Robbie McAlister has been growing gardenias for 50 years.
The green shrubs with fragrant white blooms are easy to grow, she said. "You can root your own in water. It grows into a lovely big shrub."
According to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticultural Program, gardenias thrive in 68 F to 74 F heat, lower than is common in the South this time of year. However, keeping plants in partial shade can help.
McAlister said her gardenia is very low maintenance -- she doesn't have to do much more than water it and prune it when it blooms.
Gardenias require at least an inch of water a week, according to the National Gardening Association. The soil and roots, not the leaves, should be kept moist, to avoid fungal problems. Keeping organic mulch over the soil will also help to keep moisture in.
McAlister said her gardenia tends to have one big bloom a year, a period of several weeks over which big, fragrant blossoms open.
"I just love gardenias," she said. "They're pretty, they're evergreen, they're easy to take care of and wonderful to have."
1) Keep the soil moist, making sure gardenias get at least an inch of water a week.
2) Deadhead (cut dead blooms) to encourage more flowering.
3) Use an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to prevent pests, such as white flies and mealybugs.
4) Remember that high humidity is essential, but keep the shrubs partially shaded.
5) Apply 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch to keep the soil moist.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...