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Kay Williams 2017

Kay Williams

Dear Master Gardener: I love the beauty and fragrance of gardenias. Can you give me some suggestions on how to grow gardenias in my yard?

Dear Lover of the Old South: Gardenias, magnolias, and hydrangeas, if you are a connoisseur of southern gardens, you will recognize these shrubs and trees. Perfumes and candles have the scent of gardenias because of its sweet fragrance.

A gardenia shrub has a waxy green foliage and beautiful white blooms in May and June. They survive in the heat and humidity but need to be well established before winter; therefore, plant them in the spring or early summer. A loamy, well-drained soil is best, with a ph of 5-6.

All plants need some sunlight to bloom, but a gardenia can burn in full sun. Plant in part sun and part shade.

Gardenias attract aphids, those little nuisances that leave a sticky substance on the leaves causing the leaves to get a sooty mold. This can be washed off with an insecticidal soap, but it is easier said than done. Try to control the aphids with an insecticide before they create the mold.

In the early spring, your shrub might have yellow leaves that fall off. This is caused by sudden changes in soil moisture and air temperatures.

Your gardenia like an azalea generally does not look it’s best just before blooming because it is putting all of its energy into the blooms. 

Dear Master Gardener: I love to see a beautiful lawn. I have a new yard and would like to know what kind of grass to plant and when to plant it.

Dear Scout: “Be prepared.” A beautiful lawn is not as easy as it might look.

When you hire a landscaper to plant sod, he or she will, first of all, grade the area to be covered. Then they, most likely, will bring in rolls of sod which can be purchased from somewhere like Super Sod in Orangeburg. Obviously, this sod will need to be watered religiously throughout the heat of summer. If you are going to this much expense, you will probably want to have an irrigation system installed before the grass is laid.

For us, mere mortals, seed can be broadcast in the spring and early summer. Along with this seed you are going to get weeds and if you don’t work the seed into the soil or cover them with soil or straw the birds are going to think that you put them there for their enjoyment.

There are numerous types of grass, including fescue (this is more an upstate grass), zoysia, centipede, etc. Centipede is the easiest to grow but it is not a real green grass. Very little grass will grow in the shady areas of your yard. You can try St. Augustine but it still needs some light, so try a ground cover for these areas.

If you choose centipede I suggest going with sod because centipede seed takes a long time to come up and produce runners. Use seed for bare spots.

Many years ago, I asked for some centipede seed for my birthday. We didn’t have much money and this was a real treat for me. I watered it so much, it washed down a nearby hill into a drainage area and the gentleman who lived near there dug it up and put it in his yard. 

Thanks to Jonathan Croft, Clemson extension agent for his input. Go to Hgic (home and garden information center):, Lawn establishment 1203 for more in-depth information.

This column by Kay Williams (the Flower Lady) is designed to answer your gardening questions. Send questions to or to


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