Propagating Gardenias

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Gardenias are a favorite shrub of Southern gardens, with dark green, glossy leaves and creamy white fragrant flowers. There is a debate among gardeners over whether gardenias are temperamental requiring constant attention or whether the plant prefers to be planted in good soil and left alone. One thing about gardenias is certain; they are easy to propagate.

During the middle of the growing season – around July or August – look for healthy tips on the shrub. The stems should be flexible and green rather than woody, with several sets of leaves. Trim this stem approximately 3 to 4 inches long.

Fill a short glass vase or juice glass about half full of water. If you have tea or coffee grounds, add a spoonful to the water; gardenias love acidic conditions. Place the trimmed stem in the glass; if any leaves are under or on top of the water, remove them, even if it leaves only a couple of leaves on top. Put the vase in a sunny window and periodically add water to keep it about half full. Within two weeks to a month, roots will sprout from the stems.

When there roots are 2 to three inches long, transplant the cutting. Use a clean plant container that has adequate drainage; if it doesn’t have holes in the bottom, add a layer of rocks or packing peanuts. Fill the container more than half full with sterile vermiculite. Hold the cutting in the center of the pot and add enough vermiculite to cover the roots and support the stem. Gently water to settle the vermiculite around the stem. Place the container in location that gets indirect light and away from drafts. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Repot if the gardenia outgrows its container.

In the spring – once the temperatures remain consistently above 50 degrees, the gardenia will be ready to move to a shady porch or transplanted to a shady flowerbed.

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