Winter Jasmine Vines

A Choice for Color Early in the Spring Season

Winter jasmine blooms
Winter jasmine blooms in yellow, but the buds start out red. David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of Winter Jasmine Plants:

Plant taxonomy classifies winter jasmine plants as Jasminum nudiflorum. For research purposes, note that Jasminum polyanthum also sometimes bears the common name, "winter jasmine" -- just another example of why we use scientific plant names to avoid confusion.

Botany:

Botanically-speaking, winter jasmine plants are classified as deciduous perennials. They are considered vines or viny shrubs.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Winter Jasmine Plants:

Winter jasmine plants are recommended for planting zones 6-10. By providing a warmer microclimate (south side of my house), I have been able to grow mine in zone 5. Initially, I also enclosed mine in an ad hoc shelter for the winter, fearing it wouldn't be hardy enough in my region. But one winter I decided to experiment, leaving my specimen uncovered. It survived just fine, so, since then, all I've done to overwinter the plant is to mulch it with a few inches of straw.

Characteristics:

Winter jasmine plants reach 4' in height with a width of 7' when unsupported. Supported, they can reach 15' in height. The 1"-wide yellow blooms appear in late winter/early spring prior to the leaves but, unlike most jasmines, are not fragrant. Stems stay green in winter.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Winter Jasmine Plants:

Grow in full sun to partial sun, in well-drained soils.

Uses in Landscape Design:

A winter jasmine plant mounds up around its base to form a shrub, but it sends out long branches from that central clump that grow as creeping vines. Thus the ambiguity in classifying this plant, botanically: is it a shrub or a vine? To a large degree, you can make that decision for yourself, a decision that will be reflected in how you treat the plant.

If you keep it pruned back, it will act as a shrub in your landscape. But if you leave it alone and allow it to grow naturally, it will function as a vine. In the latter capacity, it can be used either as a ground cover or as a climbing vine. Gardeners who want it to climb should provide a supporting structure, tying the viny branches to this structure. If you do not want to take the time to build a wooden arbor or use a similar structure on which to train the vines, these early bloomers can still be useful as ground covers. In the latter role, use them for landscaping on slopes, for instance, to control erosion.

Plant Care:

Prune winter jasmine plants in spring, after they have bloomed.

Caveat in Growing Winter Jasmine Plants:

Unsupported winter jasmine plants grow as viny shrubs and can be somewhat invasive, since the stems put out roots wherever they touch the soil. Conscientious pruning is required to keep such winter jasmine plants from spreading where they are not welcome. This requirement is less pertinent to winter jasmine plants trained vertically as vines.

By tying their stems to arbors or trellises, you minimize ground-contact and, consequently, opportunities for rooting.

The fact that the stems root so easily is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, it makes them very easy to propagate. After the rooting occurs, simply sever the rooted stem from the main plant, dig your new baby out by the roots, and either pot it up or plant it somewhere suitable in your landscaping.


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