Sunseeker Carolina JessamineGelsemium sempervirens 'Margarita'
View more from Other Shrubs & Hedges
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Probiotic Root Stimulant
Gelsemium sempervirens 'Margarita'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Sunseeker™ Carolina Jessamine is a fast-growing twining vine that will cover any trellis or fence with glossy evergreen foliage. In spring it is smothered in large trumpet-shaped flowers that are glowing gold, and highly fragrant. It often blooms again in fall. This is a special selection that is much more cold-hardy than the original plant, growing well in zone 6, with extra-large blossoms as well. Use it to cover unsightly fences and walls, grow it into trees, or train it up trellis panels in a bed.
In full sun is the best location for the Sunseeker™ Carolina Jessamine, but it will take a little partial shade as well. Any well-drained soil is suitable, and once established it is drought resistant. Trim as needed following the spring blooming. This plant is poisonous, so deer won’t touch it. Pests and diseases are also rarely seen, and very little attention is needed to enjoy a wonderful floral display every spring.
“Its fragrance greets us first in the woodland and its delicate flower suggests the pureness of gold; and its perpetual return out of the dead of Winter suggests the lesson of constancy [and] loyalty. . .” With these words, in 1924, the state of North Carolina declared the Carolina jessamine to be its State Flower. With an introduction like that, what more can we say to encourage you to plant this undemanding and beautiful climbing shrub in your garden? Perhaps if we add that the Sunseeker™ Carolina Jessamine is an improved selection, much more cold-resistant, with larger blossoms? Thought that would do it. This great climber is perfect for hiding that ugly old chain-link fence, or for growing on a trellis anywhere you want fragrance and beauty in your garden. Easy to grow, it’s perfect for busy gardeners and all those who love trouble-free plants. Beloved as a wild flower in the southeast, this tamed garden form lets gardeners further north share in the beauty of this desirable plant.
The Sunseeker Carolina Jessamine is a twining vine or shrub growing to around 12 feet tall, perhaps reaching 20 feet, and spreading a similar distance if untrimmed. It is evergreen, but may lose some leaves in winter in colder zones. The slender stems twine naturally around trellis, without needing any assistance, so plant it and stand back while this fast-growing plant climbs any support. The narrow leaves are up to 4 inches long and 1 inch wide, rich green, with a smooth, glossy surface.
Flowers appear just at the moment when spring is truly here, through April and May, and these golden trumpets herald another gardening season. The beautiful golden flowers are carried in clusters along the stems, and they smother the bush. Each one is almost 2 inches across, with 5 broad, flaring petals at the end of an open trumpet. The blooms have a wonderful fragrance reminiscent of true jasmine, which will drift across your garden in those glorious spring days. Butterflies and hummingbirds love to visit the flowers, adding to the fun. The foliage remains attractive through summer, and some blossoms may return in fall.
Wherever you have some ugly chain-link to cover, this is the perfect choice. But it also deserves a more premium spot, such as growing it on a pergola, up trellis panels on a wall, or a trellis cone in a bed. You can also grow it up into a dead tree, where it will do a great camouflage job. On large areas of trellis, mix it with summer blooming climbers to keep the color coming. It also fits perfectly into a garden of native plants.
Unlike the wild species, which is only hardy in zone 7, the Sunseeker Carolina Jessamine is fully hardy in zone 6, and will probably even grow in warmer parts of zone 5. Of course it also grows through all the warmer zones.
Full sun will give you the most profuse flowering, but this plant will take a little partial shade too. It grows in almost any well-drained soil, and once established it is drought resistant – another plus for easy care.
Be aware that all parts of this plant are poisonous, so don’t plant it where grazing animals can reach it. On the plus side this does mean that deer avoid it, so it would be ideal to hide a deer fence. If you don’t have lots of room, prune as hard as you need to after the spring flowering – new growth will flower in the following spring. Pests and diseases are normally not a problem, and with its drought resistance too, this is a very easy and worthwhile vine to grow.
Carolina Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, is a native plant from the southeast, growing wild all through the South and down into Mexico and Central America. It is the state flower of North Carolina, and a popular southern wildflower. Tom Dodd Jr. grew up on his father’s nursery in Semmes, Alabama, and became a prolific plant breeder. Sometime towards the end of last century he found, among a batch of seedlings of Carolina Jessamine, a plant with exceptionally large flowers, that proved to be much more cold resistant than wild plants. He passed it on to ‘Gene’ Cline, who was an important figure in Georgia botany and landscaping. It is actually not clear if it was Gene or Tom who selected it from among those seedlings, but European nurseries call this plant ‘Gene Cline’. It was introduced to gardeners and nurseries by Don Jacobs, of Eco Gardens in Decatur, Georgia, with the name ‘Margarita’. Today it is being distributed by Bailey Nurseries under their First Editions® brand as Sunseeker™.
This plant has received multiple awards, including the Gold Medal Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and Kentucky’s Theodore Klein Plant Award for 2011. It has been acclaimed for its beauty and its ability to bring a gorgeous native vine to more northerly gardeners. With all this publicity, everyone is looking for it, and we have been able to find a small supply of select plants. Order now, because we won’t have them in stock for long.