A gardener’s consolations in late fall are few and spare, such as rustling brown grasses, muscular gray trunks, and sage in the stuffing. The exotic Madagascar jasmine doesn’t really fit on that list, which is why it should be sitting on a gardener’s windowsill. This tropical climber with glossy, dark green leaves offers baroque beauty in a gloomy, gray season. Keep it happy—give it bright light, the right amount of water, and the right temperature—and it will fill the window with extremely fragrant, star-shaped, white blossoms, making you feel less like a color-starved North American pilgrim and more like, oh…Gauguin.
Common name: Madagascar jasmine, bridal wreath, bridal bouquet, Hawaiian wedding flower
Botanical name: Stephanotis floribunda
Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen vine
Zones: 12 to 15; in other zones, grow as houseplant or annual
Height: 12 to 20 feet outdoors; much shorter indoors
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Rich, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium; reduce water during winter
• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: Prune for size.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or cutting
Pests and diseases
• Mealybugs and scale insects can be a problem.
• Watch for viruses.
• If grown as a houseplant or in a container outside, Madagascar jasmine won’t grow to the height it reaches on its native island—it’ll only reach 2 to 3 feet—but it will require a trellis or other support to climb on.
• Put Madagascar jasmine on a sunny windowsill, as long as it’s protected from cold drafts. Give it shade from the hottest afternoon sun, and water it regularly. The best temperatures are about 70°F during the day and 60°F at night.
• Madagascar jasmine flowers best in the springtime, and it flowers most profusely if grown outside.
All in the family
• In spite of its common name, Madagascar jasmine is not a true jasmine. S. floribunda is in Asclepiadaceae, the milkweed family, and jasmine (Jasminium officinale) is in the olive family (Oleaceae).
Where to buy
• Almost Eden, Merryville, LA, 337-375-2114, www.almostedenplants.com
• Logee’s Tropical Plants, Danielson, CT, 888-330-8038, www.logees.com
• Willow Creek Gardens, Oceanside, CA, 760-721-7079, www.willowcreekgardens.com
(Photo of Stephanotis floribunda courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)