Jasminum mesnyi 'Gold Tip'

variegated primrose jasmine

In the Southeast, we grow quite a few plants that we call jasmine but not nearly enough of the true thing. There are many different species in the genus Jasminum (about 200 species) which range from the tropics to mostly warm temperate areas. Plants in this group are typically shrubs to vines with several scandent species which can't make up their mind and so can be pruned into mounding shrubs or allowed to climb through the lower branches of small trees or tied to supports like a vine. The name jasmine is derived from a Persian word meaning "gift of god" and refers to the exceptionally fragrant subtropical species J. sambac. Hardier species are available and one of our favorites is the evergreen scandent shrub/vine, J. mesnyi, the primrose jasmine.

In the landscape, primrose jasmine likes a well-drained, moist soil and is not happy in very heavy clay unless the bed is amended well with organic matter although it is drought tolerant once well-established. This mounding plant grows as an arching shrub to about 5'–6' tall and twice as wide but can be trained up a support as a vine-like plant. It can also be kept pruned to a more manageable size in late spring. The foliage is mostly evergreen, but may be burned back by cold winter snaps. It prefers a sunny spot but may need a little protection from the hottest afternoon summer sun especially if it is in a drier spot. Young plants may need protection from temperatures below about 12°F for their first few years or plants can be planted along a warm wall.

The JC Raulston Arboretum has been growing primrose jasmine for many years and has always enjoyed the late winter to early spring cheerful show of 1.5" yellow flowers. Unfortunately, there is little fragrance to these flowers but the display is still quite lovely. A new form that we are trying is 'Gold Tip' which not only has all the other wonderful attributes of the species but also has each of the trifoliate leaves irregularly edged in gold for a show all season long.