1) Plant History & General Information:
a) Scientific & Other Names: Gardenia
b) Region of Origin: Native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australasia and Oceania.
c) General History: Also known as Gardenia grandiflora, this plant originated in Asia. In China Gardenia jasminoides is called Zhi zi and in Japan it is called Kuchinasi. The yellow flowers are used in both countries as dye for clothes and food. It has been grown in China for more than one thousand years and has been introduced to England in the 18th century. Several hybrids have been created, including low growing plants with large flowers. The white flowers are large and highly fragrant. Several decades ago the flowers were worn by men as boutonnieres on special occasions. Jazz singer Billie Holiday called gardenia flowers her trademark by wearing them in her hair. Today the flowers are still a favorite choice for weddings and proms. Inhabitants of Polynesia use these highly fragrant flowers as necklaces. These floral necklaces are called Ei on the Cook Islands, Hei on Tahiti and Lei in Hawaii.
2) Plant Uses: Gardenia plants are prized for the strong sweet scent of their flowers, which can be very large in size in some species.
a) Culinary Use: Gardenia flowers can be added to salads, used as garnish, and the fruits can be eaten out of hand. However, this herb is primarily valued for its natural yellow coloring, from its fruit, used in the food industry as a less expensive substitute for the spice, Saffron. In China, gardenia flowers are used to flavor herbal teas, often in combination with other herbs and flowers such as chrysanthemums. Gardenia infused teas are known to detoxify the blood, relieve congestion and help lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol. Externally, gardenia is used for skin inflammation, sprains and has blood staunching properties. It is still used in the traditional medicine of Vietnam, voluntarily as a hemostatic agent.
b) As Medicine: The first documented use of gardenia in Chinese herbology, or herbal medicine, was from the Han dynasty ( AD25-AD220). In Asia, gardenia is known as the ‘happiness herb’ because it is said to detoxify the liver, thereby releasing negative emotions. This may have led to the association between gardenia and love, healing and spirituality. Gardenia (shanzhizi, or simply zhizi) is the fruit of Gardenia jasminoides, one of the frequently used herbs in Chinese medicine. It has an intense bitter taste and a relatively strong cold nature. Yang Yifan has given a detailed description of its qualities and uses (1):
Gardenia is bitter and cold and enters the heart, lung, and triple burner meridians. Bitterness and cold may clear heat and descend fire. Gardenia can gently and slowly direct heat downwards from the upper burner. It can also promote urination and leach out heat from the heart and lung. It can be used for heat accumulation in the chest, irritability, restlessness, sensations of tightness in the chest, and insomnia.As the triple burner is the passage not only of qi, but also of water, gardenia enters the triple burner meridian and regulates its function. As bitterness can dry dampness and cold can clear heat, this herb can be used to treat damp-heat syndrome in all three burners-for example, infections of the eyes or eczema on the face and neck caused by damp-heat of the upper burner; jaundice due to damp-heat in the middle burner and qi constraint of the liver and gallbladder; or painful urinary dysfunction due to damp-heat in the lower burner which disturbs the function of the bladder.Gardenia also has the function of cooling the blood and relieving heat-poison. It can be used in different bleeding conditions, such as nosebleed, hematemesis, and blood in the urine. It can also be applied topically for burns.In the last paragraph of Yang’s description, the mention of “different bleeding conditions” mainly refers to heat in the blood, which is said to cause the blood to become erratic and escape the vessels.
Although most herbalists use the whole dried gardenia fruit, in China the herb material is sometimes differentiated by portion of the fruit selected and the processing method. Dr. Jiao Shude explains (2):
- Raw gardenia (simple, dried fruit, as commonly used; shengzhizi) drains fire
- Stir-fried gardenia (chaozhizi) and charred gardenia (zhizitan) stanch bleeding
- Gardenia husk (gardenia fruit without seeds; zhiziyi) clears heat from the lung and the surface
- Gardenia seed (zhiziren) clears volunteeral heat and eliminates heart vexation
c) Other Uses: The flowers of Gardenia Taitensis are used to make Monoi Tiare Tahiti, which is a perfume oil, by infusing the flowers in coconut oil. This process is called “Enfleurage”. The process uses odorless fats that are solid at room temperature to capture the fragrant compounds released by plants
3) Growing Instructions
a) Growing: Plant in spring or fall, spacing plants 3 to 6 feet apart. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
b) Best time to Harvest:
c) Sunlight Requirements: Full/Partial Sunlight
d) Soil Requirements: In borders, gardenias need good drainage and acid soil containing lots of organic matter.
e) Propagation: Cutting, Division, Grafting, Seed, Separating
f) Controlling Spread: Plant them high (like azaleas and rhododendrons) and don’t let them be crowded by other plants or competing roots.
g) Difficulties with this plant: /
h) History of this Plant at Hedonisia: /
i) Location on Property: /