Gardenias are beloved for their heady fragrance and waxy white blossoms that present a striking contrast to the deep green foliage. They are heat-loving evergreens, native to tropical Africa, and are best grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Cold hardy gardenias are available in commerce, but that doesn’t guarantee zone 5 gardenia shrubs. Read on for more information if you are thinking of growing gardenias in zone 5.
Cold Hardy Gardenias
The term “cold hardy” when applied to gardenias does not mean zone 5 gardenia shrubs. It simply means shrubs that can tolerate cooler zones than the toasty areas in which they typically thrive. Some hardy gardenias grow in zone 8, and a few new ones survive in zone 7. For example, the cultivar ‘Frost Proof’ offers cold hardy gardenias. However, the plants thrive only to zone 7. Likewise, ‘Jubilation,” reputedly one of the hardiest gardenias, grows in zones 7 through 10. There simply are no gardenias for zone 5 backyards on the market. These plants have not been bred to survive severe cold. This is not helpful to those planning on growing gardenias in zone 5 yards. In this low hardiness zone, winter temperatures regularly dip well below zero. Cold-fearing plants like gardenias simply won’t survive in your garden.
Growing Gardenias in Zone 5
You accept the fact that you won’t find cultivars for gardenias for zone 5. Yet, you are still interested in growing gardenias in zone 5. You have a few options. If you want gardenias for zone 5, you’ll do best thinking container plants. You can grow gardenias as hothouse plants; you can raise them as houseplants, or you can grow them as indoor plants taken outdoors in the summer. It isn’t easy to help a gardenia to thrive indoors. If you want to try, remember that indoor zone 5 gardenia shrubs require bright light. Don’t mistakenly place the container in direct sun, which the plant will not tolerate. Keep the temperature about 60 degrees F. (15 C.), avoid cold drafts, and keep the soil moist. If you live in a particularly warm microclimate in zone 5 regions, you might try planting one of the cold hardy gardenias in your garden and see what happens. Remember though that even one hard freeze may kill a gardenia, so you will definitely need to protect your plant during winter.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.