Florida Gardenia – Tabernae montana divaricata

Florida Gardenia

Florida Gardenia

This is the first pleasant fragrance I noted after buying our house in South Florida. The existing landscape (I use that term very loosely) would (and had) sent most people running screaming from our neighborhood. The house had been vacant for 6 or 8 months and I doubt anyone had been in the backyard for several years.

The side and rear property lines were overrun with Brazilian Pepper. For you non-Floridians, this is the weed tree, the bane of South Florida. Cheerfully imported by someone who did not realize they had opened Pandora’s Box. This plant can grow 10 feet in a year and overruns nearly anything in its path.

One very late night I was in the back yard with my ancient greyhound and noticed a delightful smell. I knew it wasn’t the dog so I decided to investigate the next day. I found a plant that looked like a Gardenia with the foliage Xerox enlarged and the white flowers reduced in size a bit and in groups. Very nice dark foliage with a coarse texture and a very nice fragrance, especially at night. 

We have managed to get rid of most of the Pepper trees and I cut the Florida Gardenia back pretty hard after I unearthed it from the Pepper. It is (I think) going to be a 8 or so foot tall tree form shrub. 

It turns out this is not really a Gardenia at all but a member of the Dogbane family from India and a relative of Frangipani. True Gardenias are members of the Coffee family and relatives of the native Wild Coffee in Florida. More fun facts to know and tell.

Having suffered alongside Gardenias and Dwarf Gardenias in my garden in Atlanta, Death and puniness by cold, fungus, mold, flies and sheer perversity. I am doubtful I would have planted any on the Treasure Coast. Given the area this shrub is growing in (no irrigation and overrun with Pepper) and all I have done is cut this back; I am thinking this is a pretty tough shrub; I have decided to work on the pruning a bit, maybe feed it and see what happens


7 comments on “Florida Gardenia – Tabernae montana divaricata

  1. This exact shrub is growing in my mother’s yard (she lives down by the entrance to 95 near the outlet mall) and you are right…it is POWERFULLY fragrant. I’ve tried taking cuttings but haven’t had any luck. Have you tried at all? Got any tips?


  2. Emmaeus says:

    True Gardenias also do well in Central Florida (better than Atlanta, I used to live there too). But they must be grafted. The non-grafted ones quickly succumb to nematodes in our Florida sand. They seem to take sun or shade but not deep shade. I too love this Tabernaemontana divaricata but have never noticed a fragrance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa Miller says:

    Where can I find one of these for my yard. There was a beautiful one in the yard of A house I was renting, and I would like to plant one in my yard?


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