Birdwatchers are often tempted to plant the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) because its orange flowers attract hummingbirds. But experienced gardeners often know better, as this climbing vine is aggressive to the point of being a nuisance. The fast-growing vine spreads easily via underground runners as well as by self-seeding. And it can quickly escape its garden site and form thickets that can choke out other plants.
Trumpet vine's glossy dark green leaves can 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. However, despite needing minimal care, trumpet vines are still a high-maintenance plant to have in your garden. The maintenance that will require the most time and effort on your part is to prune back your trumpet vines aggressively to keep them under control. Also, pull up any new shoots that pop up from the soil as you spot them, and be sure to regularly monitor for them. Also, remove the seed pods before they open and let their seeds spill out into the soil for germination.
Trumpet vines can grow in full sun to partial shade. But 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 when they have sharp soil 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. And it is quite hardy to both the warm and cold weather of its growing zones. In less humid climates, the vine isn't as vigorous and thus is easier to control.
Because trumpet vines are such aggressive spreaders and can thrive in lean soil, no supplemental fertilization is recommended.
Is the Trumpet Vine Toxic?
All parts of the trumpet vine, including its seeds and sap, are toxic both to people and animals. Toxicity can occur from ingestion and via skin contact. This is how the plant got one of its common names: cow itch vine.
Symptoms of Poisoning
From skin contact, trumpet vines can cause mild to severe rashes, itchiness, redness, and inflammation on both people and animals. Thus, it is always recommended to use protective clothing when working with the plant. When ingested, the vines can cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect poisoning, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
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. This kind of aggressive annual pruning is the best way to keep the plant in check.