Cutting Back Gardenia — When? How?

November 9, 2008 | By | Comments (33)

Dear Grumpy,

We recently purchased a house with what once was lovely landscaping.  It’s been essentially neglected for at least 10 years.  One bright spot is a wall of gardenia bushes along a french pattern travertine, but they are MASSIVE- and completely overgrown.  When can I prune them back?  If I do it now, will it affect the blooms next year?  How aggressive can I be when I do prune them?

Lost in my new garden….


Dear Hilary,

You may be lost now, my child, but Grumpy shall lead you from the wilderness.

The fact that your gardenias are way overgrown makes the question of whether you should prune them a moot point. You have to prune them. Cut them back as far as you need to after all the trees have dropped their leaves this fall.

Will this affect flowering next spring and summer? Yes. Some gardenias, such as ‘Mystery’ (an older selection), bloom on growth made the previous year. Pruning in fall will remove flower buds and greatly reduce flowering next year. Other types, including ‘August Beauty,’ ‘Kimura Shikazaki,’ and ‘Miami Supreme,’ bloom on both previous year’s growth and new growth. This means that fall pruning will reduce the spring bloom, but new spring growth will produce flowers in summer.



  1. Grumpy Gardener

    If your gardenia was healthy, it should leaf back out. Give it a little boost by fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro.

    July 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm
  2. Susie Klein

    My 3 year old was playing a pretend game making breakfast for our indoor potted gardenia while I was in the kitchen. When I went over I noticed she removed most of the green leaves leaving most stems. Is there any hope? What can I do to help it along? Any tips for watering and best container size and whatever else can help it survive. We live in Philadelphia so must be kept indoor. This was a gift to my husband a few months ago for the passing of his father.

    July 11, 2016 at 7:33 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener


    Go ahead. Perfectly OK.

    June 15, 2016 at 10:28 am
  4. Rosie

    What if I prune them in June-July, after flowering is done, rather than waiting for fall?

    June 14, 2016 at 9:43 am
  5. Grumpy Gardener


    Sorry, but the only thing you can do is shake the water off of the blooms and branches to get them to stand back up again.

    May 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm
  6. Glenda Racliff Horton

    Help….I have THE most beautiful gardenias that have grown @ 4′ tall and FULL of blooms….[SC] however, the rain has beaten them to the ground, and this is not a heavy rain…they are falling over and spread almost down to a couple feet high…..not sure what to do?

    May 20, 2016 at 10:53 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener


    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think your gardenia is a goner. Nothing you can do now but hope.

    May 5, 2016 at 2:38 pm
  8. Carole Damien

    Please help me, my gardenia lost all its leaves, it has a few buds left most of them turned brown before blooming completely. What should I do to save it, should I trim it now?

    May 4, 2016 at 2:07 am
  9. Steve Bender


    You can prune and move it now. It will be OK.

    November 1, 2015 at 5:55 am
  10. Joan Maloy

    We have a large Gardenia That was planted to close to our home. Can we move it and prune it back .When can we move it? We Live in Gulfport Ms . Will it Damage the Shrub?

    October 16, 2015 at 9:32 am
  11. Steve Bender


    There are two easy ways to root cutting. Root them in water. If that doesn’t work, take a 6-inch cutting, strip off the lowest pair of leaves, dip the cut end in rooting powder, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with moist potting soil.

    May 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm
  12. john jones

    how and when to dwarf gardenia cuttings on ms gulf coast

    May 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm
  13. Mary Walkiewicz

    Bought a new house in Chapel Hill, NC that has August Beauty Gardenias (3 gallon size) planted in full afternoon sun. Over the harsh winter, they lost all of their leaves. We dug them out and planted along the side of the house amending the clay soil, where they receive less sun. Have cut back all the dead and new leaves are starting to come out. Do you think they will survive? I have also mixed coffee grinds in with the mulch on top for some acid.

    May 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm
  14. Steve Bender


    Don’t prune it this spring and it will probably bloom. Prune it after it finishes blooming.

    February 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm
  15. jane may

    i have a gardenia that I rooted and its beautiful and pretty big but it didn’t bloom this time .whats wrong with it.

    February 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm
  16. Steve Bender


    If your gardenias aren’t showing any growth from the base by now, they’re probably goners. But most home and garden centers I know carry gardenia bushes for lots less than $40. Have you looked at Pike’s or Home Depot? GG

    May 17, 2013 at 9:45 am
  17. Dawn Engfer Hand

    Wondering if you can give me some advice. While cutting dead trees this winter (late December/early January), my husband inadvertently (or not) cut my 2 beautiful and well established Gardenias TO THE GROUND. I was hoping they would re-sprout, but they have not. Is there ANY way to save them, or are they a lost cause? I have looked for Gardenia bushes in our area and all I have found are “Gardenia patio trees” at 40$ a pop. We are in the NE Atlanta Metro area.

    Dawn Hand

    May 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm
  18. Steve Bender

    You can prune it now, but you will delay flowering until later in the year.

    March 29, 2013 at 11:20 am
  19. Rae H

    Hi there: It’s late March in Houston TX and I have one poor gardenia that is still kickin’ (green, but tall and spindly), can I still prune for the summer season? I am looking forward to blooms.


    March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am
  20. Are You Ready For Spring? – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] However, plants that bloom in summer on the current year’s growth (crepe myrtle, chaste tree, gardenia, ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, ‘Knockout’ rose, angel’s trumpet, hibiscus, […]

    January 31, 2013 at 9:01 am
  21. Steve Bender

    Prune butterfly bushes in winter. I like to cut them back to 1-2 feet tall. They grow back fast and produce lots of flowers. You can also cut back your gardenias now to the height you want. They’ll still bloom. Wish I could help you with you “tialyahs,” but I don’t know what they are.

    September 29, 2012 at 6:40 am
  22. Brandon

    Hi Grumpy,
    Understood this question seems redundant, “when and how low should I cut my gardenias?”. Does the same rule of thumb go for “Butterfly Bushes” and “Tialyahs” (sp?)? Have read your responses to the earlier questions, but am still unclear for my situation.
    It’s almost October and my gardenias are still full of green leaves. I have 12 gardenias and 14 tialyahs (at about 12′ to 14′ tall) surounding the back end of my house, which overlooks a pond. Although they’ve been groomed in the past, never to the level they were when we moved in years ago. We once were able to look out our Florida room windows and view pond. Tialyahs now rise above upper window ceils and gardenias are really high too. We would like to cut all back as low as possible, without killing or hendering next summers’ growth. Questions: (1) Can I cut them back now? If not, when is the best time? (2) Understood it will take some time for them to grow tall again, if cut 4′ to 5′. But will it kill/hurt growth or prevent them from blooming this summer? (3) Exactly how low and wide can/should each be cut back?

    Thanks for all your helpful knowledge and time!

    September 28, 2012 at 8:17 am
  23. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    I’ve been to Kona! Loved it. I think you should cut back your gardenia now to the size you want. This will make it bushier. Try to cut back to a leaf or other branch.

    July 16, 2012 at 10:52 am
  24. Lilikoi Lady

    Dear G.G.
    I planted a ‘Mystery” gardenia about a year ago and it’s about 5’ tall but spindly. It’s put out about 4 or 5 blossoms so far this year but I’d like it to be covered in blossoms and more of a shrub than a small tree. We live in Kona, Hawaii – do you have any tips for pruning in Hawaii?

    July 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm
  25. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    I’ve been able to root gardenia cuttings in water. You can also do it by dipping the cut ends in rooting powder and sticking them into moist potting soil. Keep the plants in shade until they root.

    May 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm
  26. Veronica Woodard

    When I prune my gardenias how can I use the cut for starters?

    April 30, 2012 at 9:08 pm
  27. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is the best time to do so is right after it finishes flowering. For gardenia, that’s midsummer. You could do it now, but that may reduce the flowering next year somewhat.

    November 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    When do you prune or trim a gardenia shrub or bush?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:38 am
  29. Grumpy Gardener

    What kind of shrubs are you wanting to cut back? If they’re spring-bloomers and you cut them back now, you won’t get any flowers. If they bloom in summer, now’s the time to do it.

    January 28, 2009 at 9:12 am
  30. Kathy Hitt

    I need help. I have gardenias that serve as my shrubbery and they don’t drop leaves. I have other shrubs that I think need to have a major trimming back this Spring. When is the appropriate time for doing this. I live in Tusc. AL.

    January 27, 2009 at 8:06 pm
  31. Grumpy Gardener

    Variegated hydrangea is deciduous, so it naturally drops its leaves each year. It is nothing to worry about.

    December 25, 2008 at 3:53 pm
  32. Grumpy Gardener

    The Grump thinks you left out a few key words. What are you wanting to do with it?

    December 25, 2008 at 12:19 pm
  33. RoseMary Evans

    Dear Grumpy,
    I have a variegated hydrangea that has been in the ground since last summer. It was doing great till late fall and is now dropping leaves. Can it be because of this time of year it is now mostly in the shade? Very moist there now.

    December 24, 2008 at 9:35 pm

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