When we think of gardenias, we usually think of richly-fragrant, white double flowers, a little like miniature roses. The bush is rounded and upright, perhaps 6 feet tall or so. But there are other forms of the gardenia, which have some great uses in the garden, and the most useful of all is the Gardenia Radicans. This low, spreading plant is perfect for a partially-shaded area where you want something low and attractive beneath taller plants. Its flowers are not as large as other gardenias, but it is a prolific bloomer and most importantly it has the same famous gardenia scent, which fills the garden with rich summery perfume. It is also slightly more hardy than taller gardenias, but if you live in a cooler area and want to grow a gardenia outdoors, we recommend the Frostproof Gardenia, which will grow in zone 6.
Use the Gardenia Radicans as a ground-cover plant, in front of, or beneath taller plants. It will make an attractive barrier to weeds and give a richer look to your garden than mulch or bare soil. Use it in formal garden beds, or in woodland locations – wherever you plant it you will love seeing this plant grow and bloom. It can even be planted in containers, where it will trail and flow around, adding texture and interest to your terrace. Planted near an open door the scent will waft in and fill the house with charm.
The Gardenia Radicans is an evergreen plant with small, glossy leaves that looks almost as attractive when not flowering as it does in flower. All through spring and early summer it will be studded with single flowers one inch across, which release a rich fragrance all across the garden. They can be picked and brought indoors too, to perfume whole rooms. It forms a low plant, between 1 and 2 feet tall, and spreading from 3 to 5 feet wide, so just a few plants will cover a wide area. It can be lightly trimmed to keep it super-neat, or left to grow more casually in less formal parts of the garden. Not only will it add an extra layer of green to your garden, but the scent will greatly enrich your outdoor experience and create a whole-new dimension of smell in your garden.
The Gardenia Radicans is a selected form of the common gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides. This plant was being grown in China 3,000 years ago during the Song Dynasty. It was first grown in America by Dr. James Gordon, a Scotsman who had moved to Charleston in 1752. He was a botanist as well as a gardener and this plant whas named after him by the famous botanist Linnaeus,. Dr. Gordon had brought Gardenias to his Charleston garden around 1762 and many old plants in the south may be descendants of that original plant. We don’t know for sure, but his plant was probably closer to the Gardenia Radicans than the more modern varieties developed from it, as his plant was probably single-flowered, but still with that delicious scent. In any case, gardenias became a big hit in the south, and spread to Europe too. During the 1920s and 30s they were everywhere, especially in corsages, and come to symbolize the spirit of summer in the South.
The exact origin of the Gardenia Radicans seems to be lost, and it likely has been grown in gardens for a long time, but you can be sure that our plants are grown from correctly identified parent plants, and taken as stem pieces, not seed, so they will grow into exactly the correct plant. Other cheaper plants may be seedlings, or regular upright gardenias, so the results will be a disappointment.
Choose a partially sunny or lightly shaded spot to plant your Gardenia Radicans. It will grow best in slightly acid soil that is moist, but not stagnant and wet. A steady, even water supply is best for all gardenias, and they are not very drought-resistant. Fertilize your plants in spring – this plant is pretty fast-growing and will soon cover the area you have chosen for it. To create a solid ground-cover, place the plants 2 feet apart from each other, or 3 feet apart if you have more patience. Trimming or pruning is not usually needed, but you can cut back any long branches once flowering has finished, to keep a denser, neater appearance. This plant is usually free of important pests or diseases and will grow well with just a little basic care.
The Gardenia Radicans is a wonderful and different ground-cover plant for warmer states, and deserves a place in every garden where it will grow. Our supplies are limited, so order your plants now, to avoid disappointment.