Enjoying the pros and cons of the ‘tough’ winter jasmine

Published 2:02 pm Thursday, February 6, 2020

I’ve already walked the yard with half a coffee can of granular fire ant insecticide, an indicator of a mild winter so far. I’m hoping it doesn’t stay mild long enough to trick fruit trees into an early bloom. But one plant that is flowering on time right now is the perennial ornamental shrub winter jasmine.

I have several winter jasmines, the originals courtesy of a friend back when my place was still in the rough.

Among the good things about winter jasmine is it requires nearly no care after planting. I planted mine between large oaks at the edges of steep slopes. Due more to beginner’s luck than any knowledge of the species at the time, I chose the right spots.

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The jasmine is satisfied with the part-day sun it gets when bloom buds are forming in summer.

Jasmines growing in full sun would have even more blooms, but my semi-heavy sprinkling of yellow winter blooms is appreciated. Also, the plants continue to open new blooms over three months as opposed to its cousin commonly grown here, the vine we call Confederate jasmine or star jasmine, which has a much shorter bloom period.

Winter jasmine is a native of China and, like many other of our ornamentals, was brought to the United States in the mid-1800s. Unlike most jasmines, it has no fragrance.

The current blooms are on last year’s growth only, coming from buds formed last summer. The cascading woody stems with yellow blooms make the plant reminiscent of forsythia, but the two are not close relatives. Forsythia has many more blooms but a much shorter bloom period.

One trait of winter jasmine can be both a pro and a con for gardeners. Once mature, it often roots itself where stem nodes touch the ground, creating new plants that eventually get as large as the mother plant. 

On one hand, this makes for a large groundcover plant that can help prevent erosion. On the other hand, this means it will slowly expand into multiple plants that take up more room. To keep it a low maintenance plant, don’t plant it in tight spots or in flowerbeds with other plants. Grow it where it won’t bother anything else for years to come.

I live with both the pro and con. It suits me fine for the jasmine to slowly spread down the erodible silt loam slopes toward the woods. But some of the shrubs eventually reached and overwhelmed clumps of daffodils I had planted between them.

Winter jasmine shrubs are not considered invasive and they don’t spread quickly like, say, Mexican petunia. About every five or so years I dig up newly formed jasmine plants and give them away or plant them on the edges of some more steep slopes. I have lots of slopes.

Foolishly thinking I was being creative, I once planted winter jasmine beneath an antique, horse-drawn hay rake. Years later I retrieved the rake with pruners, a shovel and a tractor. Tough, carefree plant.


Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.