Sometimes you have to be a detective, a plant detective, to find the source of the sweet scent perfuming the garden. You might think of large flowers when you think of strong fragrance, but in reality, tiny flowers sometimes give off the most intense smells.
One of my old favorites is the Arabian jasmine, Jasminum sambac. It loves the heat and sun after a winter spent indoors. Its tiny white flowers cover the branches and release a wonderful heavy jasmine perfume from flowers that open during the night, strongest in the morning, more subtle in the afternoon. Although it gets very vine-like when grown in a container, you can cut it back into a more manageable shrubby pot plant.
You will have to grow this evergreen sweetie in a pot unless you live in USDA Zones 9-10. Regular potting soil, consistent watering, and a houseplant fertilizer once in awhile will keep it growing happily. Whole stems can die back if the soil goes dry for long. It prefers full sun but it will blossom with just a few hours of sunshine in the more shady garden, where you should move it after all danger of frost has passed.
Use care when you take it outdoors after its winter rest indoors. If it will spend the summer in the sun, move it into shade and gradually get it used to the sunshine by moving it into more direct light every day or two. Plopping it into a hot, sunny border straight from indoors will have disastrous results. Sunburn on the leaves would be the least you could expect. More likely, the jasmine would dry out and die.
Once the Arabian jasmine’s leaves get used to more light and direct sun, the non-stop blooming will begin. One sunny day you will come out your door and get a whiff that will tickle your nose. Follow the scent to the tiny white flowers and breathe in the heady scent. You’ll be hooked, as I am, on this glossy evergreen that can look decent indoors but gives its all outdoors.
By Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Entomologist and Orkin Technical Services Director
Photographs courtesy of Orkin
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