We will focus here on the cultivation of the two main species of jasmine grown for its oil production: Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum and Jasminum sambac. Not only is jasmine one of the most utilized scents in the fragrance industry, it is widely used in applications ranging from body care to medicinal uses. As such, there is a high demand for both jasmine plants and their high-value flowers. In this discussion we will use common horticultural names for Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum, since, in the horticultural trade, Jasminum officinale and Jasminum grandiflorum are understood to be two separate plants due to morphological variations and differences in soil and climate tolerances.
The jasmine plant can be grown in a number of ways, including by grafting the shoot of one plant directly onto stocks of another (typically employed when extra hardiness is required), layering, or by simply planting the shoot directly into the ground. Additionally, one can plant the seeds found in berries formed the previous year, although this is not conducive to cultivating jasmine for commercial harvesting. (Sachan, S. & Paarakh, P. (2009). Jasminum grandiflorum Linn (Chameli): Ethnobotany, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology – A review. Pharmacologyonline, 2, 585-595)
It is important when growing jasmine for cultivation to ensure the plant will enjoy a warm environment in which to grow and flourish. .(source) On a jasmine plantation, growers ensure the plant has well-drained, loamy soil in order to avoid two pests common to jasmine, mealybugs and root rot. (source) Crop rotation must be employed, and a number of years must pass before jasmine is regrown in the same area again to prevent soil nutrient depletion (Guenther, E. (1952) The Essential Oils. London: Macmillan) If these practices are followed, a typical jasmine plant, and plantation, can last 15 years or longer.
There are multiple factors that can affect the quality of the oil produced by an otherwise similar plant. For example, jasmine plants grown at high altitude will produce a more fragrant flower, while flowers harvested after 9 am will quickly lose quality in their fragrance (although they will produce a higher yield of oil). Flowers harvested at the height of summer tend to be heavier, as they contain more aromatic molecules. Alternatively, flowers grown in cool or rainy weather will produce less fragrant buds. (Guenther, E. (1952) The Essential Oils. London: Macmillan)
Most jasmine cultivated for essential oil production is currently produced in India and Egypt due to their warm, temperate climates. When considering the species grown, Jasminum officinale has a larger production rate than does Jasminum sambac.
The yearly production of Jasminum officinale ranges between 12-15 tonnes, with Egypt being the largest producer in the world (exporting approximately 6 – 8 tonnes). Morocco and India follow in yearly production rates, with smaller quantities grown in France, Italy, India, China, Spain and Algeria.
When grown for essential oil production, Jasminum sambac is typically cultivated in southeast Asia. This species of jasmine is typically found growing naturally near the Indian city of Rameshwaram, where the flower is so prized, and the soil and climate so adept, that seedlings are provided to the area’s local farmers for free.
When cultivating jasmine for mass production, the procedures vary based on the region in which they’re grown.
Jasmine was first cultivated for its fragrance in Egypt back in 1912 in plantations near Cairo. (Guenther, E. (1952) The Essential Oils. London: Macmillan) Now much of the jasmine grown in Egypt takes place 100 miles north at Shoubra Beloula in the Nile Delta, specifically at the Fakhry and Co. family plantations. Yearly exports from Egypt amount to nearly 3.5 million tonnes, equaling approximately $6.5 million US dollars. (source)
Jasminum grandiflorum, the variety most commonly grown here, is planted directly into the ground and does not require grafting due to Egypt’s hot summers and mild winters. New plants are created by layering, planted in rows approximately two meters (six feet) apart. While the plants here are allowed to grow larger than in France and Italy, this still allows for some 5,000 plants per hectare. The Nile provides the irrigation necessary to water the large plantations. Due to the heat, the flowers picked from these plantations must be processed immediately after harvesting, which is typically done by children from the area. (Guenther, E. (1952) The Essential Oils. London: Macmillan)
Along with Egypt, India remains the top producer of jasmine for oil production. The extraction industry of Jasmine absolute in India began in the 1970s and primarily existed in the regions of Coimbatore (Karnataka) and Madurai (Tamil Nadu). Tamil Nadu is now the sole leading producer in the country, cultivating nearly 10,000 hectares of Jasminum Officinale var. grandiflorum, or nearly 78,000 tonnes of flowers (in 2005-2006). In India, rooted cuttings are planted 1.5 (4.5 feet) apart during the months of June to November. Farmers in India typically have about one acre of their land dedicated to growing the money-making plant, an area that can contain slightly less than 1000 plants. From this plot, a farmer can often produce somewhere near 4,400 pounds of jasmine flower petals per year. India exports a large amount of its production to neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and countries in the Middle East. (source)
Similar to its intensely fragrant cousin the rose, the jasmine plant once flourished in the French region of Grasse, known for its extensive involvement in cultivating and producing high-end botanical products during the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly, although the scent remains one of the most commonly conjured in high-end fragrances, jasmine is no longer grown in the Grasse region at nearly the levels it previously was. This is speculated to be a result of high labor costs and lack of large growing areas due to urban development. Chanel is perhaps one of the last, most well-known buyers of Grasse-produced jasmine. common jasmine per year.
Jasmine cultivation in France starts with planting of the hardy, disease-resistant Jasminum officinale in March, in rows 1-1.5 meters (3-7.5 feet) apart. The following year, shoots of Jasminum grandiflorum are grafted onto the existing Jasminum officinale plants, as the French climate is cooler than the plant would prefer. Flowering will begin the first year after grafting. To facilitate the harvesting of the flowers, the jasmine plants are pruned yearly to keep them bushy and low to the ground. One hectare typically contains 50,000 jasmine plants. After this first year, a one-hectare lot will produce 1,200-2,000 flowers. The following years will likely see upwards of 3,000 flowers per year produced. Flowers bloom from July to November, with the peak flowering occurring between August and October. (Guenther, E. (1952) The Essential Oils. London: Macmillan)
Jasmine was first grown in Morocco on a commercial scale in 1941 by a grower who had perfected the art in Southern France. Here harvesting takes place from the longest duration of the various growing sites: from early June to the middle of December. Almost 6,000 kg of flowers per hectare can be collected with this long harvest time. However, Morocco’s cultivated jasmine plots remain small, only producing approximately 30 hectares of jasmine yearly, amounting to 250 kgs of jasmine concrete.
In Italy’s warmer climate, the Jasminum grandiflorum cuttings can be planted directly into the soil without grafting them onto the hardier Jasminum officinale plants. The flower harvest here takes place earlier in the season, often from June until August. Here, 5,000 kg of flowers is typical per year.