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Top 10 Summer Plants

10

Gardenia

Gardenias are a classic summer plant.
Gardenias are a classic summer plant.
©iStockphoto.com/Dewitt

Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) are like basic black -- one color, timeless style. Introduced into the U.S. from China in 1854, this tidy shrub exhibits shiny evergreen leaves with white, fragrant, rose-like blooms [source: Church]. Hardy to zone 7, gardenias like rich, acidic soil and atmospheric moisture, such as you'd get around the coast or the humid South. The blooms are short-lived, but they're also ever-renewing. Where one flowers fades, another waits, wrapped in a spiral of sepals, to take its place. Plant gardenias where you can enjoy their fragrance, which is reminiscent of jasmine (hence the "jasminoides" in its scientific name).

Some gardenia varieties reach 10 feet (3 meters) high and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide. In climates colder than zone 7, you can grow dwarf varieties, such as G. jasminoides "Radicans," in containers and bring them inside for the winter [source: Church, O'Sullivan].

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Gardenias provide an added bonus. Unlike plants that go dormant in winter, gardenias stay green and active during colder months. That means they're photosynthesizing -- and cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere -- every day of the year.

Do you admire the classic elegance of roses but think they're too much trouble? Read about a fuss-free rose on the next page.

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