The heavy, heavenly scent of a gardenia (Gardenia spp.) in full bloom, from the pure snow-white blossoms of "August Beauty" to the deep yellow of "Golden Magic," makes this little shrub a pleasing potted addition to any porch, patio or indoor garden. The growth habit of these warm-weather plants, which rarely survive outside of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10, often leaves something to be desired. With some cultivars' willowy stems weeping under the weight of overlarge flowers and others forming a dense, tangled mess, not to mention any leaning from storm damage, staking for support or training the shrub as a tiny tree can be worth the effort.
Leaning or Drooping Stems
Drive a stake that's at least as tall as the shrub into the pot, carefully avoiding the roots. If you meet resistance, move the stake.
Push the stakes as far into the pot as possible, up to 1 foot deep.
Secure the stems to the stake with cloth or garden ties, tying them where the drooping is worst. As the plant grows, change the tie positions to support new drooping areas.
Train as a Standard Tree
Drive a 10-inch stake into the ground next to the strongest, straightest stem on a young gardenia plant. Secure that stem to the stake with cloth or garden ties.
Prune all other stems to soil level, and continue clipping any new stems that appear. Do not prune any leaves off the main stem at this point.
Add new ties as the stem grows, securing it to the stake every 2 to 3 inches. Swap the stake for a taller one if the gardenia outgrows it.
Pinch the terminal bud of the main stem once the gardenia grows as tall as desired. Also pinch the lateral growth to promote more growth.
Remove the stake once the tree can support itself.