Two different types of plants bear the common name jasmine: trees and ground cover shrubs. The jasmine tree (Millingtonia hortensis), also called a cork tree, originated in Asia. The botanical name refers to Thomas Millington, a renown botanist from 18th century England. Jasmine trees tower over the shrub variety, stretching branches with tiny white flowers upward of 80 feet high. By comparison, jasmine bushes (Jasminum officinale) start out around 12 to 18 inches and grow to be about 10 feet tall. Pruning keeps them smaller. Like jasmine trees, the bushes produce white or yellow aromatic flowers. Common jasmine originated in India and Persia.
The folk remedies of the Native Americans include yellow jasmine (Jasminum odoratissimum) for purifying blood. Modern herbalists prescribe yellow jasmine as a sedative and antispasmodic. Homeopaths suggest this plant for allaying fear and panic attacks, and aromatherapists use jasmine oil for treating cold symptoms in combination with steam. According to Southern Illinois University, jasmine leaves contain oils effective for treating skin diseases
Throughout Asia, herbalists use an extract made from Millingtonia hortensis leaves as a cleanser because of its antimicrobial quality. Dried jasmine tree flowers and roots help with congestion in tonic form.
Jasmine trees and bushes both have sub-species, numbering over 200 in variety. In the bush category are some unique characters, like Asiatic jasmine, which is very popular for landscaping in Florida. Unlike many other jasmine plants, the Asiatic variety bears no flowers. It thrives best in full sun and dry soil and rarely needs fertilizing. Even people with proverbial black thumbs find this plant grows very easily under the right conditions.
The jasmine tree, being part of the family Bignoniaceae, has some stunning cousins, including cat claw ivy (Macfadyena unguis-cati), which gently climbs to heights of about 25 feet with stunning yellow flowers, and the Savannah oak (Tabebuia rosea), a tall tropical tree crowned in pink or purple flowers.
Besides their medicinal applications, some jasmine plants, like orange jasmine, blossom year-round, meaning you can grow it in a hedge and harvest the flower for teas or homemade beauty products. In India, people use the flowers from jasmine trees for ornamental braids. Dried flowers from either jasmine bushes or trees work well as a colorful and fragrant element in potpourri, and oil extracted from jasmine flowers makes a fantastic aromatic additive for soap and cream. The Chinese use jasmine flowers to dye both ink and silk.
Indian legend recounts Lord Krishna bringing the jasmine tree to earth. His wives fought over who should enjoy the beautiful bower. Lord Krishna wisely planted the tree so that the flowers fell into Rukmini's courtyard, and the tree grew in Satyabhama's courtyard.
In Hindu custom, jasmine flowers are sacred to Kama, the god of love, which is why these flowers appear frequently in wedding rituals, specifically night-blooming jasmine. The myth tells us that a princess fell in love with Surya-Deva, the sun god. When rejected, she committed suicide. Seeing this, the sun god gathered her ashes and turned them into night-blooming jasmine, whose aroma would never reveal itself by day.
Another Chinese legend tell us why some tea includes jasmine. The story goes that tea masters invited the merchant Chen to join them. He went south first, where he met a young girl who gave him tea from hands covered in jasmine petals. The girl was a guiding spirit, encouraging him to brew tea and jasmine together. It was this blend that he took to his meeting in the north.
Jasmine trees and bushes both prefer indirect light, particularly in hot regions. When the soil becomes dry, water it only until damp, not soggy. Jasmine bushes need good drainage, or they'll suffer root problems. The best time to fertilize jasmine plants is spring, as this encourages blossoming. Regular pruning keeps jasmine trees from growing taller than you want.