Mitriostigma axillare: The African Gardenia

May 5, 2009

Can you find room for Mitriostigma axillare, the “African Gardenia?” I hope so. For here is a plant that will brighten the semi-shaded patio in summer, and bring delicious perfume to the window garden in winter. And you can be sure that Mrs. Smith across the street won’t have it.

Unlike the common gardenia, which seems to prefer a greenhouse to my house, mitriostigma produces a constant parade of sweetly-scented, star-shaped flowers all year long. Its only requirements are a four-inch clay pot, sandy soil, and water whenever the top soil feels dry. I feed it with every watering, using a 1/4 teaspoon of a high-phosphorous formula dissolved in a gallon of water. The plant is mercifully unfussy about humidity. Apartment dwellers should cling to this South African traveler.

From October through late May, my plant blooms and blooms in the east window in the upstairs bath, along with dozens of other flowering fools, including African violets. Then, in summer, I give it a position on the patio, where receives only the morning sun. There, its scent is enjoyed by all who gather for evening cocktails.

For ease of culture and reliability of bloom, I can’t think of a better plant than the African Gardenia. Won’t you give it a try? (photos: R.H. Blackburn)


  1. Anonymous says:

    Mine has stopped producing blooms and when the flowers dry and fall off, the base where the blooms were, fills up with a sticky “syrup”. Is there something wrong? It's late August and I only have a Western window. Thanks

  2. Kevin Lee Jacobs says:

    Anonymous – welcome. I have never noticed a sticky substance after my mitriostigma flowers fade. Does your plant seem healthy otherwise?

  3. Judy Pennington says:

    Hmmmm, the heading says “African Violets”, there is even a catagory for them, but there are no articles or pictures of them???????

  4. Cj says:

    This sounds like a plant I would enjoy. Our daughter gave me a regular gardenia about 2 years ago and it has been the most time consuming plant to grow. It either gets too much water and the leaves drop or it doesn’t enough water and the leaves fall off. Right now it looks naked. I have pruned it and tried regulating the water. SIGH! I really adore the fragrance of the gardenia, the waxy leaves, but living in New Mexico and the dry climate I wonder if I should even try anymore. I haven’t killed it yet! This choice might be easier for me. Now to see if any nurseries here carry them.

  5. I bought one at the Philadelphia flower show the spring before last and it bloomed beautifully, outside that summer and inside over the winter. This entire summer it’s been smothered with buds that never bloomed. Maybe it’s the angle of the garden sun or it’s constipated — It will come inside shortly, to winter in my tiny solarium where I trust it will finally flower. When it does, it’s most delightful.

  6. Hi Stephanie – Glad you like this plant as much as I do. As for why the buds of your Mitriostigma didn’t open while the plant was outdoors, I can’t say for certain. But this issue — sometimes called “bud blast” — can be the result of inadequate feeding, or too much moisture.

  7. Cristy Sheehan says:

    Gardenias and violets are my favorites. Gardenias will not grow in No. CA. I have tried several times to grow a gardenia with no luck. Where would I get an African Gardenia? Thank you for a great site!

  8. Hi Cristy – Probably you will love the African Gardenia. I ordered mine from Logees in Danielson, CT. They ship everywhere. Check their website:

  9. ss says:

    Is african gardenia smells good! I noticed some people said that they smell bad. I want to know as well that is this good for indoor? I am in calgary canada and trying to buy an african gardenia for indoor.


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