Helping A Gardenia Bush With Yellow Leaves

Helping A Gardenia Bush With Yellow Leaves

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By: Shari Armstrong

Gardenias are beautiful plants, but they require a bit of maintenance. One problem that plagues gardeners is a gardenia bush with yellow leaves. Yellow leaves are a sign of chlorosis in plants. There are several causes and trying to determine the reason can involve a lot of trial and error.

What is Chlorosis in Plants?

Chlorosis in plants simply means that the plant doesn’t have enough chlorophyll. This can be caused by poor drainage, root problems, pH too high, or not enough nutrients from the soil, or a combination of all of these.

Too much water causing a gardenia bush with yellow leaves

When you have a gardenia bush with yellow leaves, the first thing to do is check your soil for too much water. The gardenia needs moist soil, but not overly wet. Add some more compost to help it have a richer environment and be sure to set up proper drainage.

Wrong pH causing gardenia bush with yellow leaves

Once you determine that water isn’t the issue, you need to check the soil’s pH balance. Soil pH for plants is an important issue for gardenias, which require a pH between 5.0 and 6.5. The effects of soil pH level on plants will cause it to not be able to absorb minerals like iron, nitrogen, mannesium, or zinc. Mineral deficiency is one of the major causes of chlorosis in plants and in gardenias the most common deficiencies are magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe), which result in similar leaf yellowing. Treatment for each is dependent on proper identification:

Magnesium deficiency – Yellow leaves at the base of branches while tips remain green. Will also notice dark green triangle at leaf base that may resemble the plant’s leaf shape. Dose of magnesium salt, or Epsom salts, will help. However, keep in mind that excessive applications may leach into soil.

Iron deficiency – Tips often yellow but the base of branches and leaf veins remain green. Most common as weather becomes cooler since slower plant sap makes it more difficult to take up the nutrient. Therefore, spring is normally deemed the most appropriate time for treatment through use of iron of chelate, which lasts longer and absorbs gradually. Powder form is recommended as liquid types may not have sulfur, which is necessary for lowering pH (iron decreases as pH increases).

It can be difficult to balance soil pH for plants. By adding the missing nutrients, you can help reduce yellow leaves on your gardenia. One method is to simply add the right balance of the missing nutrients to the soil around the plant (starting at about 5 feet or 1.5 meters away from the plant). Some people treat the leaves with a water solution of the missing nutrients, but this is a temporary fix at best, as it helps the current foliage turn green again. It is better to adjust the soil pH for plants for long term health. Adding the nutrients directly to the soil, about 3 feet (.9 m.) or further away from the plant where the roots spread out is another way to help eliminated yellow leaves.

A gardenia bush with yellow leaves is a common problem and can be very difficult to ultimately fix. If, after your best efforts, your gardenia still does not survive, don’t be too hard on yourself. Even master gardeners with years of experience can lose gardenia bushes despite their best efforts. Gardenias are a beautiful but fragile plant.

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SOLVED: yellow leaves on my gardenia tree

I believe when I bought this house a couple weeks ago the lady told me this tree is a gardenia. Why are the leaves yellow on it and when does it bloom?

I don't think it's a gardenia, the leaves don't look right to me plus the majority of them are not hardy in zone 7a. As far as yellowing leaves, there can be a number of causes. The first one on my list to check for is a watering issue, either too much or too little (more often too much). It looks like it may be at a low point in your yard given the little hill in the background, so particularly if it's rained a fair amount recently it could be that area's a bit on the wet side. Another possibility is that even though evergreen shrubs don't lose all their leaves at once like deciduous plants do, they do shed leaves from time to time and I've found with some of my plants that they'll go through a phase where they drop more leaves than usual for a period of time. So depending on what it is that you have it could be that too. But for the moment I'd check on the moisture level.

Well, I must admit I'm totally amazed to see a Gardenia growing there in Zone 7a, but it does indeed look like one. Here's my "take" on it. It seems to be doing well, although seems to be mostly weak "sucker" growth, like what happens to Lilacs, when they're left to their own devices. The new growth on top looks fine and it seems the yellow leaves are mostly the lower ones that are dying naturally because of the time of year. It's very common for Gardenias to suffer and become chlorotic if the ph is too high (not acidic enough) or it is lacking nitrogen and/or magnesium. This doesn't seem to be the case here, although I could be wrong. What I would suggest is that you perhaps remove some of the smaller, weaker growths from the base of the plant and also prune back most of the long top branches as well by about half! It will help the plant because all the energy will be forced down lower into new shoots, branches and leaves, and ultimately flowers. At this point it's putting everything into the top of all those long stems. You can imagine how it will look after all the yellow leaves fall off, quite leggy! I also suggest you give it a couple of feedings of fertilizer for "acid loving plants", something with a formula like 30-10-10. Then I'd switch to a "high middle number" formula, like 10-30-20 or whatever is available there. That will help encourage flowering, but you will have to wait for some new growth first. Possibly by late Summer, early Fall most of the new shoots will produce flowers. I hope this helps!

Sorry ecrane3, I didn't mean to contradict you. I was writing my response at the same time as you. I think it does look like a Gardenia, but ofcourse I could be wrong. There are a few varieties now that are supposed to be hardy to Zone 7, but they don't usually grow this tall.

Is it possible to get another pic of just the leaves kountrykitten? Thanks!

It looks like it could be a Gardenia to me, but a very spindly one that has been lacking care. It probably needs water and fertilizer. I did find a Gardenia that says it is hardy in zone 7:

I have two Gardenia bushes that I planted many, many years ago and they are quite large with good sized trunks and thick branches. Your plant seems to have thin branches and I can't see much of a trunk, but I'm sure it's a different kind of gardenia than the ones I have. My plants do get the yellowing leaves that seem to drop all over, which in the case of my plants, is a lack of proper watering and lack of fertilizer. The sprinklers were not reaching one of my plants and it had many yellowing leaves. My husband just recently moved a sprinkler head so it will reach the plant. I am bad about feeding mine - It's actually been quite a few years since mine were fed but I plan on feeding a lot of plants in the yard tomorrow.

I hope you are able to keep your gardenia at your new home alive and that it graces you with those beautiful, fragrant blooms! They are wonderful!

You can feel free to contradict me, I could very well be wrong! The gardenias I'm used to seeing have shinier leaves and more compact growth, plus I know there are very few that are hardy in zone 7, so because of that I assumed it was more likely something else. But I could be wrong! If it is a gardenia, the only time I've ever seen mine have yellow leaves like that was if they were overwatered.

Lol, I'm wrong a lot so hate to contradict, especially when I'm not so sure in the first place, and especially you! Possibly I'm right about it being a Gardenia and you're right about the water level in the ground, ie: overwatering. I totally agree with what you picked up in the photo re: it growing at the bottom of a hill, where the rain would run off and collect. I noticed that too and it almost seems to be in a spot that levels off so might not drain very quickly. My Gardenias here also tend to get that yellow leaf problem during the rainy season, especially towards the end, when the ground is extremely saturated. I'm lucky I do have good drainage however. The water may pool there when it's raining, but quickly disappears after the rain has finished. Still, after 5 or 6 months of this, my plants start showing signs of stress, and so do I, lol! This year our rainy season started a full month early, at the beginning of April and I'm already climbing the walls!

Ok, after all that I'm going to revise my recommendations and suggest that you move this plant to higher ground if possible, kountrykitten. A very big job indeed, but if is sitting in a damp place, it would help to move it. I still maintain what I said about the pruning and feeding though. This plant, whatever it is, should be much bushier than it is and I think the only way to get it to bush out at this point is to prune it fairly drastically!

Yes plantlady, I'm sure we both grow a different variety than what this one is because we have the warmer climates. One of the varieties that I came across, that looked interesting is this one: It actually says it's hardy to Zone 6b, with protection! Now we're talking Canada, lol!

I agree that the yellow leaves could be do to over watering. Where it is planted it's like a valley and when it rains water stands on top of the soil as it is a sand like clay. The lady says it is sand but I have never seen sand clump together like this does. I will take a closer picture of the leaves tomorrow to post for you all. I don't know what it is she just told me it was a gardenia and the flowers spent great she said. My husband and I put a fence around it cause I noticed the one side the deer had been eating. Will post tomorrow thanks everyone.

from my experience with the many types of gardenia's it is very common for them to show signs of chlorosis following the cold winter months, because they go dormant through this period. it is important to allow the gardenia to get as much sun as possible without burning and to allow it to dry in between watering, also an application of cottonseed meal/green sand/ sul-po-mag. common fertilizers in my area really help them perk up this time of year.

I tend to think the yellow leaves are mostly a normal function of the plant, as new growth begins (even though it may not be showing signs of new growth yet) the oldest leaves will be shed.

Also agree that pruning and appropriate feeding will help.

its a gardenia but i never feed mine. when i do they do look yellow. yellow leaves could be due to water and going from hot to cold back to hot agian.

I agree with Nifty that it looks like normal leaf drop in an evergreen plant about to start growth again. It seems to be all the old leaves that are yellowing and that can be completely normal. I suggest it may be perfectly healthy!

If it was mine I would leave it and see what happens and exactly what it is before pruning or moving it. Don't mean to rudely contradict anyone: JMO :-)

Vanillaman. I think gardenias smell nice.

I would like to see a close up photo of the leaves! Then we will be able to tell for certain if it is a gardenia, but I'm still voting yes on it being one.

I almost agree on transplanting if it is in a location of standing water (if it is indeed a gardenia). But, if it's been in the same location for a long time without ill effects then why not just let it be? I wonder if you have a way of contacting the previous owner of your home and ask her how long that plant has been there? If it's been there for quite awhile and done well I see no reason for relocating it, unless there's a more prominent spot in the landscape you would want it, maybe for better viewing.

Maybe your soil ph is off? I add a cup or two of coffee at the base of my gardenia or some azalea food and it should perk right up and have tons of flowers. Mine has been blooming since early march but we had a mild winter here in Dallas.
Looks to me like your gardenia is in a good location. In my experience they like filtered shade.

I think it depends on which Gardenia it is as to how much sun it can take. I have two huge ones in my yard . one in full sun and the other in full shade. They are different plants but I have no idea which ones they are. Both are quite large and bloom like crazy. The one in full sun has been blooming for a couple of months and will bloom off and on all summer. The one in full shade only blooms once in May every year.

It does look like a hardy gardenia. Sometimes they die back to the roots in zone 7. That can cause the growth pattern seen here. It also may not be getting enough sun to create a full bushy plant. Hard pruning now may cause a loss of this years flowers.

Gardenias do smell wonderful, especially when combined on the air with mimosa. It is one of my favorite summer flowers.

Gardenia Plants Have Yellow Leaves

Dan, My wife and I planted the Louisiana super plant gardenia with the hopes of making it a highlight hedge in our garden. The plants were in 3 gallon pots and we planted them about a month and a half ago. We folded peat moss in with the soil to make sure that it was acidic and put a time released azalea/camellia fertilizer on it. Recently I've noticed that every plant has some yellow leaves. There is a significant amount of spring growth but I wonder what the yellow leaves are from. Is this an insect that I need to treat, or is it something worse?

P.S. I have a picture that shows the proportion and scale of yellow but can't attach it to this email. The leaves that are yellow appear to have some dark spots on them too.

Gardenias are evergreen. That means they never drop all of their leaves at one time. But, leaves do not live forever. Eventually, leaves grow old and die. So, it is perfectly natural to see old leaves turn yellow and drop from evergreen plants. This often happens in the spring as evergreen plants send out new growth and bloom. The amount of yellow leaves tends to vary from year to year, and in some years can be more significant. Newly planted shrubs are experiencing the stress involved with trying to adapt to growing in the ground instead of a pot. This stress can increase spring leaf drop. The loss of one-quarter to one-third of the leaves is not unusual.

Yellow leaves this time of the year likely does not indicate a pest problem, and is not related to nutritional deficiencies.

If you would like to send me a picture, I’d be happy to take a look.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

How to Prevent Yellowing of Gardenia Leaves

If you have spotted a few yellow leaves on your gardenia plant, quit worrying. This Gardenerdy article will tell you why yellowing occurs in gardenia leaves, and how you can stop it.

If you have spotted a few yellow leaves on your gardenia plant, quit worrying. This Gardenerdy article will tell you why yellowing occurs in gardenia leaves, and how you can stop it.

Did You Know?

Gardenia plants are members of the coffee family.

Gardenias are evergreen plants that are popular for their large, white blossoms. These plants flower during the warm months of November to May, and in many cases their excellent fragrance is associated with summer. These sun-loving plants can either be grown outside or as houseplants. They can be grown in the USDA hardiness zones 8 – 10, and require dry, acidic soils. These plants are used as hedges, ground covers, mass plantings, or are simply grown as single specimens in gardens.

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Growing them in some cold states can be a challenge, and sometimes, even experienced gardeners can do little to stop the plant from dying out. While this plant is difficult to grow and care for, the most common problem faced is the yellowing of its leaves, also called chlorosis.

Chlorosis is a problem in which the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves gets reduced. Chlorophyll is a pigment present in the leaves and young stems of plants which gives them their characteristic green color. When the content of this pigment goes down, the leaves appear yellow, brownish, or even white in some cases. While there can be a variety of causes as to why gardenia show yellow leaves, the most common are over-watering, mineral deficiencies, and insufficient sunlight. Given below are the causes of yellow gardenia leaves, and some remedies to stop this yellowing.

Causes and Prevention

Magnesium Deficiency

Soils that are low in magnesium are a common cause for the yellowing of gardenia leaves. This is commonly manifested by the yellowing of the bottom leaves of branches, while the leaves at the top remain green. Also, a small, green triangle shaped like the plant’s leaf will be seen at the base of yellow leaves.

Add a fertilizer rich in magnesium to the soil, or add Epsom (magnesium sulfate) salts. Dilute one teaspoon of Epsom in one gallon of water and apply this mixture once every three to four weeks. However, some experts criticize this method, saying Epsom has no effect on plants. Some advise applying Epsom to soil not more than once every year.

Manganese and Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can cause the yellowing of gardenia leaves, though in a different pattern than magnesium deficiency. In this case, the leaves at the bottom of the branches and the veins stay green, while those at the top turn yellow. Manganese deficiency shows symptoms similar to iron deficiency, making a soil test all the more necessary to identify the real culprit.

Using a balanced fertilizer of ratios 6-6-6 or 10-10-10 will reduce both iron and manganese deficiency. Applying chelated iron is a good way to reduce iron deficiency, and an added advantage is that these salts are taken up slowly. Apply these formulations once every two to four weeks.


Using excess fertilizers will damage the plant roots, in addition to causing yellowing of the leaves. This root damage is generally irreversible and the fertilizer may even burn the plant. The root damage will restrict the uptake of nutrients by the plant, causing the leaves to turn yellow.

When using a fertilizer, always select one that is designed for flowering and acid-loving plants like gardenia. Follow the manufacturer’s directions too. Apply fertilizers at a distance of 1 foot away from the plant root to prevent them from getting absorbed at their full strength.

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Pests like aphids, mealybugs, scales, and white flies too are commonly responsible. The common symptoms of these pests is damage to the stem of the plant, to the edges of the leaves, and thin, cottony threads found all over the plant. These pests suck the plant sap and leave behind a sticky secretion called honeydew, which causes the growth of the fungus sooty mold. The fungus blocks the leaves from sunlight, causing leaf yellowing.

Take 2½ teaspoons of horticultural oil and dilute it with 1 gallon of water. Spray this solution over the gardenia until the leaves start dripping. Alternately, you can release a blast of water from a hose to remove the pests. One can also pick the pests from the plant using the hands or a cloth.

Water Quality

Watering the gardenia using normal tap water may cause yellowing of its leaves, since tap water is mostly hard, containing calcium present as limestone. Also, water runoffs from concrete, being alkaline, can affect nutrient uptake, causing chlorosis and yellow leaves. On the other hand, using soft water is not advisable since it contains salts.

When possible, use rainwater or distilled water to water the plant. The water should always be near room temperature. Dissolve 100 ml of vinegar in one liter of water to acidify the water, and water the plant with this mixture once every month. You can also dump used tea leaves or coffee grounds in the soil to create slightly acidic conditions. Add mulch to the soil to lower its pH.

Poor Drainage

Soil with poor drainage can cause leaf yellowing. Drainage problems can be caused due to over-watering the plant. Gardenias need most soil, which should not be too wet. Over-watering and poor drainage are the most common causes of yellowing of gardenia leaves in pots. Too much watering will prevent the gardenia from absorbing nutrients from the soil, leading to yellow leaves.

Add compost to the soil to set up proper drainage. For potted gardenias, place the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles. This will provide a humid environment without causing any ill-effects of over-watering. Make sure that the pots have holes at the bottom for drainage. Provide the plants with an inch of water once a week, without over-watering them.

Soils with a pH of 7.0 or above may cause yellowing of the leaves, as the plant prefers a pH range of 5.0 to 6.5. This may happen if the soil is rich in salts, or if it has been watered with hard water. Alkaline soils prevent plants from absorbing minerals like iron and manganese from the soil, causing yellowing of the leaves.

Check the soil pH. Regularly leach the soil using rainwater to drain away the salts. Add manure or compost to improve the soil properties. Using an acid-forming fertilizer will prevent the ill-effects of alkaline soil, such as yellowing of the leaves. Add aluminum sulfate or water-soluble sulfur to the soil to improve its iron availability.

Lack of Ventilation or Light

Lack of ventilation may be one of the reasons too. If the gardenia is placed too close to a wall or another plant, the lack of airflow may cause conditions suitable for fungal growth. The fungus then reduces the rate of photosynthesis, causing yellowing. Gardenias need bright sunlight for good growth. If kept indoors in poor light, the leaves may start yellowing. Too much exposure to sunlight, on the other hand, may cause excessive darkening of the leaves.

Trim the surrounding plants or the gardenia itself, or move the plant to a more ventilated place. Provide the plant with plenty of sunlight. For a potted gardenia, exposure to bright sunlight is important, but preferably keep it out of the hot afternoon sun. It is advisable to expose the plant to six hours of direct sunlight for optimum growth. However, exposing it to very hot sunlight can burn the leaves.

Cold Temperatures

Exposure to cold conditions can cause both, yellowing of the leaves and growing points. The plant prefers warm temperatures. Temperatures that go below 70°F are harmful and cause yellowing. The plant thrives at temperatures in the range of 65°F to 70°F in the daytime, and 60°F to 62°F at night. A wide fluctuation in temperature is likely to add to this problem.

Place potted gardenias in a heated area. If placed outdoors, shift them indoors during winter. Expose them to a few hours of sunlight every day. A sun lamp can be used to provide warmth. Gardenias can be grown between two shrubs such as roses and others, which reduces the effects of cold weather.

Plant Diseases

Some plant diseases are the chief causes of yellowing leaves. Root rot, a fungal disease that affects the roots, is one such disease. The older leaves first turn yellow and start falling off. Canker is another disease caused by the fungus Phomopsis gardeniae. A swollen region in the stem with the area above the swollen region having turned yellow, is a classic symptom of this disease. Powdery mildew is another disease, in which a powdery substance is visible on the leaves before they start yellowing.

Grow the gardenia in loose, well-drained soil. Before buying the plant, it’s preferable to check if its roots are white. If the soil is soggy, transfer the plant to a raised bed. There is no cure for canker. The plant has to be uprooted, and ensure that no other plant is grown at the same site. In case of powdery mildew, snip off the infected branches with bleach-sterilized equipment and ensure that the soil around the plant is without any plant debris.

Natural yellowing of leaves is nothing to be afraid of, for it is a part of the plant’s life cycle. It is the yellowing due to external causes, such as the ones listed above, that you need to beware of. Just provide your gardenia with humid, well-drained soil and good sunlight, and leave them alone. In case of gardenias, too much love can be dangerous.

What causes yellow leaves on gardenia bushes?

If your gardenia needs magnesium, this will cause the leaves to turn yellow. You can remedy this with a fertilizer high in magnesium, or you can add some Epsom salts to your soil. Mix one teaspoon to one gallon of water and apply every two to four weeks. This practice isn't without its critics, however.

One may also ask, do gardenia leaves turn yellow in the fall? As gardenia shrubs age, the leaves can turn yellow and drop. However, if they are turning yellow at a rapid pace or the buds are turning brown and falling to the ground before they have a chance to bloom, there may be other issues bringing down the beauty of your gardenia.

One may also ask, what is the best fertilizer for gardenias?

Acid-Loving Plants Gardenias prefer acidic soil with a pH around 5.5. Some fertilizers, like blood meal, cottonseed meal and fish emulsion, can help acidify soil and maintain a low soil pH. These fertilizers for acid-loving plants are the best choice for gardenias.

How often should gardenias be watered?

Gardenias need at least 1 inch of rain (or equivalent watering) each week. Keep the soil consistently damp but not soggy. Don't let the soil dry out and don't over-water your Gardenias or the flower buds will not open and may even drop off.

Answer #1 ·'s Answer · Hi Tina - During spring, when buds are forming on gardenia, it is natural for the plant to shed some of it's older leaves on the inside of the plant to put its energy toward production of flowers and new foliage. When this occurs, the leaves on the interior of the plant will usually turn bright yellow and then fall off within a week or so. The newest leaves on the plant should be dark green. If the leaves on the exterior of the plant are turning yellow or discoloring this could be a sign of either too much water, alkaline soil or a bug infestion (usually white flies or honeydew aphids).

To check for soil moisture you can dig a small hole next to the root ball. Or, if your gardenia was recently planted you can just check using your finger. The soil should just be damp, not soggy or wet. If the soil is soggy allow it to dry out and then water less often.

Gardenia need a very acid soil ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 or so on the pH scale. If the pH is above 6 the outside foliage will either look light green or yellow-green, rather than dark green as it should. You can make it more acid by applying soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or chelated iron. Always fertilize with an acidifying type fertilizer, such as Azalea, Camellia, Rhodo & Gardenia Food or Milorganite. Soil test kits can be purchased at most nursery and garden centers. Local extension services also provide soil testing services.

To check for insects first look underneath the leaves. If you see any small light green bugs this could be aphids. Then shake the bush. If you see tiny white insects buzzing around it's white flies. Both of these insects can be controlled with Neem Oil or Malathion. Aphids should only require one treatment and both the top and undersides of leaves need to be sprayed. If it's whiteflies, spray once to get the adults and then again in 72 hours to get the hatchlings.

Hope this info was helpful and let us know if you need more details or have any other questions.

Why is my gardenia leaves turning yellow?

If your gardenia needs magnesium, this will cause the leaves to turn yellow. You can remedy this with a fertilizer high in magnesium, or you can add some Epsom salts to your soil. Mix one teaspoon to one gallon of water and apply every two to four weeks. This practice isn't without its critics, however.

Beside above, how often do you water a gardenia plant? How Often to Water. Upon planting gardenias into a landscape, water them at least twice a week for the first six weeks, according to the University of Florida Extension. When the plant is established, cut back watering to once a week.

Correspondingly, what is the best fertilizer for gardenias?

Acid-Loving Plants Gardenias prefer acidic soil with a pH around 5.5. Some fertilizers, like blood meal, cottonseed meal and fish emulsion, can help acidify soil and maintain a low soil pH. These fertilizers for acid-loving plants are the best choice for gardenias.

Why are my gardenia flowers turning yellow?

Just as gardenia flowers keep their form but turn yellow with age, it is normal for older gardenia leaves to turn yellow in spring. However, older leaves turning yellow during the growing season signals a nutrient deficiency or other problem. Iron chlorosis causes yellowing of new growth.



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