Cestrum ‘Orange Zest’ in Mark’s garden near Albany, Ore.
Photo by Mark Leichty

Cestrum ‘Orange Zest’ is a tropical treasure for northern gardens. The genus Cestrum has several species and cultivars that deserve more consideration by the horticultural community, including growers, designers, and gardeners. ‘Orange Zest’ is a lovely evergreen shrub in USDA zone 8, and a deciduous shrub in Zone 7 or even 6. I have a plant in my garden that survived -8°F several winters ago and looks stunning today. ‘Orange Zest’ is a selection of the species C. aurantiacum. There is another cultivar in the trade named C. ‘Orange Peel’ which is a hybrid between C. diurnum and C. nocturnum.

Plants I’ve seen look very similar to one another. I spoke with Leslie Halleck of Halleck Horticultural and author the new book “Gardening Under Lights; The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers,” because she wrote about C. ‘Orange Zest’ in a 2012 article. We agreed that whether Zest or Peel, a cestrum by any other name smells as sweet.

Cestrums are alternatively known as jessamine and are members of the family Solanaceae, and thus being nightshades are toxic if ingested. This functions in the gardener’s favor by keeping deer from browsing on the leaves. Orange jessamine is evening fragrant, giving up its perfume only after sunset. During the day, the beautiful tubular flowers are a delight to the gardener, as well as to bees and hummingbirds who feed on the sweet nectar.

In the garden, I’ve been pleased with the longevity and habit of ‘Orange Zest.’ It requires little or no pruning to maintain a pleasing shape and is in an area of the garden that gets minimal summer watering. It blooms from late June through October. I would compare its habit to that of a lilac, though it will stay much smaller than a mature Syringa vulgaris cultivar. My ‘Orange Zest’ is about 5 feet tall and wide. It’s also a great container plant or used as an annual in colder climates. This is a wonderful plant that should be more readily available in the trade.

Why grow Cestrum ‘Orange Zest’?

  • It’s a long blooming shrub that thrives hot summer heat.
  • It’s deer resistant.
  • It’s beautiful orange flowers and lush foliage give the plant a tropical look in northern climates.
  • It’s easy to propagate and a quick finisher in a gallon container.
  • It’s pollinator and hummingbird friendly.

 

Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. mark@littleprinceoforegon.com