Little Daisy™ GardeniaGardenia jasminoides 'RLH-GA1' (PP# 30,894)
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Gardenia jasminoides 'RLH-GA1' (PP# 30,894)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Little Daisy™ Gardenia is a compact evergreen bush with glossy emerald green leaves, growing under 2 feet tall, and spreading 3 feet across. It blooms from spring into early summer, and often again in early fall, with 2-inch single white blooms like a tropical daisy. They are richly fragrant and carried profusely all over the bush, making a wonderful show. This reliable, cold-resistant plant is excellent for edging and for the front of garden beds, as well as in planters and pots.
The Little Daisy™ Gardenia is much more cold-resistant than other varieties, as well as tolerating hot summers well. It enjoys full sun in cooler zones, and afternoon shade in warmer ones. The soil should be moist, acidic, well-drained and enriched with organic materials. Mulch in spring and trim if you want after the first flush of flowers is over. Don’t trim late in the year, or before blooming. Pests and diseases won’t be problems with good watering, suitable soil and light, and regular fertilizing with foods for camellias and rhododendrons. Use potting soil for acid-loving plants.
For tolerance to both heat and cold the classic Gardenia variety called ‘Daisy’ is unbeatable. Its lovely fragrant white flowers appear in abundance, but it can be a little tall for smaller spaces, or to use as an edging, because it can grow to 4 feet. That’s why we were thrilled to receive a shipment of Daisy’s little sister, Little Daisy™. Growing no more than 2 feet tall, with a 3-foot spread, it has all of the cold resistance and overall toughness of the larger plant, and the same abundant flowering, but packaged in a smaller, more useful version. If you haven’t been growing gardenia in your garden, you have been missing out on one of the best, and certainly the most fragrant, of evergreen bushes. Tricky as a houseplant, gardenias do so much better outdoors, following the natural cycle of the seasons. There it feels and looks right at home – and at your home is exactly where a Little Daisy™ Gardenia would love to be.
Little Daisy Gardenia is a small evergreen shrub growing to just 18 or 24 inches tall, and spreading to 2 or 3 feet wide. It is densely-branched, so it is always bushy and attractive, never becoming gaunt, thin and unsightly. The leathery leaves are a wonderful rich emerald green, holding that color through all the seasons, and they are smoothly oval to lance-shaped, 1½ to 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide. That strong coloring is held in full sun and in shade too, making this one of the most ‘evergreen’ of plants.
Flowering begins in spring and continues through early summer, often repeating in early fall – month after month of blooms. Each flower is at least 2 inches across, with 6 flat petals and a tight yellow center, looking indeed like a daisy, but with thick, velvety petals and a smaller center. Six elegantly curved stamens spreading out from the center complete the picture. At first the flowers are pure white and as they age they gradually turn creamy yellow, each one lasting 2 or 3 days before dropping neatly, leaving the bush always tidy. Flowering is profuse, especially at the beginning, with every stem crowded with delicious blooms – and let’s not forget that wonderful, wonderful gardenia fragrance, the stuff of the very best perfumes.
The combination of evergreen leaves and long flowering makes this plant ideal for every garden. Use it as an edging along paths in both sun and partial shade, or anywhere in the foreground of your beds – you can’t have too much of it. Fill blank spots, and use it in the smallest garden without fear of it outgrowing the limited space. In zones 8 to 10 it can also be grown in planters and boxes, for terraces and if you don’t even have a garden at all.
The Little Daisy Gardenia is completely cold-hardy from zone 7 and also resists the heat of places like Texas through the summer. In zone 6 it should be grown in full sun, in a warm sheltered place.
The Little Daisy Gardenia is very adaptable to different light conditions, growing either in full sun or partial shade. Generally, as you move into warmer zones, afternoon shade becomes beneficial and even necessary to prevent scorching and bud-drop. Too much sun can also limit later flowering if you are growing in the hottest zones. Although pretty easy to grow, this plant does need some attention to the soil, doing best in moist, well-drained acidic soils with added lime-free organic materials mixed into the soil and used as mulch. In planters, use soil for acid-loving plants. Dry soils, and alkaline ones, are not tolerated well.
Regular watering is the key to success, keeping the ground evenly moist but not wet. Always allow the soil to dry just a little between watering, but don’t let it become significantly dry. This variety of gardenia doesn’t produce seed, so dead-heading isn’t needed and the flowers drop naturally. If you want to trim, do it after the main flowering period is over, leaving plenty of time for new growth to develop before winter comes. Flower buds for the next year develop in fall, so trimming late will prevent that happening. Pests and diseases can sometimes be seen, but good watering, regular fertilizing with food for camellias and rhododendrons, and suitable soil, make those problems much less likely.
The gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides, was once known as Gardenia augusta, and that name is still sometimes used by growers. This distant relative of the coffee bush grows naturally throughout much of Asia, and it can be found from India and Bangladesh through Vietnam and Myanmar into Southern China, Japan and Korea. It was brought to Europe in the middle of the 18th century where it became a popular greenhouse plant, but in America it has been grown outdoors in the South and Texas for a long time. There have been many varieties created, and generally the double-flowered forms seen in florists as more difficult to grow outdoors than the more natural types with single flowers.
Robert H. Head is a horticulturist working in Seneca, South Carolina, who specializes in developing new plant varieties. In 2010 he spotted an unusually compact plant among a group of plants of the older variety ‘Daisy’. That plant is known for its cold-resistance and repeat flowering. The new plant Robert found had all that, but on a more compact bush. In 2019 his company, Head’s Select Inc., patented it with the name ‘RLH-GA1`. It has been licensed for propagation to Greenleaf Nursery Company, who have released it under their Garden Debut® brand, with the very appropriate trademark name of Little Daisy™.
It is wonderful to have this smaller version of the classic ‘Daisy’ variety available – it’s just as reliable and just as long-blooming. If you thought gardenia was only for the warmest states, think again and grow the Little Daisy™ Gardenia. You will be thrilled, but order now, as this great new variety is proving incredibly popular.