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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gardenia Needs Container and Extra Care in the Desert

Q. I love Veithcii Gardenia and I noticed that a local nursery has them for $10 for a 5 gallon plant. How do you keep the plant alive in the winter in Las Vegas and should it remain in a container and not in the ground? I have seen two of these plants in containers in Sun City Summerlin under a tree blooming profusely in the summer.
Gardenia In Las Vegas in filtered light

A. “Veithcii” is a popular selection or variety that has a longer bloom period than some others. Gardenias are grown by a number of home gardeners in our desert but you are right, they don't belong here so we have to put them in the right location and amend the heck out of that soil if we want them to do well.
            . It is best if they are grown in containers rather than growing them in garden soil. A good spot would be in filtered light which is what you would get growing them under some trees for protection from intense sunlight.
            Gardenias in general perform best in a bright northerly or easterly exposure. The soil should be 50% compost or at least high in organic matter. You can grow them in the ground but they will be more difficult to manage because the soil will slowly revert back to desert soil unless you continually add compost to the soil surface.

            It is also important to put a two or 3 inch layer of wood chips. I would use two drip emitters and never let the soil get overly dry. Fertilize 3 to 4 times a year and add a good iron chelate to the early spring application of fertilizer.

            The important things to remember is having a good soil, the proper exposure to light and irrigation frequency. The container should allow for drainage of water and you should see a small amount of water exit the container every time you irrigate. Good luck!


  1. I have a couple of Veithcii Gardenias in my courtyard which gets about 6 hours of direct overhead sun and they are doing well. I have, as you mentioned, amended the heck out of the soil. I had a difficult time with them initially but they finally came around with the liberal use of an acidifier/drainage product. I try to keep the area well watered. I have both plants under the roof drip line and suspect that the infrequent rains that we have are very helpful to them by flushing away the mineral build up from the Colorado river water.

    1. A product I have found very helpful in lowering soil pH (acidify) with no lag time like you have with sulfur is Organic Magic which you can get from Viragrow. They are the only ones carrying it in LV. It is certified for organic use and I have measured a drop in pH in less than one minute using that product. About as fast as Aluminum sulfate without the aluminum!