Everything You Need to Know About Jasmine

When it comes to plants, none conjures up more pleasant associations than jasmine.
Jasmine. Just say the word and you are transported to a faraway, exotic, sweet-smelling garden hideaway. Funny thing, though. Two of the most popular so-called jasmines are not jasmines at all. One is in the oleander family (Apocynaceae) and the other is in the potato family (Solanaceae).
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), botanical kin to oleander, vinca, plumeria and natal plum, is one of the most popular and versatile Valley plants. Presently covered with 1-inch white pinwheel flowers, star jasmine is most often used as a ground cover.
It also serves admirably as a vine in covering up unsightly chain link fences and block walls.
Native to China and somewhat acidic soil, star jasmine becomes chlorotic (develops yellow leaves with green veins) where soil is excessively alkaline. It also does best when protected from all-day Valley sun and should be well-soaked once a week in hot weather.
The highly sought night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) brings scent and enchantment to summer evenings and, despite its need for both full sun and plenty of water, many people simply cannot live without it.
Of the true jasmines, vining pink jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) will be most familiar to Valley gardeners. It yields giant clusters of flowers in early spring with petals that are pink on the outside and white on the inside.
Pink jasmine is most attractive during its first several years in the garden. After that it accumulates unsightly dead growth. You can spend hours removing brown leaves and stems or simply cut the plant back to within a foot or two of the ground, from where it will make a fresh start.
Angel-wing jasmine (Jasminum laurifolium nitidum) is one of my favorite plants. It grows in partial sun and flowers lengthily from spring through summer. Its leaves are shiny and yellow-green, resembling those of the xylosma bush. It is a durable shrub, even though it is less cold-hardy than other jasmines planted in Valley gardens.
Primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) and Italian jasmine (Jasminum humile) are tough plants with dull green leaves. Primrose jasmine is a sprawling species that blooms in winter and spring with popcorn flowers in yellow and white, while Italian jasmine produces yellow flowers all summer long.
Several other summer-blooming jasmines deserve consideration for Valley gardens. Spanish and common white jasmines (Jasminum officinale) — from which jasmine perfume is made — may lose their leaves in winter but more than compensate with the richness of their green foliage and scented flowers during hot weather.
South African jasmine (Jasminum angulare) has bigger, if less fragrant flowers, than those present on other jasmines; it has become increasingly popular as a large shrub or vining subject.
Finally, Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) should be considered for container planting. Although cold-sensitive, this slow-growing jasmine is considered to be the most pleasingly fragrant by aroma experts. In the Valley, I have seen it flourish in containers placed in protected patio or balcony locations.
TIP OF THE WEEK: One of the most satisfying summer fragrances is that of the sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans). The problem with this plant is its sparse growth habit and its reluctance, with age, to produce new foliage. Holly-leaf osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus), on the other hand, has reliably lush green foliage that will remind you of holly. The flowers of both plants have an irresistible fruity-spicy scent.

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