Being an early riser, as I stepped on our side courtyard one morning when the last heat wave was on, two things hit me all at once: first, how warm and muggy it still was even at that wee hour of the morning, and secondly the intoxicating perfume that engulfed me, making my head turn abruptly looking for the source, which in all fairness, shouldn’t have really been a surprise. The humidity combined with the heat of the night had made our potted night-blooming jasmine come to bloom!
True, any fragrance in the garden invariably draws one’s attention, but in the case of night-blooming jasmine, the reaction is rather dramatic because the flowers are pale green in color and quite inconspicuous too, and therefore go unnoticed till they open and emit the intense fragrance. Furthermore, all these events take place during the night, so only those who are either night owls or early risers get to catch this unique experience. No wonder one of the common names of this jasmine is “Queen of the Night.”
A member of the nightshade family, which includes vegetables such as potato and the eggplant, the night-blooming jasmine, known as Cestrun nocturnum, is quite easy to grow except that being tropical in nature, it is not winter-hardy in our area and needs to brought indoors once the night temperature falls to about 55 degrees or below. Nevertheless, the container-grown plants love to bask outdoors during summer time so long as plenty of water is provided specially on warm, sunny days, since they do tend to dry out quickly.
Plants can be propagated with little difficulty from root cuttings, although one can often find container-grown specimens at garden centers during the summer months. Ironically, the reaction one has upon seeing a night-blooming cestrum for the first time is of passing it up as the foliage is somewhat weedy-looking, in addition to the fact that the leaves have an undesirable odor if bruised or injured. But, trust me, if given the chance to perform, the one-of-a-kind fragrance is unforgettable.