UT Gardens March plant of the month: Winter Jasmine
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 5:01 pm
Submitted by Fiona McAnally
After a long winter, the sight of a bank of bright yellow flowers is a welcome relief in the landscape. Often confused with Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), Winter Jasmine (Jasminium nudiflorum) peaks in late February and early March, but can bloom anytime throughout the winter responding to warming temperatures.
Forsythia is also an early spring bloomer, but it will appear later than Winter Jasmine. In addition to bloom time, another way to tell the two plants apart is that a Winter Jasmine bloom will have five to six wavy petals while a Forsythia bloom will have only four petals. Another characteristic that differentiates the two plants is that Forsythia’s stems are usually hollow.
Both Winter Jasmine and Forsythia are especially dramatic because their flowers appear before their foliage. Though showy, Winter Jasmine’s flowers do not have any scent.
Winter Jasmine is a fast-growing shrub, sending out trailing branches that will develop roots when they come in contact with the soil, forming new plants. The plant is relatively pest and disease resistant and will thrive in partial shade to full sun, growing best in zones 6 to 10. Winter Jasmine will root easily and can be planted on banks, trained as a hedge, and is dramatic planted in mass. It will generally get 3 to 4 ft high and 4 to 7 ft wide but can grow larger if trained on a trellis.
Several cultivars are available: ‘Aureum’ has yellow-blotched leaves; ‘Mystique’ has leaves with silver-white margins; and ‘Nanum’ has a compact, slow-growing form.
Robert Fortune, a Scottish-born plant hunter who made many adventurous trips to collect plants unknown to the West, introduced Winter Jasmine in the mid 1800s from China. Many of the plants he collected have botanical names that recognize his contribution. The specific epithet is “fortunei”. Fortune is best known for his role in establishing tea plants in India.
Fiona McAnally is a graduate student in the University of Tennessee Department of Plant Sciences. She works with Dr. Susan Hamilton, director of the UT Gardens. Located in Knoxville and Jackson the UT Gardens are a project of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Their mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, collections, educational programs and research trials. The UT Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. See http://westtennessee.tennessee.edu/ornamentals for more information.