Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Asiatic Jasmine - Cover Ground With Southern Style

Asiatic Jasmine ( Trachelospermum asiaticum ), is a marvelous ground cover vine that is well-known throughout the South. Trachelospermum asiaticum means "rough seed from Asia", but it doesn't imply that the plant is without style. Evergreen, leathery leaves with a glossy sheen form a dense, luxurious blanket that adds a touch of class to the landscape.

The species is distantly related to plants such as Vinca, Mandevilla, Carissa, Oleander and Amsonia. Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a closer relative, and very similar in appearance, but Asiatic Jasmine differs from T. jasminoides by having smaller leaves, being shy to bloom and reluctant to climb.

Asiatic Jasmine is native to Korea and Japan, but is so popular in the southeastern U.S. that you might think it's from around here. In fact, there is a species, commonly called Climbing Dogbane (Trachelospermum difforme), which is native to the U.S.

It must be noted that Asiatic and Confederate jasmines are not among what some consider to be "true jasmine" of the genus Jasminum.

Foliage is about 1" to 2" long. Insignificant star-shaped flowers are about 1" diameter, white to pale yellow. Variegated-leaf forms exist. Mature height as a ground cover is only 6", but vines may extend to 24" when prostrate. If Asiatic Jasmine does take the notion to climb, the vines my grow to 72" or more.

Asiatic Jasmine is cold-hardy in USDA climate zones 7 through 9. It is perfect for full, but will grow in partial- to full shade. Deep shade is not recommended. Plant in average, well-drained soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8. Plants are drought tolerant when established, and heat-loving.

It's very effective as a ground cover in small to large areas. If grown near a walkway, occasional edging will keep it very neat. Otherwise, maintenance needs are few. Deer won't eat it, and you shouldn't either. The milky sap will irritate sensitive tissue, so keep it out of your eyes and nose.

Prepare the planting bed for Trachelospermum asiaticum by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 12" deep. Compost may be incorporated into the soil. Fertilizer may be used. If you choose to do so, incorporate 5-10-15 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Plant container-grown jasmine at 18" to 24" spacing. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the roots. Do not cover the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed.

Smaller, bare root plants may be spaced 8" to 15" apart. Plant only as deeply as they were previously grown. A slight change in stem color and texture should be visible, indicating the planting depth. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 2" deep.

Asiatic Jasmine is one of my favorite ground cover vines. Rich foliage color, glossy sheen and low-maintenance needs make it very popular with many other southern gardeners, as well.

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