What's Making the Air Smell so Delicious Right Now?

Learn more about the horticultural culprit (and how to keep it alive).

If you've spent any time outside recently (a trip from your house to the car totally counts), you may have noticed a floral fragrance infiltrating your nostrils. Upon first thought, you might think a neighbor went too heavy on the perfume. But then you look around. Nearby shrubs have bloomed white flowers.


It's prime time for these fragrant flowers to bloom—they're known to do so from May to July, producing a distinctive scent along with their creamy-white flower heads. Gardenias are evergreens, and they love humidity. They're ideal garden assets for Charlotteans because of our humid summers—as you move farther north, they're typically houseplants. 

If you're a fan of gardenias and want them to stay a while, you might be curious how to keep from killing them.


How Not to Kill Your Gardenias

  • Check for chlorosis. If your gardenia's leaves start turning yellow, it's usually a sign of not enough iron. These plants don't like high-pH soils, so if your gardenia is planted in soil with a pH higher than about 6.5, then its roots will have a problem absorbing the minerals it needs, such as iron and magnesium. To remedy this, feed the soil—about 3 feet away from the plant—either water-soluble sulfur or aluminum sulfate to help balance the pH levels.
  • Don't hoe too closely. Because gardenias like to be planted high (like azaleas), you'll have to be extra careful when hoeing weeds near the plant—otherwise, you can damage the roots. Either hand-pull weeds around your gardenia's roots or place mulch around the base to decrease weed growth altogether.
  • Water well. To truly thrive, gardenias need about an inch of water per week. So, if it's been particularly dry, make sure you water your gardenias on a schedule. Mulching 2 to 4 inches deep around the base also helps retain moisture.
  • Give them the right sun exposure. Your gardenia will not be happy in a shady spot. Make sure your gardenia gets full sun and some afternoon shade, especially since we've got a hot summer climate.
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