Gardenia blooms are often considered to be the standard for fragrance and elegance. This shrub has fragrant white flowers with glossy, dark green leaves. It is from the Rubiaceae family originating in South Africa and China.
The Gardenia does best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the South/East/West. It requires a little extra care. Avoid exposing the Gardenia to the midday sun in the summer.
Keep the soil around your Gardenia evenly moist at all times. Use warm water. Do not allow the soil to dry out and remain dry as the Gardenia prefers moist soil. More Bonsai die due to improper watering than any other cause. Do not water the tree if the soil is damp or cool. Bonsai generally need to be watered every couple of days, but there is no set schedule. When the topsoil feels dry, water thoroughly and deeply. An old Bonsai watering trick is to place the entire pot in a sink of water an inch or two deep. Let the water absorb from the holes in the bottom of the pot. An inexpensive moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering. We sell them on our web-site. Misting with warm water (lime free to avoid leaf staining) and maintaining temperature and water supply will help prevent bud drop.
Fertilizing a Bonsai is essential to its health because nutrients in the soil are washed away with each watering. Fertilizer is like vitamins and minerals for a plant Do not fertilize while the plant is in bloom. Most Bonsai should be fertilized once or twice per month during the growing season spring through autumn and once a month in the winter. Water your tree BEFORE fertilizing. Do not fertilize a weak or freshly repotted tree! This will cause stress to the tree by burning the roots. Use a fertilizer such as Miracid, formulated for acid-loving plants, at half-strength. The plant may also benefit from administering chelated iron 2-3 times a year.
Young plants should be pruned after the shoots have developed 4-6 leaves, trimming back to 2-3 to establish branching. Pruning of established bonsai is best done following flowering, pruning only once and then allowing new shoots to set buds.
Wire from late spring to autumn, taking care to protect the delicate bark and branches. Do not wire while the plant is setting buds, and wire only lignified (wooden) shoots. DO NOT WIRE A BONSAI JUST AFTER REPOTTING. Wind the training wire in the direction the branch is bent in order to keep the wire from loosening. Wrapping the wire too tightly will cause scarring. Begin at the base of the Bonsai tree and slowly wrap the wire around the trunk to anchor. Continue along the branch you wish to train. Repeat the process as needed.
Wiring must be watched carefully for signs of wire cutting into the bark. Wire must be removed immediately if this happens. If necessary, the tree can be re-wired after removing the old wire.
Repot the Gardenia every 1-2 years in late winter or spring, following blooming. Well drained soil high in organic matter with soil pH between 5.0 and 6.5 should be used. The roots are superficial and fine, so drastic root pruning is not recommended, and it is best if only 10% of the roots are removed. DO NOT FERTILIZE FOR 3-4 WEEKS.
Insects and Diseases:
Gardenia are prone to aphids, scale, spider mites, and thrips. Spider mites can be a problem due to lack of circulation indoors. These can be attacked with the use of insecticides and fungicides in the form of sprays, soapy rinses, or systemic poisons. Spraying your Bonsai once every month or two with a non-toxic insect spray is recommended. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day. DO NOT SPRAY WHEN SOIL IS DRY.
Mites like to infest Bonsai and can be identified by watching for small moving pinpoints of red or brown on branch tips, “spider webs” on branch tips, and yellow leaves all over the tree.
Stem canker distinguished by rough cracked areas that form cankerous growths near the soil line destroy the plant. Sooty mold, aphids, scales, mealy bugs and whiteflies, cotony cushion and nematodes can attack a Gardenia.