Oh Gardenia...you know the problem!

rubyjchangSeptember 25, 2012

So, I am here to vent again about gardenias...

I am frustrated about gardenia! They are such a mystery.

My gardenia has been doing so well and then just within a couple of days, you can TELL that it is root rotting!

What is the problem? I am using the gritty mix. Which I started last year and it is working great for all my plants (even bare rooting gardenias was not a problem and all my fungal gnats are gone)!

So it is not because of transplant shock.

It should not be about watering since I really haven't changed my watering habits (once every 3-4 days indoors).

I do not over fertilize, I use foliage-pro at half the suggested amount or less each time I water.

I even add hydrogen peroxide (1 tbsp/gallon) to increase aeration (or just self satisfaction since the gritty mix is so aerated already).

Why does it do this all the time! Gardenia just gets root rot, and it was doing great and I haven't changed anything?

Any suggestions? Do gardenias still die for you even though it is already in the Gritty?


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Ruby, do I sense a bit of frustration in your voice? lol

I hear you on gardenias....I know many nursery owners that just toss them after they can't sell them because they want nothing to do with them come the winter, and that is in a greenhouse!

Have you ever read the 'Suicidal Gardenia' thread...? You would get a kick out of that. I link you.

I don't use Hydrogen Peroxide on mine. I just use Foliage Pro and vinegar. Have you tried vinegar yet? That is one main key to very healthy gardenia.

Are you sure it's root rot? Why do you think it's root rot? It is almost impossible in the gritty ix, especially this time of the year.

Please, explain what you mean by root rot. Did you check the roots? Let's start here.


Here is a link that might be useful: Suicidal gardenia thread

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Oh gardenia, my beautiful gardenia,
Yet again though hast forsaken me
Pawned away that heady fragrance
For twigs as bare as the dead sea

I courted you with an airy labyrinth of stone
Perfect for you to stretch your fastidious roots
So happy you seemed at this containerized luxury
I could scarcely believe your anoxic groan.

I fed you with the choicest morsels,
Lavished you with the rarest salts
Energized waters, and professional tonics,
Nothing could temper your suicidal waltz

Perhaps it was the gilded cage?
The curtains that shaded you out of the spotlight?
The stagnant air, or the expectations
But I won't give up, until I get it right...

I'm in a weird mood, so shoot me.

Seriously though, why do you think it's root rot?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 12:55AM
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This first thing I did was read this Greentiger and my entire family got a kick out of it. Thanks for the pick me up.

Seriously though, your right!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:00AM
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I'm glad my late night ramblings were entertaining Mike :)

Maybe I'll make it a thing..

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 1:25PM
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I am quite positive it is root rot. I have looked at the roots, the bottom portions are still white and healthy but most of the top have that stringy root rot look (blackish--you can pull the "root tissue" off and be left with an annoying string.

I don't know...it IS frustrating. lol

I do have a question regarding brown/dead roots though! My michelia alba, which is doing really good lately (in the gritty mix as well). I scraped a little bit of the surface of the mix and saw some roots today (I was just checking on the moisture). I see white roots (which is good), but I also see a bit of dead roots (dry, brown-grayish). That should be normal right?

A minor portion of roots do die normally in a healthy plant? They can't be there forever (some old roots do die?) Should I be concerned about this? The michelia seems to be doing well right now!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 2:39PM
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And I would just add one more thing. Does the bark in the Gritty mix ever get a little bit moldy?! I found a couple pieces of bark that is a bit green-ish white. Is this a major problem or is this normal?

I promise I am not overwatering (3 times a week at max)...and all my bark/granite/turface is >1/16th inch for SURE...I don't water it with anything weird.

I have not tried vinegar yet for gardenia. I have only been using foliage pro and a bit of hydrogen peroxide. It is just 1tbsp/gallon?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 2:46PM
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...I am going to ramble some more...

When I water, the surface of the gritty mix IS relatively dry (though it does have a bit of moist-ness), that might be why in the top 1.5 inch of soil, some roots of the michelia alba is dead?

That should not be a big problem right? With the gritty mix, the top of the soil(only a inch) will inevitably be dry? How can you keep the top moist but the bottom not TOO wet? I tilt the pot I water every single time I water "jut to make sure" i get any perched water out. Not that that is a "big" problem in the gritty...

Thank you for any feedback!!!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 3:14PM
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The turface in the top one inch should still be moist though. Off the top of my head, I don't have any dry "dead" roots on my plants.. just some large woody ones above the soil line, that eventually branch off into living roots further down.

The whole point of the gritty mix is that you can water as much as you want, whenever you want, without worrying about things like root rot. Depending on how much turface you used, you may even need to water heavily and thoroughly to get bark wet. You should do that at least occasionally anyway to flush out excess salts.

I've never had mold or mildew on my gritty mix bark. Is this inside the pot, or at the surface? Green would suggest algae, or something that uses light. This is really common with perlite at the surface of potting mix, but I haven't seen it on gritty bark.

I'm just having a hard time understanding how you could be seeing root rot symptoms with a particle size of greater than 1/16". Unless it's some specific virulent gardenia pathogen, it just doesn't make sense. I know what you mean about the sloughed off, black epidermis though.. that is definitely root rot. Hmm. 0.o

One thing that has always bothered me about the use of hydrogen peroxide, is the fact that if there is no free, easily oxidized organic matter around, it will damage living tissue. It doesn't just magically turn into water and oxygen.. the free radicals do react and destroy whatever organic matter they can find, which is in short supply in the gritty mix. But still.. 1 tbsp per gallon? That's nothing.

The only thing I can think of is what I alluded to in my poem.. houseplants are more susceptible to root rot because of the lack of air circulation and less than ideal light. This, along with the unchanging moderate temperatures really slows down transpiration and growth in general, meaning the roots just don't use water very fast.
Maybe pictures are in order?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:37PM
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Greentiger, I couldn't of worded it better! Thanks for helping out here.

I was thinking the same thing:-)


    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I have posted images of the michelia alba (current state) and the gritty mix, and a couple pieces of moldy bark (orangeous and whitish).

Light: the plants are sitting in front of a SOUTH facing window, currently, 4-5hours of VERY bright light everyday

Watering: less than 1/4 tsp/gallon of Foliage Pro every 2-4 days with 1 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide

Circulation: From 2:00PM onwards till 12 at midnight, the sliding door is open to allow for a bit of circulation (which might not be very good circulation but better than nothing)

I guess that if I don't water until the 3rd or 4th day, the surface is definitely dry, should I mist? I really really do not want to overwater even though the gritty mix is so porous? I am cautious against watering too much since I know the bottom/center of the soil is still relatively moist if I just watered 2 days ago. I know the Gritty Mix is not suppose to hold any perched water but when I tip my pot there is still a little bit of water that will run out.

I am pretty sure the ingredients I use for the grit is coarse enough. The bark I use is Repti-bark with a bit of orchard bark that I found online. I don't think there is a problem with the bark because if it did, the problem should have been seen already? It has been almost a year since I transplanted them?
I use screened turface over a 1/8in bonsai screen. I use chicken grit from manna pro...(all sifted and washed over the screen).

The michelia alba seems to grow quite well right now-(it was suffering from spidermite a little while ago). Should I be concerned with the moldy bark? Could the little bits of moldy bark become a very big problem?

Thank you guys for all your help! I will try to provide as many details as possible. I am just frustrated.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:22PM
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Gritty Mix with Nickel

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:24PM
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Moldy bark? There is not a lot of these barks, but there definitely are some. These are mostly found only in the region near the roots though? Maybe they are beneficial? (haha)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:28PM
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Ok..Let me see if I can help you too here since I can honestly say I never have any issues with mine unless 'I' make a mistake.

South facing window? Very good!
Stop the hydrogen peroxide. There is no need for it if your mix was made correctly. Remember. TOO much air to the roots is not good either.
Use vinegar instead at 1 tablespoon per gallon of water to unlock the nutrients in your mix if for some reason you are using a high pH solution, that being your tap water.

Did you somehow let your tree overly dry out at least ONCE? Yes, it only takes once on gardenia for fine roots to rot if you have waited until it wilted. But many will survive the first round. It can take a while to recoop while it can looses many leaves and roots. Forget a second time, you can say farewell to it. I am not kidding. They are one of the only plants I own that can not take wilt, no matter what the books say. I don't believe though that rot is your issue at this point no matter what you think or you would not have such nice white roots at all.

If you are using the gritty mix and not sure of how to water, and yes, after all this time, you need to go back to the wooden dowel method. Don't be afraid to depend on this method for certain plants, I still do.

Your fertilizing method is ok, but right now I would stop all together until the roots start doing their job properly again. Or, until the vinegar treatment corrects your issue.

I would put a layer of pine mulch on top to protect the upper roots as the lower roots tend to dry out slower and teh top faster. That is what I do and it workd wonders. I never have top root death and can hold off longer on watering to give the lower roots a chance to dry out at the same time as the top.

Ruby, I would not be concerned about the bark. The fact that you have bottom roots that look nice and healthy while the top is dry, tells me you are holding more moisture below the surface than on the top. I showed you how to fix that.

Now, as for rot and why I think it's not that?....If you had root rot, your leaves would fall a deep yellow and not look like that. To me, it looks more like your tree is in need of nutrients, a nutrient defficiency, locked up by using a water solution too high in pH. That should be corrected without fertilizer at this point. Just use vinegar and water when you water next time.


1. Don't worry about your mix. It has done fine for you, and should continue to do so for another year or two.
2. Your fertilizer is fine, just hold off until the pH of your mix is corrected.
3. Don't worry about the bark.
4. Get a wooden dowel and use that until you get the your watering practice corrected now that your tree is in-doors.
5. Keep your plant where it is, in good sunlight.
6. Cover the top of your mix with a light layer of pine mulch or just extra bark for added top moisture.
7. Relax. If your plant is keeping many leaves, which it seems to me, not all is loss. You might of caught it just in time.

Please keep us updated and excuse the typo's. I had to leave. Good luck:-)


    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 6:57PM
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Thanks Mike for your tips. I really appreciate it.

I will definitely mulch the top with bark! and stop hydrogen peroxide.

My michelia is recovering from nutrient deficiency for sure ...since it had a bad bout of spider mite last month that left many a yellowing leaves, and spots. But now all the young leaves are green and spot-less!

I have only heard vinegar for gardenia, should I do it for michelia as well? So, my michelia does not seem to have a problem with root rot? (just the surface has a little bit of root rot)so can I continue with foliage pro? I did not look at the bottom root of the michelia. I just assume it is fine since there is new growths and appear to be fine.

My gardenia is the one I should stop the fertilization program for? That one is root rot though...the roots are definitely NOT good right now-black and stringy even though there are some white roots. I took some cutings quickly and put them in water today (which all the leaves perked up?!). I know those cuttings might not root given the condition it came from...but I can try. Now that you mentioned it, it could be that maybe I allowed it to dry once (I cannot make sure that I did not do that even once).

Oh gardenia...

My mix do look fine right? I am just concerned that I might not have made the mix correctly since when I tip the pot there is still some water that will run out. I DID sift though? I tried really hard to make the mix.

Thank you so much for the tips!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 7:32PM
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