How to Grow Cestrum — Night Jessamine

Cestrum aurantiacum
Cestrum aurantiacum

Cestrum is an evergreen, subtropical shrub grown for its fragrant, tubular, or funnel-shaped flowers and its dense foliage. Most Cestrums are very fragrant at night; they can be planted where windows are open during the summer.

Cestrum is fast-growing. It can be used as an informal shrub or screen. It can get rangy and top-heavy if not pruned regularly.

Cestrum grows best in a sheltered spot and should be grown in filtered sunlight in hot summer regions. Where Cestrum is not hardy, plant it in containers that can be moved indoors in winter.

Cestrum flowers attract nectar-loving birds such as hummingbirds. Flowers are followed by berries that attract mockingbirds and other berry-loving birds. Depending on the variety, flowers can be white, pink, red, or yellow.

Cestrum is a genus of about 175 species of evergreen and deciduous woodland shrubs natives from Mexico to South America.

Get to Know Cestrum

  • Plant type: Evergreen shrubs 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 8 to 11; where not hardy grow in a greenhouse
  • Hardiness: Cestrummay freeze back in heavy frosts but will recover quickly. 
  • Height and width: Grows 6 to 10 feet (2-3m) tall and 5 to 6 feet (1.5-2m) wide.
  • Flowers: Fragrant, showy, tubular or funnel-shaped flowers are borne on terminal cymes. Depending on the variety, flowers can be white, pink, red, or yellow.
  • Bloom time: Spring to early summer
  • Fruit: Red, white, or purple berries appear after flowers; berries draw attract birds. 
  • Uses: Inform hedge or screen; flowers attract hummingbirds; fruit attracts birds.
  • Common name: Night Jessamine, Cestrum
  • Botanical name: Cestrum
  • Family name: Solanaceae
  • Origin: American tropics
Night blooming jasmine flower Cestrum nocturnum
Night blooming jasmine flower Cestrum nocturnum

Where to Plant Cestrum

  • Plant Cestrum in sun or partial shade; the leaves will burn in hot summer sun.
  • Ceatrum grows best in a warm, sheltered spot.
  • Plant Cestrum in humus-rich, well-drained soil.

When to Plant Cestrum

  • Set contianer-grown Cestrum outdoors in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and Spacing Cestrum

  • Space Cestrum 5 to 6 feet (1.5-2m) apart.
  • Add organic soil amendments before planting.

How to Water and Feed Cestrum

  • Water Cestrum moderately during the growing season; water sparingly during the winter.
  • Fertilize Cestrum monthly during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilier.
Cestrum elegans
Cestrum elegans

Cestrum Care

  • Cestrum can grow rangy and top-heavy unless consistently pruned.
  • Nip Cestrum back consistently to maintain compact form.
  • Cestrum can be had pruned after flowering or fruiting.

Cestrum Pests and Diseases

  • Cestrum can be attacked by scale insects.
  • Cestrum can suffer from magnesium deficiency, rust, powdery mildew, and fungal leaf spot.

Cestrum Propagation

  • Sow Cestrum seed in ontainers in a cold frame in autumn.
  • Sow seed in warm soil in spring.
  • Root softwood cuttings of frost-hardy species and semi-ripe cuttings of tender species in summer.

Cestrum Varieties to Grow

  • Cestrum aurantiacum. Orange cestrum. A rare species native to Guatemala. Grows to 8 feet tall and bears clusters of 1-inch-long, orange flowers in late spring and summer, followed by white berries. Deep green, oval, 4-inch leaves. 
  • C. elegans (C. purpureum). Red cestrum. Shrub or semiclimber grows to 10 feet tall or more with arching branches and deep green 4-inch leaves. Bears masses of purplish red, 1-inch-long flowers in spring and summer, followed by red berries. Good choice for espalier. Cultivar ‘Smithii’ has pink flowers. 
  • C. nocturnum. Night Jessamine. Evergreen shrub grow grows to 12 feet tall, with 4 to 8-inch long leaves; bears clusters of creamy white flowers in summer followed by white berries. Very fragrant at night. Grow in containers to overwinter indoors. 
  • C. parqui. Willow-leafed Jessamine. Grows 6 to 10 feet tall with many branches from base; willowlike leaves, 3 to 6 inches long. Greenish yellow, 1-inch-long summer flowers in clusters are very fragrant. Berries dark violet brown. Leaves blacken in light frost. Best used where winter appearance is unimportant. Protect roots with mulch and treat as perennial in cold winter regions. 

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