Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) are a southern garden tradition. My mother planted gardenias all around her house, and they are my favorite part of summer! The gorgeous white blooms are incredibly fragrant, and we enjoy bringing them indoors to arrange in vases. Here are some tips I’ve learned to increase vase life and enjoy gardenias as cut flowers.
Top Tip: Don’t Touch!
Gardenia blooms will turn yellow if you touch them with your bare hands, because the petals react with the oils on your skin. Use garden gloves while harvesting, and touch the blooms as little as possible to avoid bruising. This is especially important if you are creating a centerpiece or corsage and want your gardenias to look lovely in photographs. They smell just as nice even if they turn yellow, but it does ruin the look.
Keep Away from Fruit
Ripening fruit will also cause the blossoms to turn yellow. Gardenias are very sensitive to the ethylene gas produced by ripening fruit. For best results, don’t store or display gardenia blooms near a fruit bowl on your table or counter.
Store in A Bag
If you’re not ready to use your gardenia blooms immediately, mist them with water and stash them in a zip top bag in the refrigerator. These blooms love humidity. An airtight bag helps keep them from absorbing odors and minimized exposure to ethylene. This tip is especially helpful if you want to make corsages with your gardenias.
Condition the Stems
It’s harder for woody stems to absorb water from the vase. Make sure to cut the stems at a 45 degree angle. Then, split the stems length-wise using a sharp craft knife. The cut only needs to be about a half inch long. You can make a single cut to divide the stem in half, or a cross cut to divide the stem into quarters. It’s best not to pound the stem with a hammer (something I’ve seen recommended), as that causes too much damage to the stem.
Remove Foliage Below the Water
It’s very important to remove foliage that would be underwater in the vase. Pulling off the leaves below the water line helps the water stay clean. Removing excess foliage also helps water go to the blooms and leaves you want to see – it takes work for the plant to distribute water.
Use Sugar and Bleach in the Water
For best results using gardenias as cut flowers, you should add a little sugar and bleach to the water in your vase. Sugar provides an easy meal for the blooms and bleach helps keep the water clean. For every quart of water, I like to use one tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of bleach.
Arrange to Your Heart’s Content
Gardenia’s have sturdy wooden stems and glossy, dark green leaves that make elegant arrangements a snap. They look glamorous as a gardenias-only arrangement, or you can experiment with using thyme, rosemary, and sage to add foliage interest. They also look beautiful with sprigs of lavender or other small flowers. Gardenias also work very well as floating blooms in a bowl of water or a tea cup.
I’m a musician and author from Atlanta, Georgia. If you enjoy cut flower arranging, you might also like my article on making these cute yarrow and aster bud vases!
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