The various jasmine species are favorites of those who enjoy a sweet-scented plant when it’s in bloom. Some types of jasmine are not well adapted to the hot, sunny climate in parts of Arizona, but several species do well in the desert, provided you give them a bit of water. During the heat of the Arizona summer, these plants benefit from partial shade, especially in the afternoon.
Jasminum sambac is a frost-tender member of the Jasmine plant family. This species of jasmine is the one used to make jasmine tea. It is called pikake in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands where it has been introduced and grows like a weed. It is also hardy in many parts of Arizona, including the Phoenix area. An evergreen shrub, it grows as tall as 10 feet and spreads by underground runners. It can withstand the hot Arizona sun as well as partial shade. When the temperature drops to freezing, you must protect this plant with a blanket or sheet of plastic. Like the other jasmines, it grows best in well-drained soil that has lots of organic materials. Fertilize this plant with a 10-10-10 plant food once each month, starting in spring and continuing until fall.
The Carolina yellow jasmine, or Gelsemium sempervirens, is a climbing plant with yellow flowers that bloom from mid-February until May in the Phoenix area. It is adaptable to dry climates, but will not tolerate full sun in Arizona. Because it quickly grows as tall as 18 feet, many people choose this vining climber for covering unattractive fences or outbuildings. Its stems are reddish brown and they become woody and up to 6 inches thick. Flowers are formed like small trumpets and have mouths that flare open to 1 inch in diameter. Plant Carolina jasmine in a shady area and give it water if you begin to notice leaves dropping. You can grow the Carolina jasmine in fertile, well-drained soil up to an altitude of 2500 feet in Arizona.
Grand Duke of Tuscany Jasmine
This cultivar of Jasminum sambac is a slow-growing shrub that can get leggy if you allow its branches to grow without pruning them. For a nice shape, keep it pruned to about 3 feet tall. It will take full sun or partial shade, although it benefits from some shade during the heat of summer days in Arizona. Having one of the strongest scents of all the jasmines, it also has the largest flowers: they can grow up to 2 inches in diameter and resemble small roses. It tolerates the dry climate of southern Arizona well and will die if you give it too much water. The cultural requirements of this plant are the same as for the standard Arabian jasmine.