how do I prune a strange gardenia?

Asked August 7, 2020, 6:37 PM EDT

Hi I have an unusual but healthy gardenia that I pulled out of a dumpster 3 summers ago. It had no label, I had no idea what it was and I had never seen or smelled a gardenia before. So you can imagine the thrill to see the first buds and beautiful fragrant flower! What a blessing! Onto why I'm writing. Mine is not a bush- it's been cultivated- 4 roots have been twisted to look like a tree trunk and the leaves and branches are at the top. (pictures below) It's 6 ft tall- just the plant, not the pot and it's kind of big for me now to bring in for winter and out for spring. I'd like to prune it but need to know when and how- how low can I go? Can I get radical, cut all the branches and untangle the stems- going for a low bush look? Main thing is I do not want to kill it- I do love it. Please let me know how to prune and if you've got any tips for keeping it healthy. I've been doing a pretty good job so far. thank you-

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Congratulations on rescuing your gardenia.

This is not the time of year to do a severe pruning.
The rule of thumb is not to remove more than 1/3rd of a shrub at a time. This is usually done in spring. (Unless renovating, which can only be done to some plants.)

We think you can safely remove some of the top growth in order to shape it and encourage lower growth.
It looks lopsided (too much on the left side in the first photo.) Prune back (shorten) some of that left-side branching. Also, remove about a foot of the top foliage.

Next spring, you can shape and lower it more.

If you want a lower, shrub look, we do not see any advantage in removing the multiple trunks, unless they are strangling each other. However, you can--spaced out over a couple of years--remove the thinner, weaker ones.

Keep it watered. Fertilize during the growing season (March-October) with an acid-loving fertilizer. Follow label directions.