This tropical, evergreen shrub or small tree is native to parts of Asia. Where temperatures are not sufficiently high for this plant to grow outdoors, it is often grown as a conservatory or indoor plant.
Crêpe or Crape jasmine, also known as the pinwheel flower, or Nero’s crown, produces beautiful flowers and has attractive glossy foliage. There are both single and double-flowered varieties of crêpe jasmine. The flowers resemble those of gardenias.
This fast-growing perennial, despite its somewhat misleading name, is not actually a jasmine but a member of the Apocynaceae family. Apocynaceae plants exude a milky-colored, sticky sap from the stems when cut. In common with many of the plants in this family, crêpe jasmine is toxic.
For hundreds of years, plants that have white flowers and often an accompanying scent were referred to as “jasmine”.
|Scientific name||Tabernaemontana divaricata|
|Common names||Crêpe jasmine, Crape jasmine, pinwheel flower, Nero’s crown, East India rosebay|
|Height||6 to 8 feet (2.44 m)|
|Width||6 to 8 feet (2.44 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 9 to 11|
|Blooming season||Spring and Summer|
|Plant specific features||Evergreen, fast-growing, flowers sometimes fragrant|
How to Plant and Grow a Crepe Jasmine Bush
Where to Plant
This depends on whether you are in a zone where crêpe jasmine is hardy. It is a tropical plant. Although crêpe jasmine will tolerate occasional cooler temperatures, if you are in a colder region, grow this shrub as a conservatory or greenhouse plant.
Crêpe jasmine will not thrive if exposed to salt in the air or soil. Therefore, it is not a suitable choice for a coastal location.
If you have the temperature requirements to grow Tabernaemontana divaricata outdoors, then it can be used successfully as a hedging, border, or screening plant. If using for this purpose, you will be using multiple shrubs, and you should plant them about 5 feet (1.52 m) apart.
With careful pruning, it is possible to transform crêpe jasmine from a shrub into a tree. You can regularly remove the lower branches to retain a central stem or trunk. With its attractive flowers and glossy evergreen foliage, this tree looks good when planted in a border as a specimen plant.
When to Plant
In the correct planting zones, crêpe jasmine can be planted all year long.
Crepe Jasmine Shrubs Care and Maintenance
Crêpe jasmine will tolerate many soil types, although performs best if it is planted in slightly acidic soil. A pH value between 4.5 and 6 is ideal. The soil needs to be free-draining, as this shrub will not withstand long periods of wet feet.
The soil should be enriched with organic matter. Apply a mulch over the roots annually, taking care that the mulch does not touch the stem. This will act as a fertilizer, will improve the condition of the soil, and conserve moisture in the ground.
Although crêpe jasmine needs well-draining soil, and cannot be left sitting in soggy ground for prolonged periods, it will survive if the soil floods occasionally.
A young shrub has to establish a strong and robust root system. Without this, it will not be able to absorb water and nutrients from the soil to enable it to survive drier conditions when mature. It is therefore important to water the newly planted crêpe jasmine regularly for the first growing season.
Irrigate thoroughly and allow the soil surface to dry between watering. This will encourage the shrub to develop deep roots, which are much more efficient for accessing moisture when the ground is dry than shallow roots.
Once it is established, a crêpe jasmine will need watering less frequently. The shrub will tolerate drought conditions, although its flowering will be reduced.
When grown as a houseplant, you can reduce the amount of water during the shrub’s “rest” period, once the main flush of flowers has finished. However, the soil should never be allowed to dry out. During the flowering period, Tabernaemontana divaricata needs to be watered regularly, so that the soil is always moist.
Crêpe jasmine mustn’t however be allowed to sit in soggy soil, or it will rot.
In common with other flowering shrubs, crêpe jasmine should have an annual application of fertilizer in the spring. It needs to have some nitrogen to encourage lush, green foliage, but not too much, or it will grow foliage at the expense of flowers. For flowering, the shrub needs phosphorus.
You can use an organic compost that will also enrich the soil, such as well-rotted cow manure.
The timing of fertilizer application is important. Avoid fertilizing after the summer has started. Late applications of fertilizer risk the shrub growing new shoots that don’t have sufficient time to harden off before the onset of winter.
Crêpe jasmine flowers are best when planted in full sun, but they will also grow in partial shade. Insufficient sun will result in a leggy plant that doesn’t grow to its full potential, and flowering will be reduced.
If you are growing crêpe jasmine as a houseplant, it must be in a sunny location, where it will receive around at least 6 hours of sunlight. The best place to site your pot plant is in front of a south-facing, sunny windowsill, providing it is not shaded by other buildings.
Pruning and Repotting
Repotting a crêpe jasmine will be required if you are growing the shrub as an indoor plant. If the container is too small, the plant will become root bound. Although a root-bound plant will continue to flower, its health and longevity will be diminished.
Check the roots of a container-grown crêpe jasmine every couple of years. If necessary, if you don’t wish to pot into a larger container, prune the root system, change some of the growing medium, and retain the plant’s existing pot. When pruning the root system, you should keep the roots the size of the container.
Alternatively, if you have the space to allow the shrub to grow, remove the root ball from the existing pot and repot it into a larger container. The roots will have room to spread, and the plant will be able to grow.
For an outdoor, in-ground crêpe jasmine, if you don’t prune the shrub regularly it will grow into a small tree. If you want to keep it as a shrub, then it will have to be pruned regularly.
It is relatively simple to propagate crêpe jasmine. The most effective and quickest method is by taking semi-ripe stem cuttings.
Semi-ripe cuttings are those that have started to turn a little woody, but that are taken from the current season’s growth.
The cuttings should be about 4 inches (10.16 cm) long and removed from the parent plant in the summer. The use of a hormone rooting powder is beneficial as it will improve the success rate and speed up the rooting process.
An equally effective method to propagate this shrub is by layering. If the crêpe jasmine has some low-growing branches, don’t remove them, but peg them down into the soil. After a few months, you will find they have rooted (without any intervention) and can be cut free from the parent plant.
Pot the small plant up and keep the pot moist. Overwinter in a cool, light place that is out of direct sunlight. The following spring, you can transplant the shrub outdoors and grow on in the normal way.
Pests and diseases
The crêpe jasmine is a shrub that will thrive without a lot of work once it is established. It is fairly drought-tolerant and doesn’t like to be overwatered.
Overwatering is one of the main causes of problems you may have when growing this plant. Too much humidity, or poorly draining soil, will lead to fungal infection and disease.
The plant’s roots will rot, and the plant will die. There is no cure.
Good growing conditions are the most effective method to prevent difficulties with growing crêpe jasmine successfully.
Insect problems are not usually serious and will only cause cosmetic damage. Pests such as white flies, scale insects, and caterpillars can often be controlled with an organic pesticide.
Temperature and Humidity
Tabernaemontana divaricata is a tropical plant. It likes warmth and also to be kept moist, but not wet. It will flower most prolifically between the spring and fall. However, you can expect sporadic blooms throughout the year.
Other Uses for Crêpe Jasmine
All parts of the crêpe jasmine bush are poisonous if used incorrectly, however, Tabernaemontaa divaricata has been used in medicine for many centuries. It is used as a treatment to help the healing process of skin injuries and as an analgesic. Despite its toxicity, crêpe jasmine is also used to treat various maladies in parts of Asia.
Other, nonmedical uses for crêpe jasmine include using the wood of the stems for incense burning and parts of the seed heads to produce a red-colored dye.
Types of Crêpe Jasmine You Can Grow
Two main types of crêpe jasmine exist, the more common single-flowered and the double-flowered variety. Both forms bear pretty white flowers and glossy long leaves.
The single-flowering types have much less fragrance, whereas the scent of the double-flowered variety is more noticeable, particularly in the evenings.
There are cultivars such as “Flore Plena” or butterfly gardenia and “Grandifolia “ which have pure white double flowers.
A variegated crêpe jasmine is also available, though much less readily than the plain green types.Tabernaemontana divaricata variegata which comes from India is evergreen, with leaves that are medium green and with a creamy variegation.
This variety has stronger scented flowers than many other varieties. If it is grown in a warm area, this shrub will flower on and off throughout the year, but the most abundant flowering period will be in the spring.
The Crêpe Jasmine shrub is a perfect choice of plant to make a focal point in a shrubbery.
This is a versatile plant as it can also be grown as an attractive tree.
If you have a place by a window or door, you can enjoy the fragrance of the crêpe jasmine’s scented flowers during summer evenings.
*image by yogiankit165/depositphotos