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Pruning Gardenias

Gardenias are beautiful shrubs with dark green leaves and creamy white fragrant flowers.  If you have one growing in your yard or garden you are truly lucky as their fragrance is a classic scent. They are easy to care for and need a minimal amount of pruning or cutting back to stay growing healthy and strong.

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Gardenias do not need to be pruned every year.  Many gardeners trim their shrubs every other year or even every three years to keep their size and shape in check.  This can be a matter of personal choice and also garden space and design.  You may want to keep your shrubs more compact in size.  This will mean a more frequent or yearly pruning. 

If you do not mind a bit of growth then every year or two is fine.  If left alone however they can take over a garden space and squeeze out other plants.  So you will want to prune them occasionally. This also will help avoid this overcrowding of other garden plants and keep your yard looking nice and neat.  Keep them close to the size and shape you desire in your yard or landscaping.

When to Prune Gardenias

The best time to prune your Gardenia is in the summer months just after the last flower has bloomed.  When all of the flower buds are gone you can safely cut back or prune your plant.  Cutting back at this time of year after blooming will help the plant set new buds for the following year.  It is not essential to prune your Gardenia shrub every year but if you want it to keep its shape and size an occasional cutting at least every other year will keep your plant looking its best.  

Cutting back or pruning at the end of the growing or blooming season is best and will also avoid damaging older wood and risking cutting away new buds that may be developing.  Some people prune their shrubs in the early fall but care should be used as you do not want to damage new young buds that will develop on the older wood branches. So when you see the last of your flowers drop to the ground this is the best time to prune your shrub.

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How to Prune Gardenias

Step 1 – You will need sharp garden shears to do the job.  

A tarp or bucket for collecting your cuttings also helps make clean up easier.  Make sure your tools are clean and sharpened.  This will give you the best cuts and avoid plant damage.  Making sure your tools are clean will also prevent disease from entering your plant.  Wash them well and keep them dry.  A rinse of vinegar and water will also help kill any surface bacteria on your blades. Just make sure to rinse well and to not cause rust.

Step 2 – Make a plan.  

Reference old photos of the original shrub if this helps you remember how things used to look in your garden space. You can also take this time to change the shape of your shrub a bit if you desire.  You may also like the new larger shape and only need to do a bit of trimming of old branches or new shoots to help achieve a healthy shape and size.

Step 3 -- Using your garden shears to trim your shrub into a nice shape.  

You want to make sure that there is plenty of air flow, this means removing dead branches and opening up the inside of the shrub.  You also need to remove all of the spent flower buds.  Do not cut more than a third of the shrub.  Cutting too much of the plant at one time could stress your plant, causing it to not set as many flower buds and even drop its leaves. You may cut both green and brown wood branches.  

It may be difficult to cut your beautiful plant at first, but you will be rewarded next growing season with even more flower buds.  It also helps keep your shrub from taking over where it has been planted.  If you feel your plant is growing too quickly you may want to do an annual pruning to slow down growth and spread.

Step 4 –  Clean up your trimmings and deposit in your compost bin.

Or strip the leaves off larger stems to use as natural plant supports in other parts of your garden. Make sure to wash and dry your garden shears and store them in a dry spot as well.   

Step 5 Measure your “pruned” shrub and make a note of it in your garden journal.

This will help you in the future.  You can also take a photo as a record so that you may track your plants growth from year to year. Some gardeners even place a plant marker at the base of their shrub with the date it was last pruned. 

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Why Do You Prune Gardenias

It is not entirely essential to prune gardenia shrubs in fact you may leave them for several years to grow and bloom on their own.  However, know that this is exactly what they will do given the right growing environment and before you know it you may have a very “wild” and “overgrown” shrub. 

Giving your plants an occasional or every other year pruning will keep them in good shape and also give your more fragrant flower blooms.  We prune plants to keep them healthy, strong and well shaped.  It also helps keep their size in check.  Gardenias are known for their fragrant blooms, keeping the plant well trimmed and healthy also ensures more flowers.  This is something anyone who has ever owned a gardenia plant will not argue with.

Gardenia Pruning Tips

  • Prune Gardenias after they bloom in the summer.
  • Use sharp garden shears
  • Prune both green and brown wood.
  • Never cut more than one third of your gardenia shrub.
  • Prune at least every other year to keep original shape and size.
  • Keep a record of when the plant was pruned and measurements.