The Plant Native

Carolina Jessamine

Highlights

Do you live in the South or Mid-Atlantic and have a fence or trellis? Plant some Carolina Jessamine immediately! Carolina Jessamine is a native vine found along the southeastern US. It blooms in the spring with sweet-smelling yellow flowers. When not in bloom, it’s low maintenance and evergreen. You can easily train them on wire, fences, or trellis and create a wall of flowers. Plant them in a sunny to part-sunny spot and take lots of pictures.

Sun – Part Shade
Evergreen leaves
Longlasting spring flowers
Gelsemium sempervirens
Garden goals! A Carolina Jessamine in full bloom

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Carolina Jessamine

Table of Contents

This evergreen vine has a few other common names: yellow jessamine, Carolina jasmine, and evening trumpetflower. Whatever you want to call it, it’s well worth planting.

Early American history + Carolina Jessamine

According to Plants of Colonial Days, Carolina Jessamine was shipped over to England as early as 1640 as an example of beautiful plants from the New World. Thomas Jefferson’s gardening notes include Carolina Jessamine as an ornamental to use at Monticello. 

Do you have a fence? Put some Jessamine on it!

When does Carolina Jessamine bloom?

Carolina Jessamine is one of the earliest vines to flower in the south—as early as January in southern locations like Florida, and April/May in the Mid-Atlantic. Their sunny yellow flowers are a welcome sight and a harbinger of spring.

But…they are toxic if consumed

All parts of a Carolina Jessamine—leaves, flowers, nectar, roots—are poisonous. If you have children or pets who are prone to nibbling in the garden, this is probably not the plant for you. (If you want another vine that’s amazing and good smelling, plant a Passionflower vine.)

Carolina Jessamine's range includes the south and a large chunk of the Mid-Atlantic. Map from the USDA.

Where is Carolina Jessamine native?

Carolina Jessamine is native from Virginia south to Florida, and all the way south to Guatemala. Because of climate change, you’ll now find it growing in Northeast states like New York and Pennsylvania, too.

How to grow Carolina Jessamine

Carolina Jessamine is a relatively easy plant to grow, and it can thrive in a variety of different conditions. Here’s a quick guide to getting started with planting Carolina Jessamine:

1. Choose the Right Location

Carolina Jessamine prefers to grow in full to partial sunlight, so choose a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. According to the University of Florida, “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.”

It can also tolerate a variety of soil types, but it prefers well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Avoid planting in areas that are prone to flooding or that have poor drainage. Carolina Jessamine doesn’t like to stay wet.

2. Prepare the Soil

Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or other debris (large roots, rocks, etc) from the area you’re planting in. Add organic matter (like compost) to the soil if it is very sandy or dense with clay. Mix the new organic matter into the soil to a depth of about six inches. This helps give the roots nutrients, especially during its first year.

3. Plant the Jessamine

Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole and backfill it with soil, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Water the plant well after planting to help it settle in.

4. Water and Mulch

Water the plant regularly during its first growing season to help it establish a strong root system. Once established, Carolina Jessamine is fairly drought-tolerant, but it will benefit from occasional watering during dry spells. Mulch around the plant to help retain moisture and keep down the weeds.

What are the benefits of growing Carolina Jessamine?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to plant Carolina Jessamine, let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of this native plant:

Beautiful Flowers

One of the most obvious benefits of Carolina Jessamine is its beautiful flowers. The plant has clusters of fragrant yellow flowers in early spring, adding a bright splash of color.

Attracts Pollinators

Carolina Jessamine is an important source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. By planting this native plant, you can help support local pollinator populations and encourage a healthy ecosystem.

Low Maintenance

Carolina Jessamine is a relatively low-maintenance plant once established. It is drought-tolerant and fairly pest-resistant, so it doesn’t require a lot of watering or care after the first year.

Perfect for a trellis or as a groundcover

Carolina Jessamine can be grown in a variety of ways. It can be trained to grow up a trellis or fence, or it can be left to sprawl as a groundcover. 

What to plant with Carolina Jessamine

Carolina Jessamine is great paired with other native plants that thrive in the south. (Must have include: milkweed, passionflower, native magnolias, and American Beautyberry.) Here are some other native plants that love the same heat and weather:

Native flowers for the south

black-eyed-susans-native-flower-garden

Black-Eyed Susan

coneflower-native-plant-swallowtail-butterfly

Coneflower

monarch-butterfly-on-a-common-milkweed-plant

Milkweed

native-vine-passion-flower-in-bloom

Passionflower

Native shrubs and trees for the south

Carolina Jessamine is a gorgeous native vine that’s perfect for southern fences, trellises, or groundcovers. Each Carolina Jessamine flower attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. As a bonus, it’s leaves are evergreen, so even when not in bloom it’s green. Plant Carolina Jessamine today in any Southern or Mid-Atlantic garden and watch pollinators enjoy it for years to come. Happy planting!

UPDATED —
02/19/2024
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