Growing Gardenias In Pots

Gardenias grow very well in containers or pots and can add beauty and fragrance to a patio, front porch or terrace. These evergreen fragrant plants are easy to grow outdoors in containers.  They are easy to care for and only require occasional pruning to keep their shape and size. 

One advantage in growing these shrubs in a container is that if you live in a cooler climate where they would not survive the winter cold, they can easily be moved indoors or inside a cool garage or greenhouse. 


Planting Gardenias in Pots

You can plant gardenias year round but the best time of year to plant them is in the early fall or spring.  This gives them time to get established in their new container and develop buds and blooms.  Gardenias can take a full sun spot but the best location is one that gives them a bit of shade or break from the sun in the afternoon. 

Choose a planter that can grow with your shrub. Gardenias can be transplanted but you will want to choose a container that is a good 4 to 6 inches larger than the nursery pot that it came in.  This gives the roots room to stretch out and really get established for a healthy plant. 

Drainage is important.  Gardenias do not like to have their roots wet.  If you choose a container with only one small drainage hole in the center, you may want to consider drilling a few more before planting.  If you are unsure of how your pot will drain, before you add the shrub, water the container well and see how quickly the water drains out.

If you are using a container that does not have a drainage hole and do not wish to drill some, fill the bottom with a few inches of small stones or gravel to avoid the shrub roots sitting in water. 

The best material for Gardenias is natural stone or terra cotta, which allow moisture to evaporate through the walls of the container.  You can also use fabric grow bags.  These create a healthy root system, as they too are breathable.  They also work well inside pots or containers that may be damaged by being planted like antique urns or ceramic pots.


Best Soil For Gardenias in Pots

Gardenias can grow in many different soil types but the best soil for healthy shrubs is slightly acidic.  If you are buying commercial potting soil, read the labels and look for ones designed for acid loving plants.  Even better if Gardenia is listed on the label.  You can also add compost to a soil mix that you already have. 

After planting, adding a layer of mulch to the top of your container will help retain moisture during the warm summer months when the plant is active and blooming.

Caring For Gardenias in Planters

Gardenias do well in large containers and require very little care.  Good drainage is most important as well as filtered or full sun.  They like to be fed regularly with plant food or fertilizer designed for acid loving plants.  They do not require a lot of pruning or cutting back but can use a trim occasionally to keep their shape and size.

Watering Gardenias in Pots

Gardenias do not like to be overwatered, so it is better to allow your container to dry out a bit between watering rather than to have the roots sitting in water.  It is easier to kill a gardenia from too much water than not enough.  Consistent watering is best.  When you first plant your container you will want to really soak the plant and water a bit more frequently to help get the roots established. 

A regular watering schedule will benefit your shrub.  A good way to test if you need to water your container is to not just feel the top of the planter but stick your finger a few inches into the soil and see if it is dry to the touch. Gardenias can tolerate a bit of drought conditions but consistent watering is best.

Fertilizing Gardenias in Pots

Gardenias like to be fed regularly as they require a lot of nutrients to produce those gorgeous flowers.  Choose a fertilizer that is designed for acid loving plants.  Organic gardeners could use blood meal, fish emulsion and bone meal.  Also a yearly addition of compost should keep your soil rich and full of nutrients.

Winter Care For Gardenias in Pots

Gardenias are a tropical plant so they do not tolerate cold or freezing conditions at all.  After your first hard frost it is best to move your plants next to your house or even inside a cool garage or greenhouse.  Gardenias go dormant during the winter months so they will not require extra feeding or watering.  Keep the soil moist so the plant stays hydrated but not saturated or wet. You do not want the extra moisture in your container to freeze which could crack your pot or container.

Can Gardenias Be Grown Indoors

Gardenias do not make very good indoor plants.  They require more sunlight than most indoor locations can provide and they also can attract insects, which will weaken the plant.  Some gardeners do try to keep their plants indoors during the dormant season or occasionally move them indoors in the spring and summer months but they really are more of an outdoor plant and this is where they should be enjoyed. 

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Author Janice Cox - Published 11-09-2021