Organic Gardening on the Gulf Coast - Lessons and tips from Foley's Cooper Farm

'Tis the season for gardenia blooms: An edible delight! - Cultivating the Coast with Kitti Cooper, presented by Saunders Yachtworks

Discover how to make your gardenias thrive and delicious recipes to make at home


Gardenias, with their intoxicating fragrance and stunning white blooms, are a favorite among gardeners and floral enthusiasts alike. But did you know these beautiful flowers are also edible?

This versatile plant not only enhances your garden's aesthetic but can also add a unique twist to your culinary adventures. From gardenia-infused honey to pickled gardenia buds, the possibilities are endless. Let's delve into the fascinating world of gardenias, exploring their varieties, growing conditions and how you can incorporate them into your kitchen.


Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides), native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia, are evergreen shrubs known for their glossy, dark green leaves and creamy white flowers. They belong to the Rubiaceae family, which also includes coffee plants. Gardenias are prized not only for their beauty but also for their captivating fragrance, which has made them a staple in perfumery.


There are over 200 species of gardenias, each with its unique characteristics. Here are a few popular varieties:

Gardenia jasminoides ("August Beauty"): Known for its large, double blooms and extended flowering period from mid-spring to late summer. This variety can reach up to 4-6 feet in height and spread.

Daisy gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides "Daisy"): is a hardy, low-maintenance variety with single, daisy-like white flowers and glossy, dark green foliage. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, reaching 2-3 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.

Scent amazing gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides "Scent Amazing"): is a Southern Living exclusive that's prized for its large, double white flowers and intense fragrance. Blooming from late spring to early summer, it thrives in partial to full sunlight, reaching 3-4 feet tall and wide.

Gardenia radicans: A dwarf variety that is ideal for ground cover or container gardening. It produces small, fragrant flowers and can be used as an edging plant.


Gardenias thrive in warm, humid climates, making them perfect for regions like South Alabama. Here are some tips to ensure your gardenias flourish:

Climate: Gardenias are tolerant of both high heat and low lows such at 15 degrees with no damage.

Soil: These plants thrive in well draining acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0.

Tip: Used coffee grounds are great sprinkled around gardenias! In addition to being an excellent source of nitrogen, the acid in coffee lowers the pH of the surrounding soil, stimulating the roots of acid-loving plants.

Light: Gardenias need bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can scorch their leaves, while too little light can hinder blooming. Morning sun with afternoon shade is ideal.

Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged when freshly planting. Gardenias once established are drought hardy.

Fertilizing: Use a balanced slow release fertilizer applied every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to leaf burn and reduced flowering.


Beyond their ornamental value, gardenias offer unique culinary uses. Here are some delightful ways to incorporate gardenias into your cooking:

Gardenia-infused honey

Gardenia-infused honey is a fragrant and flavorful addition to your pantry. Here's how to make it:


  • Freshly picked, fully opened non-brown gardenia blooms
  • Raw honey (unpasteurized)


  1. Gently rinse the gardenia blooms to remove any dirt or insects.
  2. Place the blooms in a clean sterilized jar and cover them with raw honey.
  3. Seal the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 weeks, allowing the flavors to infuse.
  4. Strain the honey to remove the flowers and store it in a cool, dark place.

This honey can be used to sweeten tea, drizzle over desserts or add a floral note to your favorite recipes.

Pickled gardenia buds

Pickled gardenia buds offer a unique, crunchy snack with a floral back note. Here's a quick recipe:


  • Unopened young gardenia buds
  • Vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Fresh herbs such as dill, rosemary, or thyme


  1. Rinse the gardenia buds thoroughly.
  2. In a saucepan, combine equal parts vinegar and water, adding salt and sugar to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Place the gardenia buds and fresh herbs in a sterilized jar.
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the buds, ensuring they are fully submerged.
  5. Seal the jar and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

These pickled buds can be enjoyed as a snack or used to garnish salads and other dishes.

Edible leaves

While gardenia flowers are the stars of the show, their leaves are also edible. They are best when cooked down and stir-fried, adding a subtle, unique flavor to your dishes. Simply sauté the leaves with garlic, olive oil and your favorite seasonings for a nutritious and flavorful side dish.


Gardenias are a prime example of multi-use plants that are both beautiful and functional. They enhance the garden with their aesthetic appeal and fragrance while also offering unique culinary possibilities. By incorporating gardenias into your garden and kitchen, you can enjoy their benefits in a variety of ways.

Gardenias are more than just a pretty face in the garden. Their fragrant blooms and versatile culinary uses make them a valuable addition to any home. Whether you're making gardenia-infused honey, pickling the buds, or simply enjoying their beauty, these evergreen shrubs offer endless possibilities. So, as the season for gardenia blooms approaches, embrace the opportunity to explore and enjoy all that these remarkable plants have to offer. Happy gardening and happy cooking!

Photos provided courtesy of Kitti Cooper.