August 2009 Newsletter©
Old gardeners in the Mid South, like me, have had a love/hate relationship with gardenias. Through the years we’ve planted them and they’d last a year or two (maybe) before the cold would knock them back to the ground. The main reason for the poor success…we planted them where we wanted them, not where they needed to be. But we’ve had milder winters lately and we’ve got newer varieties that are more cold hardy, so gardenias have found a place in my garden again.
Gardenias prefer a well drained location in full sun to part shade, but usually look best protected from the hottest afternoon sun. Flower size and shape varies by variety, but all emerge white and mature to a creamy yellow. Blooming usually starts in late May to early June.
A wet location, excessive mulch or a location that’s too shady will cause the foliage to look like the left picture below. Yellowing leaves with green veins.
Excessive soil moisture makes iron unavailable to the plant. If it’s planted in our native soil, fix the drainage issue and the plant will be greener. If it’s planted in a prepared soil mix, you may need to add some additional iron also. Inadequate moisture causes bud and internal leaf drop, so keep them moist, but not wet. They prefer a pH around 5.5 and use the same fertilizer you use on your azaleas or hollies. They are prone to whiteflies, aphids and scale insects (and the sooty mold that accompanies them) so they are a somewhat higher maintenance plant, but well worth it when they are in bloom. Plant it near your back door or a window you can open when it’s in bloom. The pictures of the two blooms above, give you a rough idea of the difference between a traditional gardenia flower and the daisy-like flower. If you want to see a specific flower, copy the name and paste it in your search engine to see if it’s something you want to add to your garden.
Here are the varieties that you are likely to see offered in the Mid South:
Gardenia augusta (formally G. jasminoides) cultivars:
Aimee (aka First Love) – Produces the largest flower of any gardenia, up to 5” across. The flower is very full, fully double and extremely fragrant. It grows to 5’ tall and equally as wide. Now the bad news…it’s the least hardy of the gardenias. USDA Zone 8B. Best location would be southeast, inset corner of a house (in Jackson, Ms). In the sun, but out of the wind. Not impossible to grow here, but the least likely to survive long term and I’d expect some tip burn almost every winter.
August Beauty – This variety has the longest bloom season. An abundance of flowers in June, followed by sporadic blooms into the fall. The flowers are double, very fragrant and about 3” wide. Plants grow to 6’ tall and wide. USDA Zone 7.
Chuck Hayes – This is an attractive cultivar chosen for its cold hardiness. USDA Zone 6.
It has a semi-double flower, is a profuse bloomer but grows slowly to 4’ tall.
Crown Jewel – This is a result of crossing Chuck Hayes and Kleims Hardy. It’s a dwarf plant, only 2-3’ tall and 6’ wide. It blooms in June and if tip trimmed, throws a few blooms again in the fall. USDA Zone 7 hardy for sure and probably Zone 6. It has survived three weeks of single digit temperatures in trial.
Frost Proof – This is my personal favorite. It has small leaves and smaller flowers than most gardenias, but produces an abundance of them. It survived 6° with no burn at all. It grows 4-5’ tall, equally as wide and flowers in June with a few fall flowers. It gets its name from the fact that it does not drop flower buds with a frost like many gardenias do. USDA Zone 7 and probably 6 hardy.
Griffith’s Select – This is a compact plant to 3’ with daisy like flowers. The flower has 6 thin petals that give it a star like appearance. It sets a heavy crop of seed capsules that are orange in the fall. USDA Zone 7 hardy.
Hardy Daisy – A compact rounded plant to 4’ tall and wide with daisy like flowers. Flowers have six petals that are wide, rounded and slightly overlap. USDA Zone 7 and probably 6 hardy.
Kleim’s Hardy – Looks exactly like Hardy Daisy. Some say they are the same plant, some disagree. I believe they are one in the same.
Mystery – This is the best large flowered variety for our area. It’s USDA Zone 8 hardy so it should be planted where it’s protected from winter winds. It can grow to 6’ tall or more and equally as wide.
Radicans – This is a dwarf variety with small double flowers that grows to 2’ tall and 4’ wide. This one needs some protection. It’s not as dependably hardy and often suffers windburn even though it is considered USDA Zone 7 hardy.
Variegated – Attractive creamy white and green variegated foliage. Grows to 5’ tall but needs to be protected from hot afternoon sun. USDA Zone 7 hardy.
Veitchii – Smaller leaves and a more compact growth habit. Grows to 6’…eventually. Often used as a florist gardenia. A profuse bloomer, it’s often called an ‘ever-blooming’ gardenia because it produces sporadic flowers throughout the summer. Best planted out of the winter winds. USDA Zone 7 hardy.
Any questions today?
Why does my crape myrtle keep sprouting from the ground?
Although some get quite large, crape myrtles are really multi-trunk shrubs and they want to continually produce new trunks. These sprouts can be removed at anytime and you can prevent re-growth by applying ‘ferti-lome Sprout Inhibitor’. It can be sprayed on the trunk after removing any sprouts and will prevent re-growth for several months.
They’re\ also losing a lot of leaves, what’s going on?
We had a great spring for plants. With an abundance of rain, plants put on a lot of growth. Then, about the first of June, it got terribly hot and dry. The plants could no longer support all that foliage, so they start shedding the least productive leaves, the oldest ones inside the plant, and keep the ones exposed to full sun at the ends of the branches. This process happens every year, but it’s usually slower and less noticeable. Nothing to worry about, it’s just the plant adapting to the current climate conditions.
I’ve got a rock walkway that I continually have to weed. Is there any way to stop the weeds?
Glyphosate (Kill-zall, Round-Up) will kill anything there and a pre-emerge (Dimension) will prevent any seed from germinating for about 3 months. A longer lasting solution is Pramitol 25E. It is a soil sterilizer. One application, applied to the soil surface, will prevent re-growth for a year.
I can’t seem to control mealybugs on my African violets. Any answers?
Use imidacloprid granules (Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules or Bonide’s Systemic Houseplant Insect Control). Just scratch it into the soil surface and water. It will control aphids, mealybugs, scale, fungus gnat larvae and whiteflies for about two months.
Should I ‘dead head’ my perennials after they have finished blooming?
Yes, unless it’s something you want to re-seed. Some perennials will bloom again, but there’s no point in having the plant waste the energy to make seed if it’s not likely to come up from seed.
I’ve heard you talk about feeding the microbes to improve the soil, what do you recommend?
Let’s call it Dan West’s 234 tonic. It’s kind of a Geritol for the soil.
In a gallon of water:
2 tablespoons of horticultural molasses,
3 tablespoons of liquid humus and
4 tablespoons of sea tea (fish emulsion or liquid cow manure can be substituted).
Spray or pour a gallon of this solution over 50 sq. ft. once or twice a month. You’ll get a huge increase in microbial activity which improves the vigor of your plants and the effectiveness of your fertilizer.
We had several people correctly unscramble this…ONNOCDY ADTOYNLC.
CYNODON DACTYLON - It’s the botanical name of one of the most common Mid-South plants…Bermudagrass!
This month’s contest is different…again! I realize that there are many people that could not care less what the botanical name or even the common name of a plant is. You know what’s pretty, you know what you like and you just want it to grow, which are all admirable traits and probably the bulk of our customers. So this month, all you have to do is email to the address below your name and the words “Enter Me”.
The contest ends on Aug 15th. Drop by either store to enter or you can email your entry to
email@example.com. One winner, selected from all correct entries, will receive a
$25 Dan West Gift Certificate.
Thanks for shopping with us at Dan West.