Birdwatchers are often tempted to plant the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), because its showy reddish orange flowers attract hummingbirds. On the minus side, this aggressively spreading climber can quickly become a nuisance. Trumpet vine self seeds and also spreads easily via underground runners. New shoots can pop up yards away from the mother plant, quickly escaping the garden site and forming thickets that can choke out other plants.
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Trumpet vine's glossy dark green leaves grow up to 15 inches long and feature seven to 11 elliptic or oblong, serrated leaflets that are roughly 4 inches long. The foliage turns yellow in the fall before dropping off the vine for winter. Clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers appear during the summer months and reach around 1 to 3 inches long before giving way to bean-like seed capsules. Trumpet vines are best planted in the spring or early fall.
|Botanical Name||Campsis radicans|
|Common Names||Trumpet vine, trumpet creeper, cow itch vine, hummingbird vine|
|Mature Size||25–40 ft. long, 5–10 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Orange, red, yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||4–9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and animals|
Trumpet Vine Care
For gardeners willing to put in the effort to control its spread, the trumpet vine can quickly blanket fences, stone walls, arbors, trellises, and other structures, providing a beautiful green focal piece. It can also cover the ground to hide rock piles, tree stumps, refuse heaps, and more. It is critical to provide a sturdy support structure for this vine, as it can overwhelm trees or buildings. Avoid planting it close to foundations because the creeping vines can damage them. Likewise, the vines can also creep under shingles and cause damage.
Trumpet vines require little care once established, and they rarely have issues with pests or diseases. Fertilization typically is not necessary and watering usually is only required during periods of drought. Despite needing minimal care, trumpet vines are a high-maintenance plant to have in your garden. Aggressively pruning your vine, providing supports to control growth and spread, removing unwanted shoots from your lawn, and removing seed pods to discourage self seediing are all tasks necessary for keeping trumpet vine under control. The seeds are similar to milkweed seeds, with each seed attached to white fluff that allows the seeds to be carried by wind. It's advisable to use gloves when handling seed pods and seeds as contact with skin can cause hives and other rashes.
Trumpet vines can grow in full sun to partial shade. Full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days, will produce the best flowering.
These vines can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. They do best with good drainage.
Trumpet vines like a moderate amount of soil moisture but have good drought tolerance. In general, they only need watering when there are obvious signs of wilt and withering. In most climates, the typical rainfall will be sufficient to keep the plants healthy.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant's natural range is the hot, humid Southeastern United States. It is hardy to temperature extremes in USDA growing zones 4 through 9. In less humid climates, the vine isn't as vigorous and easier to control.
Because trumpet vines are such aggressive spreaders and can thrive in lean soil, no supplemental fertilization is recommended.
Trumpet Vine Varieties
There are several trumpet vine varieties, including:
- Campsis radicans 'Apricot': This variety is somewhat more compact and less invasive than the main species plant, and it produces apricot-colored blooms.
- Campsis radicans 'Flava': Showy golden flowers adorn this variety that stretches around 3 inches long.
- Campsis radicans 'Indian Summer': This is an especially hardy variety and sports yellow-orange blooms.
It is almost impossible to prune this plant too much due to its vigor. Trumpet vines bloom on new stems, so prune early in the spring before growth starts. Cut the plant back to nearly ground level, leaving only a few buds. It is also okay to cut back in late autumn after the leaves have dried and fallen. This kind of aggressive annual pruning is the best way to keep the plant in check. Vines can also be cut back throughout the season although you may be sacrificing a few blooms. If you want to grow the vine on a structure like a garage or outbuilding, try hanging wire across the surface. This gives the trumpet vine something to attach to and makes it easier for you to take care of necessary pruning throughout the growing season.
Controlling Spread of Trumpet Vine
Like many vines, the oldest part of the plant becomes woody and mature trumpet vines can develop a trunk the size of a small tree or sapling. Large mature plants are more likely to send up "baby" plants through underground runners. If discovered when still small, these young plants can sometimes be pulled up and disposed of. Once a good root system is established, the task of eradicating becomes more difficult.
The plant may have to be dug out using a trowel or shovel. Small shoots that pop up in your lawn can usually be kept in check by keeping them mowed down with the grass. As a last resort, an herbicide can be applied. Choose the correct spray by checking the label to make sure trumpet vine is on the list of plants affected. Cut the vine back as close to the ground as possible and spray the stump. Then cover the stump with an old coffee can or something similar. If necessary, protect neighboring plants with a cardboard shield to avoid overspray.
Despite a reputation for being difficult to maintain, trumpet vines are easy to grow and will provide a beautiful cover in addition to habitat for nesting birds and food for pollinators. Choose a good location for your trumpet vine keeping in mind some of its drawbacks. Once established, annual maintenance will become routine and allow you to enjoy the plant for many years.
Campsis radicans. North Carolina State University Extension.