Southern JasmineTrachelospermum jasminoides
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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
The Southern Jasmine is a dual-purpose evergreen plant that is both an excellent ground cover and a fabulous twining vine. It covers up to 12 feet across, or at least 6 feet up a trellis, with attractive glossy leaves that look great all year round. It turns a patch of dry earth into a green carpet, or an ugly fence into a thing of beauty. In spring it is smothered in clusters of white flowers with ‘windmill’ petals on long tubes. These have a wonderful fragrance reminiscent of jasmine, that wafts through your garden.
The Southern Jasmine grows in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun, through partial shade and into light full shade. Flowering is best with some sun. It is hardy to zone 8, and grows in just about any well-drained soil, including poor soils under trees. Regular watering, some fertilizer and rich mulch will give the maximum growth, but poorer conditions are not serious. Pests and diseases are very rare, and you can trim after flowering if you need to.
Sometimes in gardens the idea of ‘oldies but goodies’ is excellent advice. It is easy to plant all those beautiful new plants, and forget that we need a strong background planting in our gardens as a framework for all that novelty. Sometimes too, there are difficult areas that only a well-established, tried and true plant can handle. This tells us that ignoring an established older plant like the Southern Jasmine would be a mistake. There is a good reason why you find it in many gardens of the southeast – it’s tough as nails, and tackles all those difficult spots. That doesn’t make it boring, though. When you see the charming ‘windmill’ blossoms in their profusion, and smell that wonderful scent, you’ll appreciate its beauty as well as its toughness. It’s a versatile plant too, growing happily as a groundcover and also eagerly twining its way into a fence or up a trellis. All these things are good reasons why you should make as much use of this low-maintenance plant – so that you have time left for your other plants, or for other things. After all, there is more to life than working in the garden.
The Southern Jasmine is a vine-like plant that creeps across the ground or twines up into a trellis or fence. Although the stems are thin there are many of them, so it makes a dense covering. The evergreen leaves are in pairs along the stems, each one up to 2½ inches long, although usually smaller. They are glossy, leathery , dark green and smooth, with a lovely clean look. Blooms usually come in April, and flowering is often profuse, covering the plant entirely. The clusters of white flowers form all along the stems, and each flower is about ½ inch across, or more, with 5 spread out petals at the end of a slender tube. These are arranged just like the blades of a windmill, surrounding a creamy-yellow mouth into the tube. The scent is rich and tropical, and certainly like jasmine, although this plant is not a true jasmine at all. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to it, although seeds seem never to be produced.
This is a great dual-purpose plant, because if you want a tough ground-cover, then this is it. Need a climbing vine? The Southern Jasmine is that too. It covers everything boring or unsightly, from bare earth beneath trees to an ugly chain-link fence. One plant will cover up to 12 feet of ground, although if you want quicker coverage spacing them about 4 feet apart is best. It is also perfect for growing up narrow trellis panels beside a door or between windows. If you live in a cooler area, or don’t have a garden, it can be grown on a moss pole, trellis or sticks, in a pot, and then brought into a cool porch during the coldest months.
The Southern Jasmine is hardy outdoors all year in zones 8, 9 and 10. If you are in zone 7, check out the Madison Cold-hardy Jasmine, which is basically the same plant, but more cold-resistant.
One of the best things about this plant is how it will grow across all light conditions, from full sun through partial shade and even in light full shade. Sure, blooming is reduced in full shade, but those attractive green leaves still do their job. In the hottest zones the ideal place is with morning sun followed by afternoon shade, especially in the summer months. It is equally forgiving when it comes to soil – anything well-drained will do, including that nasty soil beneath mature trees. Give new plants some help with water, but once established it is also drought resistant.
You might need to show your plant the idea when you want it to twine, but once started it catches on fast. Although tough and durable in difficult spots, some regular watering, rich mulch and even some fertilizer will do wonders. Pot-grown plants should be fed regularly with a general-purpose ‘flowering pot plants’ fertilizer. Pests or diseases are virtually unknown, and you can trim any time, although straight after flowering makes the most sense.
Usually called Southern Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, is a plant that came to America as part of the extensive trade with China that took place in the 19th century. It seems the first plants arrived in Savanna, Georgia, which was an important southern port at the time. You would find this plant growing wild in the warmer parts of China and Japan, as well as in Vietnam. Although it seems logical that it is named after the southern confederacy, some people think it was the Malay Confederation instead, so even ‘woke’ folks can continue to use this name.
Ever popular, Southern Jasmine might be an ‘old standard’, but that’s no reason to pass it by. Oldies but goodies never become unfashionable, and just one whiff and you will know why everyone loves this great plant. Order now, because this plant is always hard to come by, and sells out fast.