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Jasmine is a high-maintenance plant but really worth the effort

When the perfume of the scented flowers fills the room you’ll be glad you gave it all that TLC

Jasmine polyanthus is a vine that must be trained onto some kind of support.

Many flowering houseplants don’t bloom much during the winter, so finding one that does is a great discovery, even if the plant is rather high maintenance.

Jasmine is one such plant. The type most commonly used as a houseplant is Jasmine polyanthus — a perennial vine. Plants that have buds are usually available in garden centres in the fall. Jasmine has fragrant white blossoms that are produced during the winter and early spring. The flowers are tubular, about 2.5 cm in diameter and produced at the ends of the stems. Although the flowers are white, depending on the variety, the buds can have a pink tinge to them, and sometimes the flowers also have a pink colouration.

Because the plant is a fast-growing vine it will need a sturdy trellis to climb, and the stems will need to be trained onto the trellis. The foliage is attractive — oval leaves that are shiny and stiff — that will need to be kept clean and free of dust.

This is not an easy-care plant; it is demanding and requires specific care if it is to perform well. It must have very porous, well-drained soil — not just a good-quality soilless mix; the mix has to have bark chips or some other organic matter added to it to increase its porosity. Consistent watering is a must, because if the soil becomes dry the plant will deteriorate and will not recover. The soil should be kept moist at all times and because such a porous soil is used, it dries out quickly.

Jasmine likes cool temperatures so it may not be happy in ordinary room temperatures during the winter. A sunroom or a spare bedroom that is kept cooler than the rest of the house might be a suitable location. The plant can be set on a south-facing windowsill to receive good light, and also, the temperature near a window is usually quite a bit cooler than the rest of the room.

This high-maintenance plant is also vulnerable to insect infestations. Keeping it healthy and vigorous will help prevent such problems as will frequent careful inspections. Mealy bugs, aphids, white fly and scale all like jasmine, so a weekly spraying with insecticidal soap would be a good preventive measure. The plant will bloom for a couple of months and then the flowering will taper off toward spring.

Jasmine performs best when it is put outdoors for the summer. It must be protected from frost so must be put out and taken in before spring and fall frosts are a danger. In late spring, before the plant is put outside for the summer, it should be repotted. The soil should be changed and the roots cut back to allow the plant to be replanted into the same-size pot as it does not like to be overpotted. Cut back the foliage as well. Locate the plant where it will get no more than four hours of direct sun per day. Keep an eye out for insects and water the plant regularly; don’t let the soil dry out.

It will put forth abundant growth during the summer; train it on a trellis, clipping off any wayward stems to maintain an attractive shape. As the summer draws to a close and the temperatures cool, buds will begin to set; be careful not to prune later in the summer or you might be removing setting buds.

It is the cool autumn temperatures that prompt the plant to set buds so leaving it outdoors as long as possible while avoiding frost will ensure that a good set is achieved. A jasmine plant’s failure to bloom is usually caused by its not experiencing low enough temperatures for a long enough period of time during the budding period.

Before frost threatens, (it can be taken indoors overnight if an early frost is forecast and then put back outside) the jasmine is taken indoors and maintained. As winter approaches buds will turn into sweetly scented flowers, with the aroma most noticeable at night.

When a blooming jasmine plant is sitting in the sunroom or on a living room windowsill, the rewards of growing such a high-maintenance plant are obvious. All the TLC seems a small price to pay as the exhilarating perfume of the pretty flowers fills the air.

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