanese and other Asian cultures.

Gardenia Bonsai

As the name suggests, a gardenia bonsai is a gardenia plant that is trained and grown along wires to create interesting and intricate shapes. While you can grow them outdoors in gardening zones 7 through 9, you may also want to consider them houseplants that get a summer ‘vacation’ once the weather warms up. This way your gardenia won’t be exposed to sudden extremes of temperature or freezing temperatures which can harm or kill it.

Three types of gardenia are recommended for bonsai creation, or you can purchase an already created bonsai gardenia. The three cultivars that make the best bonsai include:

  • Gardenia radicans – look for the dwarf variety
  • Gardenia thunbergia
  • Gardenia jasminoides

Like other gardenias, gardenia bonsai require partial shade to bright, filtered light. Avoid direct sunshine; it is too strong for the gardenia. Morning light followed by afternoon shade is ideal.You can also grow gardenias under plant lights inside the house if your windows don’t provide enough or the right type of light.


Gardenia require evenly moist soil. Try not to let your gardenia dry out, but water frequently. The soil should be moist but not soggy.

Gardenia need light feeding every two to three weeks from the spring through the fall. Discontinue fertilizer application during the winter to allow the plant time to rest. A good fertilizer for acid loving plants, such as Miracid, is recommended, but dilute it to about half strength for a bonsai. Don’t fertilize your gardenia while it’s in bloom, either. When in doubt, wait to fertilize the plant.

Gardenia bonsai are grown along wires to train and shape the plant. You can purchase bonsai wire at garden center or through bonsai supply websites. Each soft, new shoot is tied to the wires or snipped off to help shape the plant. There’s no right or wrong way to shape a bonsai. Use your imagination, and be gentle with the plant. Never prune or wire the stems when the plant has buds or flowers, but wait until it’s dormant. Moving stems around while they have flowers or buds can cause the plant to drop them and leave you without your hard-won blossoms, the best part of growing gardenia!

After about two years, the plant may need repoting. Look for bon, the special flat trays used for bonsai propagation, in major garden centers. The name “bonsai” actually means “tray grown” or “tray cultivated” and the special rectangular dishes in which bonsai are cultivates are called bon. Gardenia bonsai generally need an acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Choose soils for acid-loving plants to be on the safe side.

Where to Buy Online

There are many sources of gardenia bonsai online.

  • Amazon Brussels Bonsai: Amazon offers the Brussels Bonsai, a four year old bonsai standing about ten inches tall.
  • Harry and David: This company is known for its gift baskets. The gardenia comes in a ceramic pot, and pot colors may vary from what’s shown.
  • 1-800Flowers: The company famous for its flower selection also offers a fine gardenia bonsai in a traditional bonsai pot suitable for gift giving.

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