When to prune gardenias

Find out when to prune gardenias to keep this beautiful scented shrub in great shape

When to prune gardenias – gardenia flower
(Image credit: Richard Patterson/Alamy Stock Photo)

Wondering when to prune gardenias to keep these plants the right size for your backyard, and shapely, too? While very little pruning of these prized shrubs is necessary, it is definitely a task worth adding to a gardening to-do list for a handsome feature plant, and it’s important to get the timing right.

On the desirable evergreen shrubs list for many gardeners in the south – as well as that of those located in colder zones who are prepared to move their plants indoors in winter – gardenias are adored for their showy, fragrant blooms and attractive foliage.

But to help them look their best, pruning is a good idea, and this is the lowdown on when to prune gardenias.

When to prune gardenias

Gardenias are one of the best flowering shrubs for busy gardeners because they don’t have to be pruned much. But pruning will keep them in shape, and will allow the removal of broken stems. 

If you’ve chosen gardenias to plant with hydrangeas, or have a smaller yard, and therefore want to keep them more compact, prune gardenias every year. But if letting them grow bigger works within the garden design, pruning every two or even every three years can be sufficient to keep them to the dimensions and shape you want.

What time of year to prune gardenias

While when to prune gardenias can vary from annually to two or even three yearly, the rules are stricter when it comes to the time of year to prune them. Get it wrong and fewer flowers can be the result.

‘For trees and shrubs that are grown for their flowers, you must consider when they bloom before you decide to prune them,’ say Daniel Gill and Thomas A Merrill at LSU Ag Center (opens in new tab)

Be aware that gardenias may bloom just once a year, or more than once, so you should be sure about the variety in order to know when to prune. 

Prune gardenias after flowering

Gardenias should be pruned right after the last flower has bloomed. ‘Gardenias, like azaleas, would need to be pruned after they have finished flowering, which will be sometime late spring or early summer,’ say the experts at UF/IFAS Extension Nassau County (opens in new tab).

Pruning a gardenia at this time of year avoids the risk of cutting away new buds, which could happen if you prune in the fall.

The timing is driven by the fact that new buds develop on older wood. Gardenias ‘bloom in early summer, but they produced their flower buds from last year’s growth’, explain Daniel Gill and Thomas A Merrill.

For gardenias that bloom more than once, wait until the end of the final blooming cycle to prune.

Can I prune gardenias in winter?

You shouldn’t prune gardenias in winter because you risk reducing the number of flowers that will bloom next time around. Prune in summer instead when older wood can be cut back without risking the removal of newly formed flower buds.

In summer wait until the last of the shrub’s flowers has fallen and then prune for best results.

Should you deadhead gardenias?

It is a good idea to deadhead gardenias. Removing spent blooms prevents the plant from setting seed. Deadhead a gardenia after the blooms wilt and it will direct its energy into producing flowers allowing you to enjoy more of the wonderful blooms. Remove old flowers and the shrub will look more attractive, too. 

It’s worth deadheading a gardenia weekly throughout the blooming season, pinching off spent flowers or cutting them off just above a leaf set. When the last of the year’s blooms have faded, you can prune gardenias if you want to improve their shape or remove broken stems.

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.