Exotic and beautiful, gardenias are evergreen shrubs and small trees that produce aromatic white flowers. The leaves of gardenia shrubs are dark green and waxy or leathery, appearing opposite each other or in swirls of three or four. The flowers grow in small clusters, white or pale yellow and fragrant with petals that unfold, similar to the unfolding of a rose. Part of the coffee family, these shrubs and trees grow between two and eight feet tall and wide. Gardenias flower from roughly mid-spring to mid-summer, delivering their beautiful fragrance to the surrounding areas.
Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus named gardenia after Dr. Alexander Garden, a Scottish doctor and recreational botanist who lived during the 1700’s. Said to be a symbol of feminine grace, the Victorian language of flowers cites presenting someone with a gardenia as saying “you are lovely.” The soft petals and delicate beauty of this flower make it easy to fall in love with every element of its blossom and foliage.
Roughly 200 species of gardenias now exist, with some cultivated as houseplants, others as landscaping accents, and still others for medicinal and beauty purposes. Gardenias are native to Africa, parts of Asia, Australasia, and Oceania, and they can be successfully grown in areas of full sun to light shade with rich, well draining soil. An acidic soil typically works best, usually one with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. To ensure proper growth and flowering, gardenias demand a minimum of one inch of rain or watering per week. Gardeners growing this flowering plant should prune it early in the springtime for shaping. Removal of spent flowers encourages more fragrant blossoms to emerge, enhancing the beauty and the lovely aroma of the gardenia.
Common uses of the gardenia plant include ornamental applications, inclusion in medicinal and beauty products, aromatherapy, and use as dyes or food coloring, to name a few. Gardenia flowers come in different sizes and may be suitable for a variety of purposes. The flowers can serve as boutonnières for men on special occasions or as a special hair adornment for women, like the popular Jazz singer Billie Holiday, who wore a signature gardenia in her hair.
The national flower of Pakistan, gardenias also have roots that run deep in China and Japan, where the yellow blossoms have been used to dye fabrics. Fruits of the gardenia hold a special place in traditional Chinese medicine, where they have offered calming and cooling effects. As another medicinal benefit, some gardenia fruit contains Crocetin, which delivers protection against retinal damage. Gardenia can also help to clear away heat or treating insomnia and anxiety as well as effectively putting a stop to bleeding. These are just a few of the many diverse medicinal properties of the gardenia plant.
From a beauty perspective, gardenia makes an excellent choice in aromatherapy uses. Gardenia can be infused into candles, bath salts, bath oil, soap, massage oil, perfume, shampoo, conditioner, and countless other bath and beauty products. Some gardenia beauty products may take on a tropical tone while others may be light and airy with a delightful fragrance. Gardenia oil can be used as a perfume or an antiseptic, and may also be blended with other essential oils to create new and exciting scents. Still, the gardenia by itself creates a lovely aroma that possesses a top note, middle note, and base note – very important in fragrance composition. This sweet, floral aroma is extracted from flower petals of the gardenia plant.
Gardenia is most commonly found in beauty products with a key focus on fragrance, such as essential oils, perfumes, shampoo and conditioner products, soap, body cream or lotion, and other similar beauty treatments. Gardenia fragrance oil can be used in a bath or with a reed diffuser to enhance the fragrance of a room in the home. It can also be used as massage oil, bath oil, and cuticle oil. When applied through hair care products like shampoo and conditioner, gardenia can help prevent stripping the hair and scalp of their natural oils while also cleansing and nourishing the hair and skin. Gardenia’s naturally occurring sweet fragrance makes this key ingredient an effective beauty aid in just about any product designed to enhance fragrance.