Sometimes I think I must have been part hummingbird growing up. Like those tiny birds, I loved to sip the nectar from the cape honeysuckle plants that I came across in Southern California. I didn't have their long tongues, though, and I plucked many a flower from the poor shrubs. The blossoms are abundant, though, so my destructive habit didn't compromise their beauty too much.
You, however, do not need to have avian qualities to appreciate the cape honeysuckle. The trumpet-shaped flowers come in a blazing orange color that is sure to brighten up your tropical garden. It is used as either a shrub or liana.
This plant is classified as Tecomaria capensis and belongs to the Bignoniaceae family. Other members include the desert willow, northern and southern catalpa, and jacaranda. Synonyms include Tecoma capensis and Bignonia capensis.
The name cape honeysuckle came about because the native region for this shrub is in South Africa by the Cape of Good Hope. It is a bit misleading as this is not a true honeysuckle. Real honeysuckles belong to the Caprifoliaceae family and are found in the Lonicera genus.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:
For optimal results, this should be planted in USDA zones 9-11. It can possibly survive in zone 8 with some protection.
Size & Shape:
The shape depends entirely on how you let it grow, as it can either be a shrub or vine. As a shrub, it can be anywhere from 3-10' tall, depending on how consistently you prune it. In vine form it will travel a lot farther, reaching lengths of 25-30' or more.
Some light shade is acceptable, but this tropical plant does prefer full sun.
Each pinnately compound leaf is made up of 5-9 leaflets that are shaped like diamonds. Whether they are evergreen or deciduous depends on how cool the climate gets in winter.
During the fall through spring (possibly the entire year), the cape honeysuckle will be covered with an abundance of orange (sometimes reddish or yellow, depending on variety) blooms in the shape of a trumpet.
Once the flowers have been pollinated, long capsule fruits are produced.
I usually see the cape honeysuckle treated as a shrub and clipped into a box shape. However, this plant also likes to vine, so consider it for your trellis or pergola.
If you want to bring hummingbirds to your yard, you simply must plant one of these! They'll be visiting your yard in no time, especially if you've also planted some trees that attract hummingbirds.
Don't fret about the pH of your soil too much, as this plant can handle both acidic and alkaline soils. It also grows in salty locations like coastal regions and can handle gusts of wind.
After a year or regular watering, the roots should be established enough to provide drought tolerance.
If you've tested the soil and detected a lack of nutrients, go ahead and use some fertilizer. It is usually not needed, though.
Pruning depends on the shape you've chosen. If you're going for a hedge, trimming may be required on a regular basis since this grows fast. Cut it back to the ground every 3-4 years in the spring(or as needed) to help keep it from sprawling. You should also prune away branches that were damaged by frost at the start of spring.
This plant does produce suckers. Clip them away if you don't want them to spread.
Less maintenance will be needed if you're using it as a vine. You will just need to keep it trained on its support system.
Pests & Diseases of Cape Honeysuckle:
There really aren't many problems with this plant. If your zone gets some frost, this can cause damage to the leaves and branches. You may run across problems with too little or too many nutrients, which is usually most apparent in the foliage. There may be other environmental problems like leaf scorch. Overall, though, this shrub should stay happy and healthy over its lifetime with little maintenance.