Searcy, Ark. – Winter jasmine often pushes its flowers out through the snow. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) starts flowering on the first warm January day, only to be beat back by the freezes that are sure to follow. It’s the earliest shrub to bloom in the garden in our climate. Blossoms are scattered from January 'til March with peak bloom in February. The Chinese name is "Yingchunhua," or the Welcoming Spring Flower, an apt name for this early bloomer.
Winter jasmine is a little mounded plant that grows a couple feet tall with green, arching stems that cascade over walls and embankments, creating a mounded, sprawling form when allowed to grow unimpeded. It has small, lustrous, trifoliate leaves that fall with the first frost. Though deciduous, the green stems give it an evergreen appearance.
The cheery, solitary trumpets are bright yellow and about 1 and 1/2 inches long. Fully opened flowers are the size of a nickel with five or six petals. Winter jasmine never makes a single flush of flowers like forsythia, so seldom makes a show-stopping display. It belongs to the olive family, but unlike the white flowered winter jasmine and other members of the family like lilac and osmanthus, it has no fragrance.
Winter jasmine is hardy as far north as St. Louis, making it the most winter-hardy jasmine. It was introduced from China in 1844 when the English plant collector Robert Fortune sent the Royal Horticulture Society plants he had purchased from a Shanghai nursery.
Though long popular in China and an instant hit in European and American gardens when introduced in the middle years of the 19th century, today it’s considered a ho-hum shrub. Sure, it’s easy to grow but it’s just not too exciting, but it’s fail-proof.
In the garden, winter jasmine can be grown in sun or shade, good soil or bad. It’s tough, reliable, and even a bit weedy if allowed to sprawl in good soil. As the canes arch over, it roots freely, which can allow it to colonize a large area over time. Because the green stems turn brown with age, it should be cut back to shoe-top height every three or four years after the blooms finish, but before new growth begins. It has no insect or disease pests.
Winter jasmine could have a great future in modern day landscaping if designers would begin using it at the top of those stacked concrete block walls we now see at every turn. A few strategically placed shrubs would send down their arching branches and soften these massive walls. It’s also useful as a foreground planting in the shrub border to face down tall, leggy shrubs.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. For more information you can contact your local county extension service, you can also follow Sherri Sanders on Facebook @UADA.WhiteCountyAgriculture .
By Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143
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