Care for a mother's day gift Gardenia

Asked December 7, 2016, 1:03 PM EST

Hi! Thanks in advance for replying to my question :) I received a gardenia for my first mother's day earlier this year, thus it's a little sentimental and I'd like to try to save it if possible. It was purchased for me from home depot and it was trained to have a topiary look (long stem/approx 3', large leaf ball of about 2' diameter at top). Since the end of Fall it was affected with cottony scale, and I've been trying to use a non-chemical method of killing them since I wanted to bring the gardenia to winter indoors and we have a newborn in the house. I've been hand smooshing them, and spraying it with an alcohol solution. However, it's gotten very out of control. I was wondering if I might be able to take some drastic action by completely cutting the topiary ball off, and pruning it way back down to about 1', where new small leaves are growing out and are not affected by the cotton scale so far. Would this severe pruning kill the plant?

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

Sounds like you are dealing with mealybugs. The following is information from our website on this insect pest.
The pruning you describe sounds too drastic especially going into the winter as plant growth is slowing down. Our information mentions using horticulture oil or insecticidal soap both of these are organic insecticides. But of course, with a baby in the house, you would want to spray them outside on a day when temperatures are above freezing with the plants being brought back inside as soon as possible. Or spray the plant in a garage or some other protected area. This is a very difficult pest to control. So between wiping them off with alcohol and spraying as directed you may have a fighting chance of saving this plant. Indoors gardenias like to be in a cool room away from a drying heat source. Try to give it as much light as possible and water when the soil feels dry to touch.