Delicately flowered and exquisitely scented in white, cream or yellow, jasmine brings the Orient into your garden. Jasmine is thought to have originated in the Himalayas, is native to the old world and belongs to the Oleaceae (olive) family. Commercially, the essential oil extracted from the flowers is used as a calmative and an aphrodisiac.
Depending upon the species, jasmine plants are mostly evergreen shrubs, or climbers with woody vines. There are many varieties, including ones that make popular houseplants, others that cascade beautifully from hanging baskets, can be grown as ground cover, or can be trained on walls, screens or over arches. There are many varieties for summer, and in winter when little else is in flower the starry yellow flowers of Jasminum nudiflorum will light-up even partially shaded or cold areas.
Jasmine officinale is the most recognizable and common of all Jasmine varieties, with white heavily scented flowers – this is the one that provides the oil used in perfumery and cosmetics. Some have cream-edged or yellow-blotched leaves. This is one of the few jasmines that is frost hardy and suitable for outdoor cultivation against a sunny, sheltered wall with a south- or south west facing aspect – but in mild UK regions only. Elsewhere, grow it in a greenhouse or as a conservatory climber.
Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum): this one has bright, evergreen foliage and tiny intensely yellow flowers. The shoots do not twine, but grow straight and need to be tied-in, pruned and shaped, or it can be kept bushy. Winter jasmine is fully hardy and can be grown outdoors throughout the UK, and is more tolerant of partial shade and a south-east or north-west aspect, but avoid north or north-east walls.
Care: all jasmines need a fertile, well-drained soil and water in extremely dry weather – top dress them with a an all-purpose granular fertiliser or a high potassium liquid feed such as sulphate of potash – seaweed plant food is good. Jasmine is usually trouble-free, but can occasionally suffer from aphids.
Container: a jasmine climber can add an oriental flavour to your patio if grown as a specimen in a large, ceramic container and trained up the wall – and for perfumed shade take it overhead on a support. As the plant will be there for a long time, make sure you use a container with good drainage holes that are covered with crocks or grit, and filled with John Innes No 3 soil based compost. Site the pot in bright but filtered light. Containerised jasmine plants in flower appreciate a monthly high potassium liquid feed.
Pruning: cut back flowered branches of both summer and winter jasmine to a strong side shoot, completely removing weak, thin or crowded stems. Hard pruning to within 60cm (2ft) of the base is fine for overgrown plants, but re-growth will be vigorous, so be selective and train the strongest shoots into the support. The plant will take two or three years to start flowering again.
Summer jasmine: the only time to prune is just after flowering in late summer or early autumn. Early flowers develop on the previous year’s growth, with later ones developing on the tips of the current year’s growth. Prune any later and you will lose your early flowers next year.
Winter jasmine: prune immediately after flowering in spring because flowers develop on the previous year’s growth.