Orange jasmine is a type of tropical shrub known for its fragrant flowers. The plant, which is known formally as Murraya paniculata, is native to southern China and India, but is generally very hardy and has been cultivated all over the world with great success. Despite its common name, the plant is neither orange nor a true jasmine. The “orange” designation refers to the blossoms' fruity smell. While the plant looks a lot like standard jasmines, it is actually more closely related to the citrus family than to the olive family to which most types of jasmine belong.
The shrub is essentially a South Asian version of the standard Arabic jasmine plant. Its flowers are similarly shaped, generally bearing five white petals per bloom, but according to most botanists, the orange jasmine is not really a jasmine at all. Orange jasmine is generally considered a tropical hardwood.
Most orange jasmine plants are cultivated for decorative use. Their extracts are known to have mild painkilling properties, and were once a facet of ancient Chinese medicine; they are still sometimes used for this purpose, but other plants are generally more potent. The fragrance is also sometimes distilled into perfumes. Distillation is expensive, however. More often, the delicate orange scent is chemically imitated for a fraction of the cost.
The shrub generally does best in warm climates or indoors, but will adapt to almost all conditions and soil types. In tropical environments, the plant blooms year round. Outdoors in places with a defined winter, blossoms will generally appear only seasonally, usually in the spring and summer. Plants in all locales generally produce fruit annually.
Orange jasmine fruits emerge from the blossoms as tiny red bulbs each summer. Each bulb contains one to two seeds, depending on size. The fruits belong to the citrus family, but are generally too bitter to be palatable to humans. They are usually consumed by birds which then pass the seeds as waste. This is the primary means through which the plant reproduces.
Gardeners outside of tropical climates frequently cultivate orange jasmine indoors as a potted plant. The shrub can thrive for years in containment and generally will adapt itself to a container of any size. Trimming jasmine planted inside is often necessary to keep the plant a manageable size, but re-potting is not usually ever required.
Planting jasmine in a very small pot can lead to fragrant dwarf trees, also known as bonsai. Bonsai is an ancient Japanese art form in which plants and shrubs are grown in miniature. Orange jasmine is a bonsai favorite in part because even miniature versions carry full-sized blooms.