Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is an ornamental climber that will readily romp up and over arbors, trellises, and even bushes and tree trunks. The small clusters of fragrant, yellow, tubular flowers appear in late winter to early spring and are one of the earliest springtime flowers in the South.
Blossoms are 2 inches long and the foliage is dark green. Found along seacoasts, woods, and sands, it's native to Southwest United States. One note of caution: All parts of the plant are poisonous and the sap may cause skin irritation to sensitive people.
Botanical name: Gelsemium sempervirens
Common name: Carolina jasmine, Carolina jessamine, trumpet flower
Plant type: Twining climber, evergreen in the southern United States
Height: 10 to 20 feet
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7 to 9
AHS Plant Heat Zones: 9 to 1
- Sun: Full sun to part shade
- Soil: Well-drained but moist
- Moisture: Needs adequate moisture to look its best
- Mulch: Use organic mulch to maintain moisture in the soil and deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: Generally not needed
- Pruning: Annually, after flowering, thin crowded shoots and cut back side shoots to within three or four buds of permanent parts of the vine.
- Start seeds in spring.
- Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
Pests and diseases
- Fungal leaf, stem, and root diseases occur.
- Scale and whiteflies occur in greenhouse plants.
- ‘Margarita' (pictured here) was chosen by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society as a Gold Medal Plant Award Winner for its fragrant, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Blooming in late March and April, it's deer-resistant, adaptable to various soils, and is hardy farther north than the species. Grows 12 feet high. Zones 5 to 9.
- ‘Pride of Augusta' has double, yellow flowers and blooms longer than the species. Grows 10 to 20 feet tall. Zones 7 to 9.
- Carolina jasmine is more bushy and compact when grown in bright sun.
- It can be planted successfully in containers, and also looks great as a ground cover on slopes.
- Carolina jasmine tolerates frost, but it will die in a hard, continuous freeze.
- While it's a drought-tolerant plant, it will drop leaves and look somewhat scrappy with inadequate water.
All in the family
- Closely related, the swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankinii) has yellow flowers that are not fragrant. It's highly toxic. The butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is also in the same family, as are many tropical plants.
(Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society)