With stems that can exceed 20 feet (6 m.) in length, Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium Sempervirens) climbs over anything it can twine its wiry stem around. Plant it on trellises and arbors, along fences, or under trees with loose canopies. The glossy leaves stay green all year, providing dense coverage for the supporting structure.
Carolina Jessamine vines are covered with clusters of fragrant, yellow flowers in late winter and spring. The flowers are followed by seed capsules that ripen slowly over the remainder of the season. If you want to collect a few seeds to start new plants, pick the capsules in fall after the seeds inside have turned brown. Air dry them for three or four days and then remove the seeds. They are easy to start indoors in late winter or outdoors in late spring when the soil is thoroughly warm.
Carolina Jessamine Info
These sprawling vines are native to the southeastern United States where winters are mild and summers are hot. They tolerate an occasional frost, but persistent freezes kill them. Carolina Jessamine is rated for USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9.
Although they tolerate partial shade, sunny locations are best for growing Carolina Jessamine. In partial shade, the plant grows slowly and may become leggy, as the plant focuses its energy into upward growth in an effort to find more light. Choose a location with fertile, organically rich soil that drains well. If your soil falls short of these requirements, amend it with a generous amount of compost before planting. The plants tolerate drought but look their best when watered regularly in the absence of rain.
Fertilize the vines annually in spring. You can use a general purpose commercial fertilizer, but the best fertilizer for Carolina Jessamine plants is a 2 to 3 inch (5-8 cm.) layer of compost, leaf mold, or aged manure.
Carolina Jessamine Pruning
If left to its own devices, Carolina Jessamine can develop a wild appearance, with most of the foliage and flowers at the tops of the vines. Cut back the tips of the vines after the flowers fade to encourage fuller growth on the lower parts of the stem.
In addition, prune throughout the growing season to remove lateral vines that stray away from the trellis and remove dead or damaged vines. If older vines become top heavy with little growth on the lower parts of the stem, you can cut Carolina Jessamine plants back to about 3 feet (1 m.) above the ground to rejuvenate them.
Toxicity Note: Carolina Jessamine is highly toxic to humans, livestock, and pets and should be planted with caution.