Carolina yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a lovely ignored native vine. It is native from Virginia to Texas to Florida, easily spotted growing in a sunny location growing on trees (USDA zones 6-9). It is the state flower of South Carolina. Grow it as a trellised vine or as a low shrub-like mound (ground cover).
Flowers often serve as an early call that winter is coming to an end. Carolina jessamine is prized for its spectacular display of fragrant, bright yellow flowers. At the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, where the vine is evergreen, it starts blooming in late March. This well-mannered vine climbs beautifully on a trellis, arbor or over fences and walls without smothering surrounding trees and shrubs. It is also useful as a mounding semi-evergreen ground cover.
Is there a reliable zone 6 jessamine? YES! ‘Margarita’ is a superior seedling selected by Don Jacobs of Eco Gardens in Decatur, Georgia. It has survived winters to -25 ºF in Pennsylvania. ‘Margarita’ has earned a Gold Medal Award winner from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society. Expect partial shoot dieback following a harsh winter.
For best results, plant it in a compost-rich, moist, well-drained, moderately acidic soil. A 1- year old established vine is able to tolerate periods of drought . ‘Margarita’ produces standout clear yellow trumpet flowers in early summer with some repeat bloom in fall. Its mild vanilla-like fragrance attracts a variety of pollinators.
A well-established vine may grow 20 feet or more when grown on a trellis. It benefits from pruning immediately after flowering.
Note: flowers, leaves, and roots contain poisonous strychnine-related alkaloids and may be lethal to humans and livestock. The floral nectar is reported to be toxic to honeybees if too much is consumed.