Gardenia has strange spiky things where flowers should be

Q: I have two gardenia bushes that are covered with spiky white things. They have had no blooms. I have watched them closely for flowers but just see dozens of these empty things. I am befuddled.

A: You are seeing the empty calyces where immature flower buds fell off. A little botany: A calyx (plural = calyces) is the green leaflike part of a bloom that protects the flower petals. A calyx opens up to let the flower emerge. Calyces are usually leaflike but there are variations. On this particular plant, the calyces are composed of long, narrow sepals. Evidently, the small flower bud fell off when the calyces opened. That’s why you didn’t see any flowers. Gardenia buds can drop off prematurely for several reasons: Too dry, too wet, high temperatures, and strong winds can cause it. The calyces, with their long, narrow sepals, continued to open, and that’s what you are seeing. The gardenia might try to bloom again this season. Keep a sharp eye out and let me know if you see flowers.
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