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  HOME AND GARDEN Ľ House Plants  

Plants for your home (By Mary Efanti)

Jasmine Sambac

Description - Origin

Just by reading its name, I bet you are already thinking of its wonderful fragrance.  Sweet and strong, it makes our mind wander off to magical summer nights full of mystery.

Sambac is one of the jasmine varieties, often called Arabian jasmine in order to differentiate it from the common jasmine we love so much in Greece.  However, although itís called Arabian jasmine, its natural habitat is India while it is also profusely cultivated in the south parts of China. Actually, jasmine sambac is the variety used to add fragrance to jasmine tea.

Itís a beautiful shrub, with impressive foliage (dark green glossy leaves).  Itís cream-white flowers appear in clusters at the edge of stems. Their fragrance is seductive, and cut flowers still smell for many days if you let them dry in the house. Also, extracts from sambac flowers are widely used in aromatherapy and alternative medicine ďmedicationsĒ. The flowers are an integral part of all the ceremonies held in India, mainly weddings, while it is often included into the infamous Hawaian wreaths.


limited and hardly grows over 1m in height.  Although its branches are hard and quite hardy, the plant will need support.  Prefer to loosely tie the branches on the stakes, using mainly soft materials such as cloth instead of wire.

Sambacs tend to grow leggy.  In order to ensure a more compact shape, you should prune hard beginning of spring so the new growth will form a prettier plant.  Also, if you donít prune hard enough, its development will be radically delayed.  If you grow your sambac as a low shrub, try to thin out the center branches so that air can flow freely through the plant thus limiting the chances for disease and pest infestation.

As far as watering is concerned, the golden rule of less is more applies here as well.  Sambacs have a sensitive root system and they can easily develop root rot.  So, only water when the soil is dry to the touch and always empty the excess water from the tray.  In winter, when the plant is resting, minimize watering.  Usually, rain water or moisture in the atmosphere are enough to support the plant.

Sambacs need plenty of light, but they should be protected from direct sunlight during the warmest months of the year, especially around
noon.  The more light the plant gets, the more flowers it will produce, plus the flowers will be bigger than those of a plant grown in less light. In general, sambacs flower from June till September.

The soil should be rich in organic elements and requires excellent drainage.  If the plant is grown in a pot, add some sand for drainage and some perlite to maintain moisture.

Fertilize once a month, with an all purpose fertilizer,
using half the dose mentioned on the packaging.  Donít over-fertilize because you may damage the plant.

Sambacs are not frost resistant. Usually, if freezing temperatures set in, the root system will not be damaged but the stems and foliage will. If you expect temperatures near freezing, make sure to cover and protect your plant. Cover the plant and mulch with a thick cover of leaves or hay around the roots and for another 10cm around the main stem. This will protect the root system from freezing.

Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac)
It would be advisable to re-pot every 1-2 years, always in spring, so that the plant does not get root-bound. If during re-potting, you notice that the roots have covered the soil, cut out 2-3 small parts of the root ball (in different parts), using a sharp clean knife in order to provide room for new roots to develop. The new pot should be 1-2 sizes bigger than the previous one.


Sambacs can be propagated from cuttings but it will take lots of patience till the new plant grows old and big enough to flower.  Plant the cutting into a small pot, containing the same soil mix as the pot of the mother plant (with or without rooting hormone). The root system should develop in approximately 4 weeks.  Repot to a larger container only when you notice roots on the surface of the soil.

Problems / Disease

Although sambacs are not very hard to grow, they do have some special requirements. Luckily, if the plant is not happy, you can tell straight away.

If the leaves turn yellow, you probably water too much or fertilize too much. Reduce watering and fertilizing and the plant will soon recover.

If the leaves fade, itís very likely that the plant needs more frequent watering or more water in each watering. Same goes for dry edges on the leaves.

If buds fall or open prematurely, reduce watering. If the weather is too hot, the flowers will take on a brownish color and will dry out rather quickly. But as this is not a sign of disease, merely a sign of the conditions, do not worry.

If your sambac does not flower at all during summer, it probably needs more light as well as some fertilizing.

Regarding disease / pests, sambac can be infested with aphids or spider mites, but not too often. Spider mites can be one of the reasons that sambacs shed their buds or leaves. As mites tend to expand very quickly and cause major damage, make sure to get the necessary insecticides and spray your plant as soon as possible. Unfortunately, spider mites can not be contained with environment friendly methods.

You can buy sambacs in every organized nursery or garden center, at very affordable prices. I am sure you would just love sleeping on a summer night, with the sweet fragrance of sambac flowers creeping in through the windows. What about having this sweet smell welcome the new day in the morning?

Give it a try and good luck!

Mary Efanti




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