Growing And Flowering The Trumpet Vine - Friend Or Foe?

Trumpet vine or campsis radicans is one of those thug-like vines that will grow almost anywhere and are touted as the answer to a gardening maiden's prayer in all the low-end plant catalogs. Here's the truth.

How Big and Fast?

The truth, as in many things, is somewhere between "plant thug" and the "garden answer for this millennium."

To begin with, the vine is aggressive and can reach thirty to forty feet, climbing and scrambling over any obstacle. It never met a trellis it didn't like and it will cover a screen or trellis very quickly.

When planting it, jump back quickly as it has been known to break gardener's ankles in its zeal to find growing space. It self sows and you'll quickly have little trumpet vines (I wonder if the babies are called "coronet" vines?) popping up. (Yes, those pods where the flowers were are seed pods.)

It is hardy down into zone 3 and heat tolerant up to a zone 9


The flowers are attractive with a rich orange and scarlet-red combination and shaped like little trumpets.

They are between 2 to 3 inches long, and 1 to 2 inches wide. When this plant is in bloom, it can be quite stunning.


This is seldom a problem as it self-sows all over your garden and can become a weed.

But it's easily grown from seed or from cuttings


Tolerates almost any kind of soil except heavy clay and damp feet.

campsis radican

Orange Trumpet Vine - once established, it's hard to eliminate

Pruning The Trumpet Vine

You have to prune it heavily to keep it in bounds. And do not worry about whether you are pruning it properly or not. It grows back so quickly, you'll have to wonder if you did it at all. Some people (never myself you understand) say that the proper way to prune this plant is with a chainsaw.

Prune in very early spring or in fall.

Popular Varieties

'Flava' is a cultivar with yellow flowers with shades of orange. I actually like growing this plant better than the species. But then again, I like yellow flowers and am not fussy about orange.

'Praecox' is one you'll sometime see and the flowers on this cultivar are mostly red with fewer orange tones.

Problem Solving and Things to Know

As one gardening wag put it, "If you can't grow trumpet vine in a normal garden soil, you should try silk."

But sometimes it can be a perverse little thing. The ads all say it will bloom quickly but sometimes it doesn't.

It is one of the last plants to leaf out in the spring. You'll think it is dead every year. Have patience - this is one tough plant and it might take until the end of May or even sometimes in to June to leaf out in a zone 4 garden.

No blooms? You might be overfeeding it - if you're getting lush growth and no blooms, stop feeding anything but compost. Or applying herbicide nearby - weed n feed is a perfect example of this - a vine too close to a lawn gets overfed with the nitrogen for the lawn and a dose of herbicide.

Not growing at all after its second spring? (ignore it if it doesn't grow first year and only do this in year two) If the plant is not growing at all - you likely have a soil problem. Add lots of home made compost as a mulch. Make compost tea and apply it. Mushroom compost has too much salt so don't use this as a mulch. Composted manure in bags is an acceptable substitute.

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Slow starter with growing I've seen this plant take three to four years to establish itself (put down roots) before it starts to bloom. So, if you're not overfeeding then you really do have to have patience.

As long as the trumpet vine is growing well, it will eventually flower.

It is a weedy thing But it has a high potential to become a weed in warmer climates in good garden soil.

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