House Plants/Potted Gardenia
QUESTION: I just brought my potted gardenia bush indoors for the winter. Its big. Large pot, grown to about 4 feet diameter and about 4 feet tall. I live in Utah. I know it loves it outdoors and I can keep the aphids off by giving it a shower every morning. Now I cannot do that and I see the little white/black critters again starting to collect on the new leaves. Last year I used the Safe 3 in 1 insecticide on it. Got rid of the pests, but nearly lost all of the leaves. It took it awhile to come back. What product is safe to use on this plant? I love it dearly. Thank you.
ANSWER: Hi Kathy,
Gardenias are very challenging plants when kept indoors as potted plants. Of course, they do need to be indoors and protected from freezing temperatures where you live. However, doing so puts them under stress due to the constantly warm temps, reduced light and reduced air circulation. The stress of these environmental changes will cause your Gardenia to react by shedding leaves and by becoming more vulnerable to insect pests.
It is hard to say whether the leaf loss you suffered last year was due to the aphids, the warm temps, reduced light or the insecticide that you used. It could be any one of those.
Here is what I suggest. Start by pruning back your Gardenia by about one-third. This will eliminate all of the aphids that are on the new growth. It will also help it acclimate to its new environment.
Whenever day temps are above 40 degrees, take it outside (assuming you can move it!) and spray it forcefully with a hose. Otherwise, mix a solution of water and a squirt of liquid dish soap and spray the entire plant very thoroughly whenever you see any aphids. The key is to be as thorough as possible when treating the aphids. The juvenile aphids are nearly invisible and it is important to make spray contact with them. Any other pesticides may be too strong for your Gardenia.
Try to keep temps below 70 degrees at all times and around 60 degrees at night, if possible. This will help set buds and discourage aphids. Keep it very close to an indoor sunny window and water it as soon as the top half-inch of soil is dry.
Do your best, but if all else fails, just prune back your Gardenia again in the spring before moving it back outside. Pruning is usually neglected but benefits the plant in many ways.
I have written detailed articles on treating indoor plant pests and on Gardenia care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks. I never thought to prune it. It is in bloom right now with many buds coming on. I guess when they are done would be the time to prune it. It sort of blooms continuously, although not in large numbers. One or two at a time. right now I have 4 blooms. What do you think?
Pruning is the most commonly neglected plant care technique. That is why I see so many overgrown and leggy plants.
I don't normally recommend pruning when a plant is in bloom or bud. However, yours has so few buds and flowers that you could consider it, especially if it tends to bloom continuously. You might start by pruning back any stems that have no flowers or buds. The pruning may help you get more profuse flowering in the future.