A hardy vine capable of growing in almost every American region (zones 4-10), trumpet vine is characterized by its colorful trumpet-shaped flowers that can attract swarms of hummingbirds to the garden in summer and early fall. Also known as trumpet creeper, hummingbird vine or campsis radicans, this deciduous climbing vine has dense, dark green leaves which are ideal for adding privacy along a fence or trellis.
Some people compare this vine to kudzu, which is unfortunate as the trumpet vine is far lovelier. While a fair amount of maintenance is needed to keep this vine under control, the gardener is rewarded for their hard work with large red, orange and yellow blooms. These blooms resemble small trumpets, giving the plant its musical name. The trumpet vine is quite a survivor. It can withstand the brutal winters of the Northeast and Midwest, as well as the harsh summers of the American South. If regularly watered this plant can even grow in desert landscapes, adding necessary shade to dry regions.
Uses For Trumpet Vine
Trumpet creeper actually plays an important role in the garden. When its flowers are in bloom they attract bees who return the favor by helping to pollinate the entire yard. The bright colors also attract butterflies and an observant gardener may even catch a hummingbird or two darting between the flowers. The trumpet shape of the blooms is perfect for the hummingbird’s beak, making this an exceptional plant to use if you are trying to attract hummingbirds to your backyard.
Additionally, due to its large size this plant is often used for privacy. It needs to grow vertically, making it the perfect plant to provide additional cover against a fence or garden arbor. In this way an ugly chain-link fence can be transformed into an attractive wall of foliage. Of course the fence will need to be strong enough to support such a large and heavy vine. Sturdy wooden or metal fences work best, but the plant can also grow against stone. Make sure the area where you plant the vine is accessible because it will need regular pruning. This plant also makes for an effective ground cover in spots where erosion control is needed.
How to Grow Trumpet Vine
For most people this is the biggest question when it comes to this plant. How do you grow the vine in such a way that it stays under control? Professional gardeners recommend that the best place for a trumpet vine is in a large planter. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, a 5 gallon bucket works just fine. This keeps the root system under control so that it cannot send runners across the yard. The vine can be started as a bare root or as a transplant and will grow in full sun or shade, however it is most likely to bloom in full sun.
It will take about 3 to 4 years for the vine to mature. Make sure you give the young vine a climbing area. A trellis rooted in the large planter holding the vine should be fine. Never plant trumpet vine against your house or any other outbuildings, as this is a very strong vine. If you make the mistake of planting it against your house the runners will dig into your walls, potentially causing structural damage. Likewise, don’t grow it against a tree since a large vine will strangle and eventually kill a tree. Using a trellis makes a good alternative, protecting your house and keeping your plant happy. Keep the plant from reproducing by picking up any seed pods that fall on the ground.
How to Keep Up With the Vine
This is one of those plants that gardeners either love or hate. This is partly due to the vine’s size, as a fully grown vine can reach 30 ft. in length and is capable of running shooters all over a yard if it is not pruned adequately. However, if the plant is trimmed regularly during the growing season it makes for a spectacular ornamental piece. The time for trimming and pruning is in spring and fall, since this is when the vine starts sprouting. This is easiest to do if the vine is growing in its own planter. If it’s freely growing in the yard you will need to watch out for shooters sprouting up wherever they can.
You will also need to deadhead the vine after it has bloomed. This keeps the vine looking nice and ensures that blooms will return every year. Sometimes deadheading can even lead to a second round of flowering. Do not use a high-nitrogen fertilizer on this plant, as it can interfere with the blooms.
Finally, like many other large climbing vines, the trumpet vine doesn’t like being handled. Some gardeners report developing an itchy skin rash after working on the plant, so be sure to use your gloves when handling the vine to avoid any direct contact with your skin.