Winter Jasmine for the Cold Weather Garden

How many plants do you know that bloom in the winter? Hellebores, yes. Witchhazels, ditto. Snowdrops, depending on how mild the winter is. Today’s post, however, is in praise of Jasminum nudiflorum, or winter jasmine.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum gracing a brick wall at Dumbarton Oaks (near the Rose Garden)

I first understood the allure of this arching, trailing shrub when I saw it in bloom at Dumbarton Oaks, early on in my education as a gardener.  I mean, how beautiful is that?

There are other locations at Dumbarton where the visitor comes across it, although not necessarily as dramatically placed.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Growing through a stone "lattice" wall in another part of Beatrix Farrand's masterpiece.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Behind the library, overlooking the grass steps.

Winter jasmine’s period of bloom is roughly six to eight weeks long, a real plus for color-starved eyes in winter. However, the flowers don’t appear all at once. They open sporadically, which means that the effect can be less than spectacular. Best performance is in full-sun sites.

According to one of my favorite garden publications, The Avant Gardener (don’t look for a website, it doesn’t have one), winter jasmine will spread up to 10 to 15′ wide and grow 2-3′ high. It’s hardy down to Zone 6 and supposed can be cut back to about 12″ high occasionally, to promote strong growth.

Even during the spring, summer and fall, however, winter jasmine is a good choice for spilling over stone walls in the landscape. The new shoots are green, and the foliage is delicate in appearance. Here it is in a Chevy Chase client’s garden last June.

Jasminum nudiflorum, winter jasmine, stone walls

Winter jasmine looks good year-round.

As you can see from this photo, a happy specimen of this plant will just keep growing . . . and growing . . . and growing. (This, of course, makes it a great choice for planting on sunny slopes – it may not be evergreen but since its shoots are green in winter, the ground won’t look bare.) So if there is soil at the bottom of the wall where you plant it, and you don’t want it to root there, a little maintenance will be necessary.  Otherwise, sit back and enjoy it.

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9 Comments on “Winter Jasmine for the Cold Weather Garden”

  1. Winter jasmine! I saw it this summer at D.O., but just could not remember the name. Thanks! So pretty.

  2. sequoiagardens Says:

    You floored me completely, Melissa. I know this as a rather wippy shrub, about as unimpressive as any shrub can be. The sort of thing you found in a 60s suburban garden because they are ‘no trouble at all’. Which is why somewhere along the way I ended up with one in my huge garden… I’ve never seen their wippyness exploited into hangingness. And what beautiful walls at Dumbarton Oaks, one of my bucket-list gardens! (Where their thin cladding is ideal on the beautiful brickwork.) I have a sunny wall, although it isn’t very high…. I’m thinking… Thanks for sharing! Jack

    • Melissa Says:

      Yes, I think unless they are planted somewhere where they can tumble over a wall or cascade down a slope, their appeal is muted. So see if you can find the right spot!

  3. Nadine Says:

    I must try and find a place to have at least one specimen in my garden. Didn’t think much of them before. Will check with my garden center.
    Thanks for this brilliant idea, Nadine

  4. Thanks for the article. Very useful for Canadian Landscapers.

  5. Adele Ashkar Says:

    It’s wonderful to have a winter jasmine close to your windows so you can really enjoy it from indoors at this time of year. Don’t make the mistake of planting it where no one ever sees it in bloom! As it get older it gets thicker, and I find I have to go underneath it and cut away the old undergrowth – keeping it as a thin veil over stone or brickwork is really beautiful!

    • Adele, what a wonderful suggestion! I have a client with one really old, woody specimen of this plant and three new “baby” ones. You’ve inspired me to try to prune out the older bits underneath this spring. Thank you so much!

  6. Adele Ashkar Says:

    Another fun detail: my collie loves to pull up underneath the jasmine overhanging the stone wall and cool off in the summer!

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