Orange Jasmine & Firescaping

orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata)

orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata)

I bought an expensive five-gallon orange jasmine because I love the smell, but have no idea or information on taking care of it. How do I plant it and where is the best place for it? Sun? Shade? Either? What do I feed it? Should I leave it in a pot/container or plant it in the ground?
>Olga Kowaiter, Glendale
Orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata) is a warm-weather plant that has a close relationship with the common orange tree. They share a Southeast Asian habitat, are both in the rue family of plants, have fragrant white flowers and respond well to regular water and fertilization.
The difference between them is that orange jasmine is promoted as a species with a narrow, strictly tropical range of temperature tolerance, whereas the orange tree and other citrus are considered to be more widely adaptable and sub-tropical.
Contrary to what horticultural literature has to say on the subject, I have found orange jasmine to grow well in the San Fernando Valley, from Sherman Oaks to Woodland Hills.
The sort of hard freeze we experience every 10 years or so might kill it, just as it can bougainvillea and hibiscus, but that is not a convincing argument not to plant it, considering its virtues.
Orange jasmine (or jessamine) is a woody perennial that blooms on and off throughout the year. I have seen it planted both individually as a specimen plant and as a hedge.
It has a fairly rapid growth rate and will bloom more heavily if, while developing, its top shoots are cut back. This will encourage more shoots to develop from the base of the plant. The plant will be more compact and display more flowers as a result.
I have seen it flower in full- and partial-sun locations. You need only be aware that the more sun it receives, the more water and fertilizer it requires.
Although orange jasmine can grow in our dry valley climate, it will benefit from any practice that fools it into “thinking” it is in a more moist environment.
In its tropical home, heavy rainfall leaches minerals out of the soil below. Instead, surface organic matter is constantly decomposing, providing the mineral nutrients the plant needs. To mimic this constant mineral feed, fertilizer should be available to orange jasmine throughout the year. This is most easily achieved by sprinkling long-lasting slow-release fertilizer over the soil surface.
Preserve soil moisture by maintaining several inches of mulch, consisting of straw, pine needles, or chopped prunings or wood chips.
In truth, whatever you do to keep a citrus tree healthy, you should do to orange jasmine as well.
Where watering is concerned, soil should be kept just slightly moist, neither bone dry nor soggy wet.
Take care that micronutrients such as iron, zinc and manganese are included in its fertilization regimen. Being native to the tropics, it will prefer a slightly acidic soil pH. Since our soil pH is on the alkaline side, make it more acidic by application of gypsum, ammonium sulfate or other products that contain sulfur.
Sulfur combines with the hydrogen in water to form sulfuric acid, lowering soil pH.
Orange jasmine, in the manner of orange trees, can live for several hundred years. At the famous French chateau Palace of Versailles, built by Louis XIV, there are orange trees growing in large pots that were planted in the 18th century.
Similarly, orange jasmine plants make excellent container subjects and bonsai specimens can be found that are more than 200 years old. Plants growing in bonsai dishes should be kept outdoors at all times, although orange jasmine can also be grown as an indoor plant, as long as it is exposed to bright light in a sun room or other well-lit interior location.
Tip of the week
The occurrence of wildfires often prompts the appearance of articles touting the utility of certain landscape plants, such as succulents, as a means of saving structures from incineration.
The truth is that succulents, while not providing fuel for a blaze, will hardly stand in the way of a major conflagration.
In this era of water conservation, it is ironic that, other than succulents, a lawn is the only recommended landscape for planting within 30 feet of houses in fire-prone areas. A well-soaked lawn is not only a barrier to fire but can serve as a staging area for firefighters and their equipment.
On flat ground in a wildfire area, from a distance of 30 to 60 feet out from a structure, in addition to succulents you can add ground-cover plantings that build little fuel – such as vinca, freeway daisy (Osteospermum) or ivy – as well as clumps of annuals, wildflowers, or water-retaining native shrubs such as laurel sumac.
Flower clumps and shrubs should be separated, on every side, by 20 feet of nonflammable mulch such as gravel or colored stones.
As you reach a distance of 60 to 100 feet away from a structure, you can plant trees as long as they are separated from each other by more than 20 feet. Mature shrubs and trees should have all branches pruned to a height of 10 feet.
Avoid resinous plants such as pines, junipers, cedars and eucalyptus, and do not allow leaf litter to accumulate.
If you live at the top of a steep slope, especially above a canyon, there should be no woody plants of any kind within 100 feet of your home because fires on slopes, whipped by winds, are especially fast-moving and dangerous.
An attractive firescape would be a study in creative hardscape design. Planted areas would be separated by brick or flagstone borders, decomposed granite walkways and water features such as rectangular fountains and lily ponds. Fences and decks would be made of nonwoody materials. Colored gravels and stones would fill those 20-foot firebreaks recommended between individual shrubs and trees.

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