- Carolina Jessamine
- Mature Height/Spread
- Growth Rate
- Ornamental Features
- Landscape Use
- Cultivars & Related Species
- Gelsemium sempervirens
- Planting and Care
- Carolina jessamine, Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
- Carolina Jessamine in the Landscape
Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is one of the most beautiful vines of the South. It covers fences and trees in open woodlands and along roadsides throughout the Southeast with its slender vines and bright yellow flowers. It is the state flower of South Carolina.
Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is South Carolina’s state flower.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Carolina jessamine grows to 20 feet or more when grown as a vine. It can also be grown as a ground cover, maintained with a yearly cutting in late spring after flowering to 3 feet or less.
This vine’s growth rate is moderate, growing rapidly once established or with rich soil and adequate water.
Sweetly scented, golden yellow flowers cover the cascading, fine textured foliage from February to April. The trumpet-shaped blooms have 5 lobes, are 1 to 1½ inches long, and are attractive to both butterflies and bumblebees. The shiny evergreen leaves are 1 to 3 inches long on 10-to-20-foot tall vines.
Carolina jessamine is easy to grow. It is attractive on an arbor where the slender branches hung with yellow flowers can be seen from below. This plant will stay in scale and can be used on decks and porches and near patios and entryways. It is good in containers and as a ground cover along steep banks to help control erosion.
Carolina jessamine tolerates either full sun or partial shade. Flowering is more prolific and foliage growth is denser in full sun.
This vine is very adaptable and will grow in a variety of conditions. For best results, plant it in rich, well-drained soil. Moist soil is ideal, but the vine is able to withstand periods of drought once established. Carolina jessamine grows well in USDA Zones 6 to 9.
Plant from containers during cool fall weather; space plants 3 feet apart as a ground cover, and 4 to 8 feet apart for fence or trellis climbers.
Fertilize while the plant is actively growing with moderate amounts of a slow-release, balanced fertilizer, such as a 12-6-6. Do not overfeed, since excessive fertilizer can reduce flowering.
Older vines that become top heavy or sparse can be pruned back to a few feet above ground level after flowering. Remove dead or broken branches and shape the plant each year after bloom. Mow groundcovers every few years to maintain density.
Cultivars & Related Species
‘Pride of Augusta’ is a double-flowered selection of Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens).
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
- ‘Pride of Augusta’: This is a popular double-flowered cultivar that stays in bloom longer than the species. The flowers are very attractive at close range, and look like miniature roses. This cultivar may also be listed as ‘Plena’.
- ‘Margarita’: This cultivar has slightly larger & more prominent flowers, and is more cold hardy than the species.
- ‘Pale Yellow’: May also be listed as ‘Woodlander‘s Pale Yellow‘ or ‘Woodlander‘s Light Yellow‘. The flowers are creamy-yellow and larger than the species. This cultivar is not as cold hardy, and is best grown in USDA Zone 8 and southward.
- Butterscotch™: This cultivar flowers 2 to 3 weeks later than the species and repeat blooms in the fall.
- Lemon Drop™ (‘Conrop’; PP11956): This vine is more compact with shrub-like habit and with softer yellow flowers.
Swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankanii), also known as Rankin‘s jessamine, is a native southeastern species. Unlike Carolina jessamine, it flowers heavily both in fall as well as in spring. Flowers may even appear sporadically during warmer days of winter. This species has yellow flowers that are identical to the Carolina jessamine, but the flowers are not fragrant. Swamp jessamine will tolerate periods of water-logged soils, but once established is also a very drought tolerant plant. It grows best in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
All parts of this plant are very poisonous. The sap may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Children can be poisoned by sucking the nectar from the flowers. Insects or diseases are rarely a problem on Carolina jessamine. Deer and rabbits will not eat it.
- Attributes: Genus: Gelsemium Species: sempervirens Family: Loganiaceae Life Cycle: Perennial Country Or Region Of Origin: SE. U.S.A. to Honduras Fire Risk Rating: extreme flammability Wildlife Value: Areas of dense growth provide extreme weather and winter cover. Its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Play Value: Wildlife Food Source Climbing Method: Twining Dimensions: Height: 10 ft. 0 in. – 20 ft. 0 in. Width: 20 ft. 0 in. – 30 ft. 0 in.
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Ground Cover Native Plant Poisonous Vine Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Semi-evergreen Habit/Form: Creeping Spreading Growth Rate: Medium Maintenance: Low Texture: Medium
- Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: High Organic Matter Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Available Space To Plant: 6-feet-12 feet 12-24 feet 24-60 feet NC Region: Coastal Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
- Fruit: Fruit Color: Brown/Copper Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Capsule Fruit Length: < 1 inch Fruit Width: < 1 inch Fruit Description: Thin, flattened capsule fruit. A dry, brown, laterally compressed or flattened capsule, dehiscent, persistent, ca 1″ long.
- Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Flower Inflorescence: Cyme Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Funnel Flower Petals: 4-5 petals/rays fused petals Flower Size: 1-3 inches Flower Description: The Carolina jasmine has bright, fragrant, funnel-shaped, yellow flowers (to 1.5” long) that appear either solitary or in clusters (cymes) in late winter to early spring (February – April depending on location). Its flowers often serve as a demonstrative signal that winter is coming to an end. in axillary dichasia/cymes, or flower solitary. Bright yellow, fragrant, commonly 1-3, zygomorphic; sepals obtuse, shedding before fruit; corolla funnelform with 5 short, overlapping lobes, orange within, to 1″ long x 1″ broad.
- Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Semi-evergreen Leaf Color: Gold/Yellow Green Purple/Lavender Leaf Feel: Glossy Leaf Value To Gardener: Long-lasting Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Gold/Yellow Purple/Lavender Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Opposite Leaf Shape: Cuneate Lanceolate Oblong Leaf Margin: Entire Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Width: < 1 inch Leaf Description: Shiny, lanceolate, light green leaves (to 1-3” long) which are evergreen but may develop yellow to purple hues in winter. The plants are semi-evergreen toward the northern limits of their growing range. Opposite, simple, oblong to oblong-lanceolate, acute to acuminate, broad cueate, entire, dark green, glabrous, glossy, to 2″ long.
- Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Green Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: Greenish brown to brown, glabrous, thin and wiry, twining; leaves and inflorescences typically borne on dwarf shoots to short pins.
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Naturalized Area Vertical Spaces Woodland Landscape Theme: Butterfly Garden Native Garden Pollinator Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Screen/Privacy Specimen Attracts: Butterflies Hummingbirds Pollinators Resistance To Challenges: Deer Salt Problems: Poisonous to Humans Problem for Children Weedy
- Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: High Poison Symptoms: Sweating, nausea, muscular weakness, dilated pupils, lowered temperature, convulsions, respiratory failure Poison Toxic Principle: Alkaloids Causes Contact Dermatitis: No Poison Part: Flowers Fruits Leaves Roots Seeds Stems
As warmer weather creeps in, so do the cheerful flowers of Carolina jessamine, also called yellow jessamine.
This native vine blooms in late winter to early spring and is a lovely vine to train up fences, pergolas, and trellises.
In the wild, Carolina jessamine is typically found in open woodlands and along roadsides. Once temperatures rise, the treetops and hedgerows start twinkling with two-inch-long, yellow flowers. The trumpet-shaped flowers also put out a sweet fragrance, making the vine that much more attractive for pollinators and gardeners alike.
This native evergreen vine stays fairly bushy and compact when it’s grown in full sun. In shadier spots, it will climb up trees and shrubs as it tries to get closer to the sunlight, with the vines reaching up to 20 feet. The long and narrow leaves appear opposite each other along the wiry bronze stems.
In home gardens, it’s a great vine to use on arbors, trellises, and pergolas. It covers these structures quickly but is fairly easy to keep in bounds. It can also be planted as a ground cover and works well along steep banks.
Carolina jessamine is known scientifically as Gelsemium sempervirens. Home gardeners may wish to look for the popular double-flowered cultivar ‘Pride of Augusta’ (sometimes known as ‘Plena’) that features a longer blooming season.
Gardeners should know that the sap can be a skin irritant for some individuals and all parts of the plant contain strychnine-related toxins and are poisonous. Recent research suggests that the plant’s nectar may also be toxic to honeybees if gathered in large amounts.
Planting and Care
While it will tolerate some shade, plant Carolina jessamine in full sun for maximum flowering.
The vine is somewhat drought tolerant but will perform best if planted in a rich soil and watered regularly. If it gets too dry, it will drop some of its leaves but will usually bounce back once the moisture returns.
The plant tolerates frost and has few disease or insect problems. You can use a balanced fertilizer during the plant’s growing season, but take care not to overfertilize since this can reduce flowering.
For more information on Carolina jessamine, contact your county Extension office.
- Florida Forest Plants: Yellow Jessamine
- Yellow Jessamine, Native to Florida
Also on Gardening Solutions
- Fragrance Gardens
- Versatile Vines
- Native Plants
Carolina jessamine, Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
• Zones 8-24, 26-33
• Full sun or partial shade
• Regular watering
• Climbs by: twining
In late winter and early spring, when little else is blooming, Carolina jessamine is covered in brilliant yellow, fragrant, tubular flowers 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. It’s good looking out of bloom too, thanks to its cloak of shiny light green, 1- to 4-inch, oval leaves.
Growing to about 20 feet, this vine twines easily up all kinds of supporting structures, including trellises and chain link fences. Individual stems are long streamers; they can be trimmed back, woven into their support, or left to sway in the breeze from the top of an arbor or pergola.
Carolina jessamine is a carefree plant, little bothered by pests and diseases. It performs well in ordinary soil but grows faster and more luxuriantly in rich, well-amended soil. It grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. It can be pruned at any time of the year, though the best time for the job is after the bloom period ends. At this time, thin out tangled stems and superfluous growth, if necessary. Vines have a tendency to become topheavy; you can prune them back severely when this happens.
Note: All parts of Carolina jessamine are toxic if ingested.
Carolina Jessamine in the Landscape
If you look around at the landscapes of south Louisiana in mid-February, you may see leafless trees and shrubs, freeze-damaged tropicals and dormant lawns. But if you look closer, you will begin to see colors of hope inconspicuously placed among the winter drab of our landscapes. These pops of color in the gardens consists of camellia Japonica, Japanese magnolias and many cool-season annuals.
One plant that tends to take a back seat to these all-stars is Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens). This is a native vine that has a vast habitat. Carolina jessamine can be found as far north as Virginia; down to South Florida and as far west as Texas. The natural habitat of Carolina jessamine can be found on the woodland edges and also in semi-open fields. In the landscape, Carolina jessamine can be grown on trellises or along picket or chain-link fences to add a unique element to the garden.
When choosing a location to plant Carolina jessamine, pick an area of the garden that receives full to partial sunlight and also has well-drained soil. Because Carolina jessamine is a semi-evergreen, late winter-blooming vine with fragrant yellow flowers, consider an area of the garden from which you can enjoy looking at it.
Individual vines can reach up to 20 feet if the plant is left to grow naturally. To control the growth of Carolina jessamine, prune in March or early spring. This will help maintain the shape and size of the plant to the desired dimensions. After pruning in early spring, be sure to fertilize with a general-purpose fertilizer.
Aside from the many attractive qualities Carolina jessamine possesses, it is a beneficial plant to encourage wildlife to come into the garden. Its flowers attract our native bees, hummingbirds and the spicebush swallowtail butterflies.
This plant typically has very little disease and insect problems. It the vine is not pruned and becomes dense, wasps may become a problem.
Neil Odenwald, a professor emeritus of landscape architecture at LSU, says, “All parts of the plants are poisonous if swallowed. Leaves, flowers and roots contain a poison that protects this native vine from forging animals.” He goes on to state that the plant is safe to touch; therefore, performing any maintenance on the plant will not be an issue.