Not many of us have room for large collections of fragrant flowering plants to grace the dreary winter months. Perhaps a workable alternative is the strategic placement of single plants, or small groups of plants to provide pleasing fragrance without them being cloying and overpowering.
Here are just a few suggestions, focusing on white flowers whose fragrances can warm the soul.
Many plants are called jasmine, but for the record, the botanical genus for real jasmine is Jasminum. What we call Confederate or star jasmine is actually of the genus Trachelospermum. Carolina jasmine or jessamine is a member of the genus Gelsemium. Orange jasmine is a member of the genus Murraya, in the citrus family. Night blooming jasmine is a member of the genus Cestrum.
While many true jasmines are not particularly cold hardy in our region, there are at least two: winter jasmine, which does not offer up the heady fragrance of its tender relatives, and common jasmine, which does. However, since we’re looking for indoor fragrance in winter, we’ll move on. Nothing to see here.
Jasminum polyanthum or winter jasmine, native to China and Burma, bears single, very fragrant blossoms, often tinged pink. Hence its other common name, pink jasmine.
J. sambac, despite its common name, Arabian jasmine, is native to a small area east of the Himalayas, situated in both Bhutan and India. There are several recognized cultivars offering single, semi-double, and double blossoms of intoxicating sweetness. It is J. sambac that is used to produce jasmine tea.
J. grandiflorum, another amazingly fragrant jasmine, hailing from central Asia, is also known as poet’s jasmine.
True jasmines generally prefer bright light and regular light to moderate feeding, depending on the particular species. J. polyanthum prefers consistently moist, but not soggy growing medium. J. sambac and J. grandiflorum prefer to dry out in-between watering. Both J. polyanthum and J. grandiflorum need support for their tendrils. All of these jasmines seem to have few, if any, insect enemies, or issues with disease (as long as you don’t waterlog them).
Native to the West Indies, Night blooming jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum, prefers at least six hours of sunlight daily, and will bloom consistently through the winter if the temperature is kept between 70-80°F. C. nocturnum prefers regular watering, but not to the point of waterlogging the roots. It is a vigorous grower, requiring regular feeding. Watch out for spider mites and wooly aphids.
If you’re up to the challenge, nothing packs as much fragrance power as gardenias, but they can be even fussier indoors than out. Ask around for cultivars that do particularly well indoors if you decide to accept this challenge. If you succeed, you will be handsomely rewarded.
Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) are native across Asia, and have been in cultivation for a very long time. Many gardenias are cold hardy in our region, but when planted in pots, they should be moved to a brightly lit location indoors for overwintering. Be aware that gardenias are susceptible to many pests indoors. Let them become fairly dry between watering, and keep the temperature at or above 60°F. Being too damp and too cool for prolonged periods will prove fatal to gardenias. They like a noticeable difference between day and night temperatures. There are many gardenia cultivars available, in double or single form. The single forms are equally fragrant, and the newly opened flowers are quite lovely.
(Header photo of Gardenia jasminoides ©forest71 – Fotolia.com)