Growing Jasmine

In A Cold Climate

There are many types of jasmine and most of them prefer warm weather.  I love jasmine and refuse to be deterred by cold weather.  When I lived in an apartment I grew a couple of Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) on the windowsill as there was plenty of sun on that side.  Now I’ve moved further north and have a garden, I grow more of them and more varieties too.  But they live outside only in late spring until early autumn, then back down in the basement during winter.

In winter all my tropical plants stay under plant lights, with the timer set from 8 am to 7 pm.  That includes the jasmines.  There is no extra heat provided aside from a furnace that heats the house.  The flower buds that developed while they were outside will still bloom under the lights.  I stop feeding them when they are in the basement to prevent them from growing too lanky.  Plant light isn’t the same as the sun, of course, so they still try to reach up to the lights, but still grow more slowly than they will outside under the summer sun.

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Arabian jasmine in bloom in summer

Two problems with growing jasmine inside are spider mites and root rot.  To get rid of the tiny spider mites requires monitoring, checking the leaves for them before there are too many of them.  When my jasmine were small, I gave them a shower once a month.  Put them in the bathtub and spray them with water both top and bottom of the leaves.  This will provide them with moisture in a dry winter house as well as washing off the mites, if any.  Once the plants get bigger, if I find mites, I spray them with insecticide soap (approved by OMRI for organic gardening use) and mist them with water once in a while.  Too much water will make their roots rot.  I will let the soil dry a little before I water them again.

When spring arrives and nighttime temperatures will stay above 50ºF, I take them outside, let them enjoy real sunlight.  I start feeding them a month before I take them out.  I also prune them at this time; cut out dry, weak, crossed branches or branches that are too long for my liking.  I also remove most of the leaves from the plants, my grandmother’s method.  Jasmine leaves grow in pairs, remove them alternately.  This will encourage them to grow new leaves and flower buds.  Then I feed them monthly while they are outside.

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New leaves sprouted after most of the old leaves were removed
Jasmine
Plenty of lovely flowers and a sweet fragrance in summer

I let the flowers bloom on the plants if we plan to sit outside in the evening so we can enjoy their fragrance. I pick the flowers and keep them in the house, especially in the bedroom since the fragrance has a calming effect.  I also put them in water to infuse their scent into it.  Cold jasmine water is very soothing for a hot summer day.

With attention and care a jasmine plant will last for a long time.  Some of mine are over 15 years old and still bloom profusely every summer.

 

Later Summer For Tropical Plants

About Time To Go Back To Winter Camp

It’s a little bit too cold for mid-September this year.  Some nights the temperature has gone down below 40°F and hovered around mid 50°F during the day.  But it has gone up to 70°F during in the last two days.  The thirty degree gap between high and low temperatures makes it difficult for me to decide whether to move the tropical plants back down to the basement.   Although it’s not yet freezing, these plants don’t like to stay in a temperature below 50°F, but I do want them to get real sunlight as long as possible.  I think I’ll move them this weekend if it doesn’t rain.  Better safe than sorry since many of them have been with me for many years.  They have been putting up with confinement (in a pot) all these years so I shouldn’t discomfit them further.  The weather may not have been on their side this summer but they still offered fragrant flowers throughout the summer and some of them are still pushing to bloom even when it’s a little bit too cold for them.

'Azores' jasmine
‘Azores’ jasmine

‘Azores’ jasmines (Jasminum azoricum) have just produced new flower buds that will blossom when they’re already in the basement.  They flowered through mid-winter while residing in our basement last year.

'Poet'
‘Poet’

‘Poet’ Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) seems to like cold weather.  It started to bloom more when the temperature dropped and is still blooming.

'Belle of India'
‘Belle of India’

‘Belle of India’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) really struggled this year.  Its’ leaves dropped at one point when it had been raining for a several days and it was forced to sit in water for a bit. It managed to produce a couple of flowers anyway.

'Maid of Orleans'
‘Maid of Orleans’

I repotted, changed the soil and trimmed the roots of the ‘Maid of Orleans’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) this year.  I gave them a close pruning as well.  It’s a ritual I do every couple of years for all the potted plants so they can have fresh dirt and more leg room.  They respond well by producing bigger flowers abundantly.

Almond verbena
Almond verbena

Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is happy after receiving a crew cut early this spring.  It can grow pretty lanky and floppy when it doesn’t get enough sunlight.  Now it’s a little more compact and blooming better too.

Orange Jasmine
Orange Jasmine

Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) produced a lot of flowers earlier this summer and is still flowering here and there.  Their three inch tall offspring seems to want to flower as well.  Maybe because they are closer to the house and warmer.

The Jasmine Effect

Bringing a Smile to Stranger’s Faces

This blog has nothing to do with either growing or using jasmine, but I want to share a wonderful experience I had today.

I have a long train commute between work and home, but I don’t find it a waste of time for the hour and fifteen minutes I spend traveling in each direction.  I can always find something to do whether reading, working on a project, sleeping when I feel really tired, or writing this blog for that matter.

This morning, as soon as I got a seat, I started to make a garland from the jasmine I had picked before leaving.   I use it to make an offering for the Ganesh statue at work, out of respect.  After a few minutes, the guy sitting across the aisle leaned over and asked whether the jasmine was real.  I offered him some, but he really just wanted to stick his nose in the bag and take a deep sniff.  “This is very soothing.” he said.  Aside from that, just “Thank you.”  I continued stringing the garland for a few more stops before reading my newspaper.  Shortly after that another passenger sat down next to me.

When the train got to our final destination I got up and took the bag of herbs I had cut for my colleagues.  She, the passenger next to me, commented on how great the basil smelled.  We had a short discussion about basil on the way up the platform and she accepted some jasmine.  She was delighted and kept sniffing the jasmine in her palm.

Both incidents are common to me every time I carry jasmine with me, but what happened next really made my day.

I got on the subway heading for my office.  An elderly couple got on the next stop and sat across from me.  They were probably in theirs seventies.  They were holding hands, chatting and leaning against each other.  What drew my attention was the affection they showed for each other.  It was so pronounced, so radiant.  I couldn’t help but smile and kept observing them,  just short of staring perhaps.  I offered them some jasmine before I got off the subway.  The gentleman accepted them while still holding her hand.  Both smelled them and looked up at me with a big, genuine smiles.

“Thank you very much.  You made our day.” He said.

“No, Sir, you made my day.  You’re such a lovely couple.  Enjoy them and have a wonderful day.”  I walked off the train.

Yes, something about an older couple displaying love and affection that makes me melt.  I still remember that my father cried his heart out when my mother passed away a few years ago.  He was over eighty years old then and he still misses her and talks about her.

This is what I offered friendly strangers and the Ganesh at work – Jasminum sambac ‘Maid of Orleans’

More Jasmine

Never Have Enough

After a flood of “Maid of Orleans” jasmine (Jasminum sambac) a couple of weeks ago, there are still some flowers to pick for the house everyday but not as many, not until the second wave of flowers bloom.   They are forming new flower buds again and won’t slow down until they are back in the basement wintering over.

Now it’s the time other jasmine give their performance.  The “Belle of India” jasmine (Jasminum sambac)blooms next.  Yes, they are “sambac” as well.  The delicate white flowers are bigger than the “Maid of Orleans”, around an inch in diameter, with longer petals, and they smell just as sweet.  Some of the flowers are even double-layer petals.

The “Grand Duke of Tuscany” jasmines (Jasminum sambac) also start to bloom.  They are really grand when they bloom.  Each flower has one inch diameter with multi layers of petals and strong jasmine scent.  I have this vision of them in a small delicate vase on a dresser or on a jacket lapel.  I did cut some flowers and brought them in the house, their fragrance got even stronger in the evening.  The good thing about them is that unlike other jasmine, the flowers will last a couple of days instead of blooming for only one night.  They are too big to just pick the flowers off the plants so cutting them with their stem attached is a perfect way to bring them in the house.

Next to bloom is the “Azores Jasmine” (Jasminum azoricum).  This jasmine will wind up a small trellis very well and produces flowers in clusters.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the “sambac”.  It’s also a fast grower and can stay in a small pot as long as you feed it well.

I’m not done with the jasmine yet, still have a couple more to go.  Yes, I collect as many varieties as I can find.  I’m still looking for one particular jasmine, English name unknown to me.  I’ve seen them in Thailand but nowhere else I’ve been.  It has very small flowers that like stacked up stars.

I also wish I could capture their fragrance as well because the photographs alone just can’t do them justice.

Maid of Orleans blooming.
Belle of India produces larger flowers and smells as sweet.
Grand Duke of Tuscany is pretty “grand” when flowering.
Azores jasmine has more delicate petals but a sweeter fragrant.
This is the mysterious jasmine I’ve been looking for. Have you seen it?

Maid of Orleans Jasmine

Not Just Fragrant

It’s that time of year again, when our Jasmine blooms profusely.  They perfume the garden in the evening and early morning.  I line them up on the pool deck where they can get full sun and are easy for me to collect the flowers.  The Jasmine “Maid of Orleans” (Jasminum sambac) are the ones that bloom before any other jasmines I grow.  They bloom throughout the year but only sporadically when we keep them inside.  I don’t blame them since they only get to enjoy outside sunshine and heat for a few months out of the year.  But they are nice enough to produce flowers even when they are cooped up in our basement under artificial sunlight.

It’s a Zen moment when picking jasmine flowers.  The fragrance calms your nerves; take a full breath of jasmine and let it out slowly while picking them.  Enlightenment is within reach.  On working days, I’m ready to face a crowded commute to the city again thanks in part to Jasmine and its wonderful effects on me.

Anyway, jasmine is not just good for it’s fragrance.  You can use the flowers as an air freshener, offered as a garland, used in cooking or infused in drinking water and tea.  I float fresh jasmine flowers in water to give the water a wonderful scent that is very soothing and cooling in summer.  I mix the dry ones in tea to make jasmine tea from the mix.

Just keep in mind that you should use only the Maid of Orleans (Jasminum sambac) which may be sold in other names, like Arabian Tea Jasmine, for instance.  This is the only one I know of that can be used in food.  You should also make sure that the flowers weren’t sprayed with pesticide.  You don’t want that in your tea.  Growing jasmine is easy and you’re better off growing your own if you want to consume it too.

They flower profusely in summer.
Beauty up close
A full bowl of fresh picked jasmine
Giving a lift to water in a glass our friend Kim gave us

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