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Spring sunshine

Carolina jasmine signals spring with early bloom

The early flowers of spring—right around the corner—seem so bright and exciting, perhaps because they signal the end of winter. I have a spring-blooming vine, Carolina jasmine, in my garden that seems to glow like the sun when it flowers.

CAROLINA JASMINE (GELSEMIUM SEMPERVIRENS) has tubular, canary yellow flowers that cover the plant each year in April. The flowers are said to be slightly fragrant, though I can’t detect a scent.

It is a beautiful vine even when not flowering. The foliage is evergreen to semievergreen, and the plant can grow up to 20 feet in height, along a fence or the ground. If pruning is necessary to maintain its size or shape, it is best to prune right after flowering.

This drought tolerant vine grows best in moist soil. It tolerates light shade, but it grows and blooms best in full sun. It has no serious pests, but should not be planted near livestock or chickens because it can be toxic if grazed on.

Kentucky is about as far north as Carolina jasmine will grow—it is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 7-10. The cultivar “Margarita” is known to be the most winter hardy and has been growing in my garden for eight years without any problem. While it only blooms once a year, I am always thankful when it does. Its bright and cheery flowers glow in my garden and welcome another beautiful spring.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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