Oleaceae (Olive) Family
Photo courtesy Mike & Claire Carter, Pensacola, Florida
Winter Jasmine is a rambling, creeping vine, with slender, arching stems and four-angled green branchlets. The plant grows in a mound that can get 6 to10 feet tall with a similar spread. Where they touch moist soil, the long trailing branches often root and produce new plants. Its preferred habitat is rich, moist soil in gardens or at the edge of alluvial pastures. It belongs to the olive family, but unlike the white flowered winter jasmine and other members of the family like lilac and osmanthus, it has no fragrance.
The leaves are opposite, compound with three leaflets. Each leaf is oblong and about 1 inch in length. The small, lustrous, trifoliate leaves fall with the first frost. Though deciduous, the green stems give it an evergreen appearance.
The flowers are funnel shaped and about 1 inch wide. Flowers appear in late winter and early spring before the leaves emerge. The solitary trumpets are bright yellow, and when fully opened are the size of a quarter with five or six petals. The plant never makes a single flush of flowers like forsythia, and rarely makes a show-stopping display.
Winter Jasmine fares best when unsupported, as its usual habit is to sprawl. However, when supported it will grow much larger and the branches tend to cascade downward.
Most gardeners prefer not to build an arbor or similar swtructure for this jasmine, but to make it useful as a ground cover or as a tidy fountain-like mound.
Conscientious pruning is required to keep the plant from spreading where they are not welcome. This requirement is less pertinent to winter jasmine plants trained as vines. By tying their stems to arbors or trellises, ground contact is minimized, consequently there are fewer opportunities for rooting.
Several cultivars are available: 'Aureum' has yellow blotches on the leaves; 'Nanum' is a slow-growing, dwarf form. The Chinese name is "Yingchunhua," or the Welcoming Spring Flower, an apt name for this early bloomer. It was introduced from China in 1844 when the English plant collector Robert Fortune sent the Royal Horticulture Society plants he had purchased from a Shanghai nursery.