Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), also known as Trumpet Vine and Cow-Itch Vine, is a climbing deciduous vine native to the southern United States. Its only relative, Campsis grandiflora, is native to China. The latin name, Campsis radicans, refers to its somewhat pendulous flowers, like tubular bells, and the fact that it climbs "by the roots". A vigorous climber, Trumpet Creeper develops prominent aerial roots as it matures. Older vines can be as thick as your arm. The common name, Cow-Itch Vine, refers to the fact that it can cause skin irritation to sensitive persons, but so can tulip bulbs. I've never experienced any irritation myself.
If you have ever traveled through the South, you may have noticed it growing up and over fences and signposts along the highway. Large, bright yellow, orange to red trumpet-shaped flowers appear from mid-summer to fall. Trumpet Creeper is popular world-wide in those areas where it can be grown for its flowers.
Foliage of Trumpet Creeper is pinnately compound, meaning that each leaf, up to 12" long, has leaflets that grow off to the side of the "stem". Vines will climb anything up to 40' high, attaching themselves so tightly that if removed they take some of the structure with them. That shouldn't be a problem as long as the plant is intended to cover permanently. Surfaces that may require maintenance, such as wood requiring paint, should be kept free of Trumpet Creeper.
Campsis radicans is cold-hardy in USDA climate zones 4 through 10. It flowers best in full sun, but will grow in full sun or shade in well-drained soil with average to poor fertility. If planted in shade, it will find something to climb and keep going until it enjoys sunlight. Plants are drought tolerant when established and heat-loving.
Because the flowers are exceptionally attractive to hummingbirds, it is usually planted with that purpose in mind. It is best planted next to a permanent structure. A solid wood post, masonry wall, dead tree trunk or living tree will do just fine. I've seen it planted beside a vertical post so that it engulfs it, forms its own support and looks like a tree itself.
Trumpet Creeper can be effective as a ground cover for erosion control in large areas, but it needs room to grow. If allowed to grow as a ground cover, it will certainly do so, but will climb the first chance it gets.
Prepare the planting bed for Trumpet Creeper by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 12" deep. Add enough soil to raise the bed at least 4" above the surrounding ground level. This will help to promote good drainage. Composted manure may be incorporated into the soil. Fertilizer may be used. If you choose to do so, incorporate 5-10-15 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Highly fertile soil will cause Trumpet Creeper to grow like a rocket. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.
Plant Trumpet Creeper 18" to 36" apart. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. If you are planting bare root vines, the roots should be spread out in the hole. Do not plant them any deeper than they grew previously. You should be able to see a difference in the plant tissue at the previous soil line. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the roots. If you are planting container grown stock, do not cover the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 2" deep.
If the plant is stressed during planting, it will usually drop its leaves as a protective measure. While it is unsightly and may be worrisome to the novice, maintaining proper soil moisture will encourage new leaves to sprout, and away you go.
If planted in an appropriate area, Campsis radicans is a fine plant that is very effective as an ornamental vine and hummingbird lure.
Return to Campsis at goGardenNow.com.