Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

A Hardier, Fall-blooming Gardenia

by Jack Ruttle

The new gardenia 'Chuck Hayes', developed at the Hampton Roads Experiment Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is several degrees more cold tolerant than any other gardenia. It is also more heat tolerant than most. These features alone would make it an important new plant, but there is one more: it reblooms very heavily in early autumn. 'Autumn Beauty', until now the best fall bloomer, typically produces a few flowers at a time, beginning in August. By comparison, 'Chuck Hayes' makes up to 50 fragrant flowers per mature four by four-foot plant. At Virginia Beach, which is right on the border of USDA Zones 7 and 8, it keeps blooming into November.

Following an extremely cold winter at a nursery in Virginia Beach, only one gardenia plant- a single-flowered form -survived. The ARS plant breeders at Hampton Roads crossed it with double-flowered forms and discovered this superior flowering, extra-hardy plant among 400 seedlings.

Its increased cold tolerance means that this new plant will look better in winter wherever gardenias are marginally hardy. 'Chuck Hayes' will grow well most winters even in zone 7, a full zone farther north for gardenias. It is also slightly more compact than most gardenias, and regrows quickly from freeze damage. 'Chuck Hayes' is widely available at nurseries in southeastern states, and is being evaluated by Monrovia Nursery, a wholesale nursery that distributes plants nationally.

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