Dying gardenia tree
I bought a potted gardenia tree from a home improvement store, and placed it in the ground following instructions given by the staff. It started to bloom the first week, but by the second week the leaves were starting to turn brown and the buds began to shrink and stopped blooming. They said too much water, so we let it go without for 2 weeks. We fed it acid-lovers food, and covered the ground with mulch; it got even worse. All the leaves are brown and getting dry. The little branches and stems seem to still have some life to them, though the ends are beginning to get brittle. I'm ready to dig up the entire plant and hire a professional to fix my soil! It's in a small strip of earth next to my house with an eastern exposure, and I live in San Diego, CA. Any suggestions?
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
I suspect that you may have watered superficially and didn't water deeply or thoroughly enough at the time of planting to wet the entire root ball and soil backfill, and the roots dried out too much.
A new planting of a sensitive plant like this can be vulnerable to transplant shock from poor handling and planting technique and inadequate watering. The die-back could be the result of the root ball being broken when the container was removed for planting, or the soil allowed to dry out before or after planting, or the soil backfill was not settled properly and there are air pockets in the planting hole. Fertilizing too soon can cause root burn. Letting it dry out for two weeks can be fatal.