The spectacular gardenia plant needs no introduction to a gardening enthusiast. Their white, conspicuous blooms not only look elegant, but they are richly fragrant too. The dark green, glossy, thick leaves add to the beauty of this plant. They complement the pure white flowers by creating a green background. A shrub or small tree by nature, gardenia can be trained into a lovely bonsai tree. In this article, we will be discussing the basic guidelines for growing and caring gardenia bonsai plant.
Gardenia Bonsai: Growing Requirements
Growing gardenias is quite challenging, especially if you are interested in maintaining them indoors as bonsai trees. While various species of gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides, G. thunbergia, and G. radicans) are trained for creating bonsai (6 - 8 inch high or slightly more), the most popular variety is G. jasminoides. But, if your area is warm, you have many choices of gardenia bonsai trees, which produce larger blooms.
Before trying your hands on nurturing this miniature tree, let's try to understand its basic growth conditions.
- The gardenia plant is indigenous to the tropics, so it requires moist soil and high humidity.
- Both the regular shrub and miniature version of gardenia are suited for growing in USDA zones 7 - 9.
- It requires a slightly acidic soil, which resembles that of the natural habitat.
- A common mistake of growing gardenia bonsai is using alkaline potting mix or soil having high pH.
- If the upper soil layer becomes dry, it indicates that the plant needs watering.
- Adapted for growing underneath tall trees, this shrub needs indirect sunlight to grow luxuriantly.
- Harsh sunlight and extreme cold should be strictly avoided for growing a gardenia bonsai.
- Keeping in bright sun for more than 4 hours, particularly during summer, will cause scalding of the foliage.
- During extreme hot conditions, gardenia bonsai should be maintained indoors.
Gardenia Bonsai: Care Instructions
The blooming period of gardenia lasts for 3 - 4 months, but the actual flowering time depends upon the cultivar you have opted and the growing conditions. Some varieties flower sparingly throughout the year, even during the off-season which is called spot flowering. For any cultivated plant, selecting a hardy variety (resistant to unfavorable conditions) benefits the grower in many ways. So, while buying a gardenia bonsai for yourself or for gifting, do not forget to discuss its pest resistance and overall hardiness. Mentioned below are simple tips concerning how to take care of a bonsai gardenia.
Water Consistently Without Fail
Gardenia plant, irrespective of whether you have grown it as a regular shrub or bonsai, is intolerant to dry condition. In other words, you should keep the potting soil moist at all times. The amount of water provided and frequency of irrigation should be decided according to the weather condition. In winter, you can cut down watering, as the rate of evaporation is lower and the plant remains in a nearly inactive state. For reducing moisture loss, you can add moss around the main stem.
Indirect Light is a Must
Bright, indirect light is crucial for healthy growth of an indoor gardenia plant. However, protect it from direct light. Any window facing south, east, or west will do for keeping a potted gardenia, but the best is to place it near a south-facing window. The logic is to expose the bonsai to morning and afternoon sun. If it receives insufficient light (lesser than 4 - 6 hours), you can think of installing artificial lighting for a gardenia bonsai tree. Also, make sure the room temperature is around 70 °F.
Increase Humidity Level
Being native to the tropical areas reveals a lot about how to maintain a healthy gardenia bonsai. One such aspect is the demand for high humidity. If you have already ordered a gardenia bonsai, you might have received a humidity tray along with it. Fill this tray with water (about 1 - 2 inches) and place below the bonsai pot. In case, you have created the bonsai on your own, follow the same approach of keeping a humidity tray below the pot.
Prune After Flowering is Over
Just like other flowering shrubs, trimming the old branches of a gardenia bonsai tree is necessary. It is a good way of shaping the plant and removing the weak twigs, thereby conserving nutrients for development of flower buds. If the newly developed shoots are healthy, they will produce more flowers than the older ones. Overall, pruning improves plant vigor and leaves sufficient rooms for bearing large flowers.
Feed your Gardenia Bonsai
Regular feeding is important to improve your bonsai health and induce timely blooming. As it is grown in a small and shallow pot, the nutrients are washed off every time you water the plant. You can apply a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants to replenish the nutrients. During the active growing season (spring through fall), use a low dose of fertilizer once in a week. As winter approaches, reduce fertilization frequency to once in 1 - 2 months.
Wire Wrap the Gardenia Bonsai
You might be already aware about wiring a bonsai plant to train its growth during the growing period. With a gardenia bonsai, the same guidelines of wire wrapping are applicable. Always wire the hard bark, starting from the base and moving towards the branches. Make sure that the wire is neither too tight nor too loose. An easy way to check this is, examining the trunk for wire cutting and scarring. If any of the sort happens, remove the training wire and begin wrapping again.
Repotting your Gardenia Bonsai
So, when to repot a gardenia bonsai tree? According to experts' advice on gardenia bonsai care, changing the pot can be done after every two years. And the best time to do so is spring and winter. Refilling fresh bonsai soil and trimming the roots (about 10 percent) are the key tips for repotting a gardenia bonsai. Follow stringent care, in terms of temperature, humidity, watering, and fertilizer to ensure quick establishment of your bonsai to the new pot.
Gardenia Bonsai Pests and Diseases
Several types of pests attack this tropical plant, of which some are spider mite, thrip, scale, whitefly, nematode, and aphid. Common gardenia diseases are sooty mold, bacterial rot, and stem canker. Act fast and try to get rid of the pests and diseases quickly. By doing so, you can restore the health of your bonsai with less effort. In case of spider mites and aphids, you can think of spraying an insecticide in a correct concentration. Likewise, use fungicide for controlling mold and alike fungal diseases.
Watch Out for Plant Problems
A close inspection of the plant parts will help in early identification of problems (if any). As for drying of roots, application of fertilizer without proper watering is likely the cause. So, don't forget to water the plant before and after adding fertilizer. Another reported gardenia bonsai problem is dropping of buds and leaves, which may be because of inconsistent irrigation. Likewise, yellowing of gardenia leaves is linked with pest infestation, sunburn effect, and poor soil.
Follow these gardenia bonsai care tips to ensure production of large blooms. In the flowering period, they will surely fill the room with their rich fragrance. During winter, when the humidity level drops down, occasional misting of the leaves with warm water is a simple way to increase humidity and keep the gardenia bonsai healthy.