How to Plant and Care for Winter Jasmine
English-speaking people in many parts of the world refer to just about any shrub or vine that bears fragrant, star-shaped flowers as "jasmine" and usually they are correct. There are over 200 species of jasmine and many of them have been cultivated far from their native lands, which extend from Indo-Malaysia to northern Asia, North America, South America, and Europe. This article, however, is about only one of those species – winter jasmine, which originates from China but is now widely-planted in temperate climates on both sides of the Equator.
Many people love this plant’s ability to bring forth its gorgeous yellow flowers in late winter and the earliest days of spring, long before the buds of other flowers are even visible. It offers a great introduction to spring and closure to the cold, winter months.
Can Be Grown Just About Anywhere
Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) can thrive in a wide variety of growing zones (3-21) and may be just the thing for your cold-weather landscape. This deciduous, mounding or vining shrub displays slender, willowy branches and some delightfully bright yellow flowers before its glossy, green leaves of three leaflets ever unfold. It would be great if you decide to plant it where it would spill over a wall, or use it as a covering for a steep slope in your landscape. It can also help prevent soil erosion.
A relatively trouble-free plant, this rapid-growing plant will reach up to about four feet tall and 6-8 feet wide when unsupported, meaning you may end up with a groundcover plant of sorts, which is great if that's your goal. Any plant grown as a climber will only make rapid progress upwards if the stems are trained from the beginning; otherwise, they flounder about as if they are unaware of where they should go. If using it on a trellis, you can expect it to grow up to about 15 feet.
As a shrub, it grows in a sprawling mound to approximately four feet tall with arching branches and spreads by the trailing branches that root as they move along the ground. Even the green stems are beautiful during the late winter months. The bright yellow flowers will bloom before the leaves in late winter or very early spring.
Sadly, the Typical Jasmine Fragrance Is Absent
Note: You would, however, have to be willing to do without the characteristic fragrance of most varieties of jasmine, as the winter jasmine has very little to none.
Beautiful Flowers of Early, Early Spring
Not Particular About the Soil
Winter jasmine grows well in well-drained soil in full sun in almost any type of soil (adding some compost always helps). It would also help if the ball of soil and roots are soaked before planting and the ends are turned outwards by scratching at them with your fingertips. If you have an ugly fence that you would like to cover up, winter jasmine is perfect, or it can be used as a ground cover. You might also be able to train it to grow on a trellis.
Sometimes winter jasmine can get somewhat weedy because its stems root at the internodes starting new plants. A little bit of trimming should keep it in check.
Winter jasmine, although it is almost always grown as an embellishment for a structure, is not actually a climbing plant. It is simply a scrambler by nature. When growing in the wild, it will climb right over other bushes without destroying them. Further, each dangling shoot that touches the ground will begin rooting, offering you many new plants, so you can take advantage of this plant all you want.
This hardy variety of jasmine can withstand climates up north as far as USDA growing zone 5 or 6. If you are in zone 5, you would most likely need to plant your jasmine near a building so that it is protected from the wind.
Growing From Seeds
If growing your winter jasmine from seed, start them indoors a few months before your particular date to plant them outdoors. Before planting, soak the seeds for a full day. Fill several small starter cells with potting soil and soak the soil thoroughly, although the soil needs to drain completely before planting.
- Place only one seed in each cell and cover with plastic to help hold in moisture, then place them in direct sunlight, keeping the soil moist while the seedlings sprout.
- Repot the seedlings in a gallon-sized planter when/if they grow two pairs of true leaves. Keep the containers indoors for at least a month or keep your jasmine inside, growing it as a houseplant the first year before you transplant it outdoors.
Winter Jasmine Care
- Winter jasmine should be fertilized in the spring after all of the blooms have faded.
- Training is important if you are trying to get your plant to grow vertically, as on a trellis. Tie up stems as they get longer and remove the side shoots while the plant is still young.
- Every few years, the stems will turn brown and flower production will be diminished. At that time, trim your plant just a few inches above the ground immediately after blooming. The stems will be reestablished very quickly, causing the growth to be tighter and less leggy. You will also begin to see more blooms.
- Winter jasmine needs regular moisture, especially in the summer, so place mulch around the root zone in order to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.
Pruning Winter Jasmine
If you need to prune your winter jasmine plants, do it in the spring, immediately after they have bloomed. Because they flower on old wood, pruning them at this time will not cause you to lose any flowers next year. To control their spreading, you may want to prune them several times, although if you do it will mean fewer flowers in the spring.
Fertilizing these plants, although it's not necessary, will help to create bigger plants. I suggest working some compost into the ground around your plants.
Unsupported Plants Can Be Invasive
If you have unsupported winter jasmine plants, they tend to grow as vine-like shrubs and can become invasive because of the stems that develop roots whenever they come in contact with soil. Pruning regularly will keep unsupported plants from spreading into an area in which you don't want them.
If you train your plants to grow up on a support structure as vines, spreading is less problematic. You can avoid contact with the ground by tying the stems to a structure of some sort.
Some gardeners actually appreciate the plant's ability to spread and multiply. Once the plant has rooted, they simply sever the rooted stem away from the main plant, then dig out the baby plants by the roots. Once it has been removed, it is either potted or planted in another area of the landscape.
So, winter jasmine can multiply, present you with beautiful flowers and spread out to fill an area very quickly. Plus, it needs very little care, so what more could you want?
Some Useful Tips
- You should not plant your winter jasmine against an east-facing wall because this winter-flowering species of jasmine doesn’t like the morning sun.
- During hard winters, this type of jasmine (although hardy) can be frosted at ground level. The yellow flowers will appear on leafless stems.
Winter jasmine can be propagated by taking cuttings of ripe wood in autumn. This can be done in sandy soil in a container or rooted with mist during mid-summer. If your choice is to take cuttings, cut a piece of stem about six inches long directly below a leaf. Strip the leaves from the bottom of the cutting, then dip your cutting in a rooting compound (I use Garden Safe TakeRoot Rooting Hormone but others are probably just as effective).
Then, place the cutting into a hole in moist sand in a planter, putting the entire planter in a plastic bag to retain moisture. The roots should develop within a month and my own personal suggestion at this point would be to transplant your jasmine into potting soil in order to strengthen the root system for a while before you put them out into your garden area.
- Lamb, Heather (2003), All That Jasmine, Birds & Blooms Magazine, February/March 2003 (Pages 48-49)
- Pereire, Anita (1995), The Ward Lock Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening, Ward Lock (Publisher)
- Milne, Lorus and Margery (1975 Revised Edition), Living Plants of the World, Random House, New York
- Simon & Schuster's Complete Guide to Plants & Flowers (1974), Edited by Frances Perry, A Fireside Book Published by Simon and Schuster
- Heriteau, Jacqueline (1997), Virginia Gardener's Guide, Cool Springs Press, Nashville, Tennessee
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© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney