The trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a member of the begonia (Bignoniaceae) family. It is native to the southeastern United States but has naturalized throughout a much wider region, expanding its range further north and west. It can be found in woodlands and forest edges and is commonly seen climbing trees, fences, and utility poles.
Trumpet vine grows fast and large. Single vines can reach 40 feet tall and several inches in diameter. The leaves are compound and somewhat fern-like in appearance. The large, very showy flowers bloom in the summer. Flowers are about 4 inches long, dark orange, and trumpet-like. The flowers grow in loose clusters and attract hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators.
When growing this species, be prepared for a vigorously growing plant. You should have no trouble convincing it to grow in your yard, but its aggressive tendencies may challenge you. This species spreads profusely from underground runners and can easily take over small patches of land with its rapid growth.
On the other hand, it is resistant to deer and rabbits and is generally unbothered by pests and diseases, making it very easy to grow. Fortunately, there are several cultivars available that are less aggressive than the native variety. You can also grow these plants in large containers or areas where their growth will be naturally restricted.
Let’s dig into the details of growing this unique vine. We will discuss different cultivars and how to best care for and manage trumpet vines in your home landscape.
Trumpet Vine Plant Overview
Native to the southeastern United States, this is a robust and sizeable vine.
Trumpet vine is a large, vigorous vine native to the southeastern United States. It has a wide tolerance for many environmental conditions and has become naturalized in the northeastern states, many western states, and parts of Canada. While not technically listed as an invasive species, this plant can grow very aggressively and quickly choke out less-vigorous native vegetation.
Trumpet vine is found in various habitats, from urban areas to roadsides to forested edges. It loves to ramble and easily climbs large trees, reaching up into the canopy layer. The distinctive dark orange tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bees.
For the home gardener, trumpet vine may be of interest, but because of its vigorous growth rates, it is a high-maintenance plant. Fortunately, some varieties and cultivars are less weedy and equally attractive. This would be an excellent plant for a naturalized area or to grow over a sturdy fence row.
These vines thrive best in full sunlight with moist, well-drained soil.
Trumpet vine is a big plant with big space needs. You won’t want to grow this plant in a little spot with limited expansion possibilities. The vines can grow extensively and also spread by root suckers, so the area surrounding your original planting will constantly sprout new offshoots.
If you decide to grow this vine, be prepared for annual maintenance. To prevent spread, remove the suckers (either by mowing or by hand). You’ll also need to be sure you have a strong and sturdy support for the plant, as a tiny ornamental trellis won’t be nearly big enough.
This plant grows well in a variety of soil types. It does prefer moist, well-drained soil with full or partial sunlight. You won’t need to do anything special to convince this plant to grow. It blooms during the summer, and the flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.
Some sensitive people experience contact dermatitis when interacting with its leaves and flowers. Trumpet vine is also sometimes called “cow itch vine” because of the itchy rash it may cause. If you are one of these unfortunate people who react to this plant, always wear gloves and long sleeves when handling it.
This flowering vine can be propagated from cuttings and seeds. It is most conveniently grown from seed or by purchasing a young nursery-grown plant. It grows very fast, so propagation is not difficult.
In the fall, sow seeds outdoors and let nature take care of their growth.
You can easily collect seeds if you have access to an established plant. After flowering, these vines produce large, prominent seed pods. The pods start green, then turn brown and harden, eventually splitting open to reveal a mass of seeds. If you purchase seeds from a seed company, they will be pre-cleaned and include directions on how to grow them.
Seeds grow best with some cold, moist stratification. Sow them outside in the fall, and let nature do this for you! If you start your seeds indoors, place them in moist vermiculite in the refrigerator for about 60 days, then plant them in small pots with a seed-starting mix.
Sow more than you think you will need because they probably won’t all germinate, and when they do, you can choose the healthiest seedlings to nurture to maturity.
The ideal seasons for transplanting seedlings are spring and fall.
It is extremely easy to grow trumpet vine from store-bought, greenhouse-grown seedlings. You’re likely to find some more interesting cultivars sold as young plants.
As you look at the options available for purchase, choose a healthy-looking plant. Look for dark green leaves and a firm stem. Don’t buy any plants with any signs of mold, fungus, mushiness, or insect infestations.
Generally, the best time for transplanting seedlings is spring or fall. Wait for a cool, overcast day. Transfer your seedlings to your desired planting site and give them a drink of water to help them adjust to their new home.
To propagate an established vine, take a stem cutting if you can access one.
If you have access to an established vine and want to propagate it, you can take a stem cutting. This process will work best in the spring when new growth is most tender, and the vines are growing vigorously.
Cut a 6-inch piece of fresh young vine growth using clean, sharp pruners. Strip any lower leaves, dip the stem’s lower part into water, and then dust it with a powdered rooting hormone to stimulate growth. Plant your dipped stem into a small pot with fresh potting mix.
Keep this moist until you see the plant starting to grow again, indicating that your cutting was successful. Not all cuttings will grow, so you may want to take a few to ensure you get a viable cutting.
Locate your new plant near a sturdy climber support, as these vines love to climb.
When you are ready to plant your trumpet creeper outside, you won’t need any fancy tools, just a small spade for digging a hole and some good gardening gloves to protect your hands. Dig a hole where you want to plant the vine. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure the soil is moist and not too dry or gravelly.
Transfer your seedling or young plant from its pot into the new hole. Fill in the gaps around the hole’s edges with fresh soil and pack it down gently to secure the vine in its new location.
Since they love to climb, locate your new vine near a sturdy climber support, knowing that the vine will likely cover it in part or fully. Keep the young plant well-watered for the first few weeks until it can establish itself.
How to Grow
Most gardeners are pleasantly surprised by this plant’s abundant growth. In the right conditions, you will worry more about controlling than nurturing it.
Trumpet vines grown in full shade may grow large but have few flowers.
Trumpet vines love the sun, requiring at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. They will grow well in partial shade and even tolerate full shade, but they will display the best flowering with full sunlight.
Moist soil is ideal for the growth of this flowering species.
Trumpet vine does best with moist soil. Once established, plants will tolerate occasional drought, and they will also tolerate occasional saturated soil conditions. You probably won’t ever have to water your vines except for a brief time following transplanting when the young plant is getting established or if you are growing in a container.
It may grow in poor-quality soils, though perhaps not as vigorously.
Soil can be average quality to rich. Plants will grow in poor-quality soils as well, but possibly not as well. Soil should be well-drained and hold some moisture.
Climate and Temperature
These are hardy plants that tolerate heat, humidity, and cold temperatures.
Campsis radicans is generally hardy and easily grown as a perennial in USDA climate zones 4 through 9. It tolerates heat, humidity, and cold temperatures.
Trumpet vines are not too particular about the soil type and can flourish in many environments.
There should be no need to fertilize your trumpet vine. These plants are not too picky about soil conditions and will seem to thrive just about anywhere you put them.
Hand trim or mow the sucker shoots to keep your vines in check.
Trumpet vine can be considered a high-maintenance plant because you will need to do a lot of pruning to manage unwanted spreading. Sucker shoots developing from the root system can be hand trimmed or mowed to keep them in check.
Its biggest problem is that it spreads aggressively, and you must do extra maintenance to control unwanted spreading. As you’re working, be aware of the contact dermatitis it can cause in some people. Wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent any itchiness or skin rash after handling trumpet vine.
Generally, this is better suited as a stand-alone plant rather than being grown closely surrounded by other perennials.
Don’t think of trumpet vine in the same way you would a typical annual or perennial plant; think of it more as something like a “Jack and the Beanstalk” plant.
You can allow your trumpet vine to grow to its full length of 40 or so feet, or prune it to create something that looks more like a vine-like tree with a thickened trunk and a bushier top. Whichever way you choose to grow this plant, be prepared for it to get larger each year.
This is generally not a great plant to grow closely surrounded by other perennials; it’s more of a stand-alone plant. Plant it where it will have plenty of room to sprawl. It is a climber, so it will always try to climb up something: the nearest tree, a bush, an arbor, a wall, or a fence. The aerial stems will cling as they climb, allowing them to grow up vertical trunks, poles, and even walls.
If you want to avoid smothering trees and bushes with this vine, give it a separate large, sturdy arbor to grow on. You can also grow it in a large container, which will help limit its size. One way to control the vine’s tendency to spread by sucker shoots is to plant them in a growth-limited area, such as a limited amount of growing space surrounded by an impenetrable barrier like concrete.
There are several varieties and cultivars available commercially. These have the same general care requirements but are often more manageable and less aggressive.
‘Apricot’ Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans ‘Apricot’
The Apricot Trumpet Creeper is less invasive compared to its native counterparts.
This apricot-colored cultivar is quite attractive and slightly less invasive than the native species. ‘Apricot’ is also more compact. It may grow only about 15 feet in length.
‘Indian Summer’ Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans ‘Indian Summer’
The cultivar ‘Indian Summer’ bears dark red-orange flowers and closely resembles the native species.
‘Indian Summer’ is a trumpet vine cultivar that resembles the native species with dark red-orange flowers. It is shorter, however, growing to about 15 feet in length, and shows less tendency to spread aggressively.
‘Madame Galen’ Trumpet Creeper, Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’
The ‘Madame Galen’ vine can reach a length of approximately 25 feet.
‘Madame Galen’ is a cultivar that looks similar to the native species, except that the flowers are a deep salmon-red color. This vine grows to about 25 feet in length.
This plant has advantages for the local wildlife.
Trumpet vines do offer some distinct benefits for the local wildlife. Hummingbirds, in particular, like to feed on the flower nectar. Bees and other pollinators will also visit the flowers, so this plant would be suitable for growing along the edge of a hummingbird or pollinator garden.
As the vines grow larger and twine and twist, they create dense clusters of vegetation. Birds will seek these leafy tangles as shelter to roost in and as a support structure to build nests. Deer and rabbits don’t generally bother this plant.
Pests and Diseases
Typically, this species remains largely unaffected by pests and diseases.
Trumpet vine is tolerant of somewhat wet soils and periodic drought and is not particularly prone to root rot or drying out. It also does not typically suffer from pests and diseases. You may spot an occasional Japanese beetle or cluster of aphids, although these common pests rarely harm this plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely! If you let it, a trumpet vine can climb straight up a tall tree. You can also prune these vines quite heavily and they will just keep growing back.
Prune your trumpet vine every year; this will help keep it a very manageable size, but you may still encounter sucker shoots from the root system that you’ll need to remove.
Use sturdy hand pruners for smaller vines, but you may need loppers or even a saw for very large vines. Growing your plant in a container can help control both its size and its ability to produce sucker shoots.
There are a couple of likely reasons your vine isn’t blooming. A young plant grown from seed may take a couple of years to reach flowering maturity. Trumpet vines grown in the shade won’t bloom as well as those growing in full sunlight.
And finally, pruning can also help improve flowering. These vines bloom on new growth. Prune them in either late fall or very early spring, before new growth begins. This will give your plants plenty of time to develop some new growth and plenty of new flowers.
This is certainly a dilemma. Hopefully, you are 100% happy with any plant you grow intentionally in your garden. Sometimes, however, something doesn’t work out as expected. If your trumpet vine is still young, dig it out and move it to a more suitable location.
If your trumpet vine is older, or if you inherited an old one that came with your house, it can be a bit more work to remove it.
You can try digging up as much as you can, but because the root network can become quite extensive, you will probably be digging for a while to make sure you got all the larger root bits. As a last resort, use a brush-killing herbicide per its manufacturer’s directions.
The trumpet vine is a beautiful and spectacular plant. It is hardy and fast-growing and has beautiful flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. The plant is easy to grow and thrives in many environmental conditions. However, it is high-maintenance because you will need to control its growth unless you have a large area that you want covered with trumpet vine. Be prepared to perform some regular vine-control duties and then enjoy this attractive native plant and all it has to offer!