Black Leaves on Gardenia Bush
Thanks for writing. Is the black you're seeing damage to the leaf itself or does it look more like a sooty coating?
If it's damage to the leaf itself, then it could be from physical injury, herbicide, or cold or heat damage (such as if the plant was near a flame).
If it's a sooty coating that you can clean off with a wet rag, what you're seeing is sooty mold. Sooty mold itself doesn't harm the plant --- but it does mean your gardenia is infested with an insect such as aphids, mealybugs, or scales. What happens is that these insects secrete sugar-rich droppings and the mold grows on these droppings. Control these insects with an insecticide (either an organic or synthetic type) and then wash the leaves off with water to get rid of the sooty mold.
---Justin, Senior Garden Editor, BHG.com