African Gardenia: how to plant and care for a unique houseplant

Dazzlingly white star-shaped flowers contrasting shiny green leaves on the backdrop, cute orange fruits and mind-blowing aroma –  Mitriostigma axillary, commonly known as The African Gardenia, appears in all gardeners fantasy who know about it. Though it’s hard to get by, growing African gardenia in your home can turn it into a green oasis and can create a lovely atmosphere.

You can grow the plant both indoors and outdoors adorning patios and tables alike. You can even grow it into small trees. This unique type of shrub is a truly remarkable and sacred treasure to encounter. It is typically found upon the dune forests and coastal regions within the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and Mozambique.

How to Plant African Gardenia

The easiest way to get your hands on an African gardenia is to buy one from a nursery or plant festivals. However, if you plan to grow Mitriostigma axillare by yourself, the most appropriate way would involve summer cuttings or seeds. Gather as many fruits of the plant as possible. Because the seeds, and the fruits too, get massively infected with insect larvae. Implant the freshly harvested (remember, vigor and vitality diminish as time passes) seeds in containers or seedling trays.

After the seedlings have risen a few inches tall, transplant the seedlings into sterile and cleaned planting pots that are a bit larger. These planting pots should be full of fresh and highly nutritious soil. Also, make sure the planting pot has well-portioned drainage holes.

If you wish to propagate gardenia via cuttings, you should use those which have been cut in the summer. The ideal cuttings should have a few nodes along with a length of 100-150 mm. To reduce the probability of infection, ensure that cut surfaces are not rugged. Get rid of the buds and leaves from the lower edge of the cutting. Place it into a clean container having seed compost.

Furthermore, you can apply a rooting hormone at the base of the cutting to spur root formation. Put the container in a shady, warm spot.  Ensure the soil remains moist over the next four weeks (it may take longer occasionally) until the root grows. After that, transfer the cutting into a large container and keep introducing larger containers gradually if you want to grow it into a tree.

How to Nurture

Keep your African Gardenia’s soil moist and the plant itself within indirect light all the time. These rare houseplants do not like a direct or overly bright light in contact with them. They are used to growing underneath taller plants. They thrive most often in dimly lighted or shaded rooms.

When watering this houseplant, do not forget to fertilize it as well. This weekly feeding is essential as the gardenia adores high nutrient levels within their soil. In fact, it is proven that nutrients rich and organic soil is the best type to use for the African Gardenia. The reasoning is that it provides the same soil conditions as a subtropical forest provided it is maintained. Also, use frequent misting of water as a way of keeping the air around the plant humid like a subtropical area.

Tips for Optimizing the Growth

The African Gardenia has an extreme intolerance to the over-saturated soil. This means that soggy soil has the potential of drowning this tropical plant. Nevertheless, this type of subtropical plant loves high humidity levels within the air and its surrounding soil. If its leaves look like they are starting to wither, try to water the plant during the day’s heat peak periods.

From spring to summer, feed Mitriostigma axillare with liquid plant food each time you water it.

In a cool atmosphere move the plant indoors. When the plant is blooming in the winter, feed it once in a month with plant food full of phosphorus. Prevent buildup of salts by leaching to the soil frequently.

Finally, African gardenia isn’t the easiest shrub to grow. Still, the striking fragrance and gorgeous, waxy, creamy-white flowers that bloom year-round make up for the extra effort they require.

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