Jasmine is one of the most storied and beloved flowers of the ancient world. The plant has delighted emperors and commoners alike since the first civilizations of Mesopotamia. Here are some tips about growing jasmine blooms in your Coastal Bend garden this season.
Its origins are rooted in Persia long before Sumer and the city of Ur. The earliest Sumerian emperors adorned their gardens with fragrant jasmine and traded the seeds into Asia. Jasmine has been the darling of the kings since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Kublai Khan’s Xanadu.
In Asia, jasmine came to symbolize beauty, grace, purity and sensuality. It is used commonly in religious ceremonies, weddings, state functions, and is the national flower of Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Jasmine is in the olive (Oleaceae) family. There are two basic types: royal or vining jasmine and Arabian or bush. Vining jasmine is the most common type in the Coastal Bend. The most popular varieties — usually the only kinds available in local nurseries — are star jasmine and Asian jasmine.
Star jasmine should be planted at the base of a trellis, fence or arbor. It grows high and wide with gorgeous white flowers and a powerful, heady aroma when in bloom. Asian jasmine is a ground cover that grows dense, glossy, green leaves but does not flower. You should plant Asian jasmine in the bare spaces in a flower bed or as a low border.
Arabian jasmine, the bush or shrub varieties, is perfect for pots. These potted plants make gorgeous and aromatic accents around the patio or house. They can be brought inside during winter freezes to last for years. Just make sure to keep potted plants outdoors in full sun or near windows if inside.
A Need-to-Know Basis
Star jasmine (vining): Spacing: 36” on a trellis. Height: climbs high and wide (up to 10’). The flowers are white and fragrant. Asian jasmine (ground cover): Spacing, 12”. Height: 6” to 12”. The leaves are lush and green, though there are no flowers. Plant jasmine from transplant in April in an area with full sun and afternoon shade. It requires rich, well-drained soil. Add several inches of compost and a generous amount of pastured poultry manure when planting. Keep the soil moist until established.
Star jasmine grows quickly once established. Lay vines across the lower portion of a trellis to start; they will attach and climb on their own and will bloom from April through June. Prune after flowering is complete. The jasmine flower aroma is intoxicating and lovely in a flower bouquet. Asian jasmine takes longer to establish, then grows lush and thick. Both varieties will die in a hard freeze, but prune dead vines and the plants will usually regenerate from roots in the spring.
Jasmine can be mildly toxic. So, never let kids eat any part of them. Wear plastic gloves when pruning or cutting vines; the milky sap that oozes from the stems can cause skin irritation and rashes. Pruned jasmine vines, however are safe in compost piles. Most commercial jasmine teas are green tea with a jasmine-scented infusion, but not actual jasmine. For jasmine baths, use only the flowers to prevent skin irritation.