Lovely Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis)

by Mark Hooten, the Garden Doc

About the Author
Mark Hooten has been fascinated by horticulture since childhood, with interests including tropical fruits, cacti, ethnobotany, entheogens, and variegates. Having been employed in both FL and CA by botanical gardens and specialist nurseries as horticulturist, manager, propagator, and consultant, he is happy to speak with fellow plant worshipers at TopTropicals Nursery. Mark is currently busy writing a volume on the complicated history of croton varieties. His passions are plants, cats, and art of painting.

Question: Could you recommend an easy to grow flowering vine for a large trellis? Something with a sweet fragrance?

Answer: Personally, I have to consider the "Madagascar Jasmine" (Stephanotis) as being one of my favorite flowering vines. I used to grow one as a windowsill-plant in Indiana when I was just a kid.  Even indoors in the far north, (wrapping itself around a small home-made bamboo trellis), it somehow managed to reliably flower off and on all year long, even in mid-winter. I remember in particular one time when it flowered during Christmas which made it seem extra special.

My experience with this plant (growing it in Indiana, California, and Florida), is that it is one of the easiest to grow under any environment where a plant can be expected to actually grow. And there aren't really a whole lot of beautiful, lush, flowering and fragrant plants of which that can be said. Stephanotis does climb by means of coiling its stems around something, so all that is necessary is some form of support.

While many sources say that this plant will tolerate full sun, I have never personally found this to be true, and have found it to much prefer a bright while still rather shady location. When in flower, the long-lived, heavily textured and rather waxy textured flowers emit a wonderful fragrance similar to many jasmines, even though it is a member of the "milkweed" subfamily (belonging to Apocynaceae family that also includes perfumed Plumerias). Plus, the flower clusters are sturdy enough that they make excellent corsages and cut flowers.  I give this species a very high rating for both ease of growth and performance, not only as a house plant in northern climates, but also as an elegant climber year around in warmer places such as Florida and California.