Asian jasmine is a low-lying broadleaf plant native to Japan and Korea. It is widely used throughout the American southeast in landscaping as groundcover for large areas, often as an alternative to more traditional turf grass. It is able to thrive in a wide range of environments but does best in shaded areas with moist, well drained soil. Periodic mowing and trimming is required, and without periodic maintenance, the plant can become invasive, choking out other plant life in the area.
Trachelospermum asiaticum, or Asian jasmine, is a short plant, typically growing from 6 – 12 inches (about 15 – 30 cm) tall when it is not cut and manicured. It has thick, broad leaves with a leathery texture, each measuring about 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) long. These leaves form a heavy carpet completely obscuring the ground beneath. Asian jasmine is able to climb vertical surfaces, but is more likely to spread horizontally.
In the American southeast, the Asian jasmine has become a popular alternative to a typical grass lawn, and it has many advantages over the more common turf. Asian jasmine is resistant to a broad range of temperatures, able to remain green in conditions where grass goes dormant and turns brown. Especially severe winters may damage or kill the plant, but in less extreme conditions, it simply turns brown and returns to its deep green color in spring.
Insects and other animals are not drawn to Asian jasmine. The milky sap is actually an irritant, avoided by deer and other animals which might nibble at a grass lawn. Humans are also vulnerable to this sap, which will cause irritation if introduced to the eyes, nose or mouth. Care should be taken to wash hands after handling Asian jasmine to prevent rubbing sap into vulnerable parts.
Initially, the Asian jasmine requires regular watering. As the plant matures, however, the thick ground cover begins to hold moisture better and the plant becomes more drought resistant. Left untended, this cover may become too effective at holding in moisture, providing an environment for fungal diseases that can kill the plant.
Mowing thins out the cover, allowing more air to flow under the leaves and helping to prevent fungal growth. Experts recommend mowing in early winter, with the lawn mower elevated to its highest setting. Depending on the rate of growth, a second mow may be required in midsummer. Periodic trimming and edging is also needed to prevent spreading to undesired areas.
Weeds often find it difficult to grow among Asian jasmine’s dense cover, but this same trait can be a threat to other desired plants. Left unrestrained, the plant will sprawl to cover and choke bedding plants, shrubs, and trees. Regular trimming is typcally the best way to keep the plant contained.