Jasminum is a large genus of some 150 species in the olive family. It is native to tropical regions and includes both shrubs and vines. Its leaves can be either evergreen or deciduous. The name jasmine is from the Persian "yasmin" meaing "gift from God". Considered one of the most fragrant plants in the world, a single jasmine plant can perfume an entire room or garden. The two most widely known jasmine species are Jasminum officinale and Jasminum grandiflorum.
Uses and Importance
Jasmine is enjoyed as both a garden and house plant. It has a long history of use as a tea in China. Its famous scent has made it a highly desirable ingredient in perfumes and cosmetics such as soaps, lotions and shampoos. Women in some southern Asian countries wear jasmine in their hair. In aromatherapy, jasmine is used as a calming agent and as an aphrodisiac.
Jasmine is the national flower of the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan. It is a traditional part of Indonesian wedding ceremonies.
Jasmine officianale, also called true jasmine, poet's jasmine, or white jasmine, is native to the Himalayas of western China. A rapidly growing vine, it can reach up to 12 feet in height, and is hardy to zone 8. Its fragrant white flowers bloom in summer and fall.
Jasminum grandiflorum or royal jasmine, also called Catalonian or Spanish jasmine, is similar to the poet's jasmine but with larger flowers. Of all the jasmines, its fragrance is the most valued. It is less cold-tolerant than poet's jasmine, so is often grafted on the hardier rootstocks of its relative. It is a fast growing vine that will quickly cover a fence or trellis. It can be used as a container plant or to cover a topiary form. It blooms summer and autumn and can grow up to 20 to 40 feet.
Royal jasmine's odor is so unique that many feel it has no comparison. Until recently, it was considered impossible to reproduce the scent in a laboratory. When grown for perfume, the flowers are harvested beginning in August when they smell the strongest. The flowers are picked shortly after they open at 6:00 AM, since the morning dew could affect their fragrance. (See Reference 2)
Jasminum polyanthum is often grown as a houseplant. It prefers a cool room with bright light (but not direct sun). Keep it away from sources of heat that could dry it. Standing the pot on pebbles in a tray of shallow water will provide needed humidity. Avoid overwatering it. Allow the plant to summer outside, giving it fertilizer during its active growing season. Do not fertilize in the fall and winter when it is resting. It will begin to bloom in late January or early February. (See Reference 3)