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)