Horticulture Magazine

Campsis ‘Trumpet Vines’ Care & Growing Tips

bright orange flowers of campsis vines

Campsis Overview

Official Plant NameCampsis
Common Name(s)Trumpet Vines
Plant TypeClimbers & Vines
Native AreaChina, North America
Hardiness RatingH4
ToxicityNone
FoliageDeciduous
FlowersTrumpet-shaped
When To SowJanuary, February, March, November, December
Flowering MonthsJuly, August, September
When To PruneMarch
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
8 – 12M

Spread
2.5 – 4M

Bloom Time
July – September

Soil

Preferred
Most (aside from heavy clay)

Moisture
Moist but well drained

pH
Any

Sometimes, the name given to a plant absolutely nails it.

With anywhere from one to a handful of words, the name encapsulates the exact features and qualities that make the plant unique; that stand it out from the crowd. And when you look at Campsis radicans – most commonly known as the trumpet vine – it’s easy to see why we think the plant belongs firmly in this hallowed category of perfectly named plants.

blossoming red and orange trumpet creeper
Whoever chose the name, they nailed it

An elongated throat holds the petals far away from the stem where they open proudly, resembling the brass bell that distinguishes the end of a trumpet. And while admittedly the Campsis doesn’t have piston valves, slides, or a mouthpiece, we think it’s fair to say that, for a plant, the comparison holds up well enough to scrutiny.

Thanks to its stunning aesthetic qualities – we’re talking about the intriguing shape and the bold colours – the trumpet vine has become a popular addition to British gardens since it was found by colonists in Virginia and brought home to Blighty.

In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get this dazzling plant growing in your garden.

What are trumpet vines?

First up, though, a more formal introduction. This plant is in the family Bignoniaceae, and as we just alluded to, is native to the United States. Its hardiness has let it become established in many places around the world.

Being a vine, Campsis radicans grows enthusiastically, and puts out numerous tendrils that do their best to attach themselves to any surface in the vicinity. Because of this wild growth, trumpet vine is considered to be invasive by some gardeners and authorities. With this in mind, we recommend keeping vigilant if you decide to grow it. You don’t want to upset your neighbours by initiating an invasion of their garden by a plant that has no qualms attaching itself to fences, brickwork, and even other trees (to which it can cause surprising amounts of damage!)

orange trumpet vines with fencing in background
Stay vigilant, as this plant will grow everywhere!

How to grow and care for trumpet vines

If you’d like to grow this irresistible plant in your garden, the next section will help you to do just that. You’ll find information on choosing the right spot, training a new plant, maintaining an established plant, and keeping your vine suitably fed and watered.

Where to grow your plant

As a vine, Campsis will grow well against a wall or structure, like a trellis. If you’re concerned about your plant getting unruly you may find more peace of mind growing in a container, where you can be sure that you can keep things contained if need be.

Regardless of your decision whether to plant in the ground or a container, find a spot that’s warm and sunny. This plant requires shelter from the elements, especially cold wind, and strong sunlight is needed to help ripen its stems into wood.

Sowing from seed

It’s possible to grow trumpet vine from seed, although this is not considered the optimal method. We’ve included information on growing Campsis from seed in case you’re particularly keen on doing so.

Choose potting compost, or mix organic matter with your garden soil. Then fill a container and sprinkle the seeds on top. Check the seed packet for information on how much space to leave between them as this may vary between types.

Add another thin layer of soil on top of the seeds, and then water well.

For best results, leave your trumpet vine container in a place that will get good amounts of light and heat. A windowsill or greenhouse is usually a good bet.

You can cover the pot with a clear plastic bag, making sure to put a stake in the soil to keep the plastic away from the surface. This will trap heat and moisture, creating conditions that are conducive to germination.

Propagating

To propagate a trumpet vine, simply trim 7.5-10cm from the suckers or shoots of an existing plant. Plant the cutting and keep it moist, and you should see new growth within a few weeks.

Nurture the plant until it’s strong enough to plant outside, then prepare to plant out.

Pruning and training

As a keen vine, Campsis will demand more of your time than some other plants. In the early years this involves training your plant, to encourage the development of a solid framework that will be the basis for future growth.

Once your plant is established, attention turns toward keeping it in check with a thorough pruning regime. Then, once a plant is mature, you can renovate it to promote new shoots.

Here’s a little information on each –

Training your trumpet vine

By taking the time to train your vine in the early months, you can lay the groundwork for manageable and aesthetically pleasing coverage. Choosing the right support and encouraging your plant to grow as desired leaves more space, achieves more balanced growth, and makes it easier to care for going forward.

The first step involves choosing a support. This can include wires, trellises, screens, and others. Remember when planting out that you need to leave space between your plant and the support, to prevent the support blocking rain from reaching the plant.

If you’re growing trumpet vine from seed, a pyramid frame of short canes is a good starting point. Manually wrap the vines around the canes, tying them on to keep them separate. Remember that you’ll need to untie them to move them to the permanent structure when they’re ready, so leave space and don’t tie knots too tight.

Instructions for the next step vary between the type of support chosen, but the general idea is to train your vines onto the structure in a way that promotes neat and tidy growth. Where necessary make sure the structure is firmly attached to a wall, as the weight of a mature plant may pull it down otherwise.

Remove weak shoots during the training process to help your plant stay as strong as possible.

Pruning your trumpet vine

The goal of pruning is to keep a mature plant in optimal condition, both in terms of health and appearance. By investing time and effort here you can help your trumpet vine to remain fully resplendent.

orange trumpet vines growing up a wall
Look after your plant and it’ll reward you with beauty

At the end of each growing season cut back sideshoots so that they only reach a couple of buds beyond the main stem. Get rid of weak growth, and if any stems are damaged, trim them back close to the base of the plant.

Renovating an established vine

If your trumpet vine is looking a little old and dishevelled, you can do a ‘hard reset’, as it were. To do this, trim all of its shoots back to about 30cm in height, and retrain as you would with a new plant.

Watering

Trumpet vines aren’t overly thirsty compared to some others, but will benefit from being watered in dry periods. This is true whether your plant is newly-established or well-established, and whether it’s growing in the ground or a container.

Fertilising

If your trumpet vine is growing in the ground, add fish, blood, and bone fertiliser in spring. Check the packet for details on the amount to use, as this will vary based on the size of your plant.

In a container, traditional liquid plant feed should do the trick.

Generally, trumpet vine doesn’t require too much feeding unless the soil is particularly low in nutrients. Feeding each year will encourage stronger growth, nonetheless.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

There’s not much that’ll get in the way of this energetic plant and its ambition to grow as far and wide as possible. Here’s information on a couple of things that could disturb healthy growth, just in case –

Bud drop

This refers to a phenomenon where buds drop off of a plant before opening, and can indicate that your trumpet vine is in a poor location. One thing to check is soil acidity – this plant can tolerate a wide range (between about 3.8 and 6.7), but do check for any deviation beyond that range.

If soil acidity is OK but your buds are still dropping, it may be the case that the soil is too wet. Check for overly-moist, potentially boggy soil. If you find it, add organic matter or leaf clippings to shift the moisture ratio to something more favourable.

If you’re still encountering issues, check whether the vines are growing too tangled. If so, try to tease them apart and consider pruning back some of the weaker ones.   

Bugs

Aphids, scale insect, and mealybugs are prone to visit trumpet vine, to see whether they can use it as a source of food. Sadly these visitors cause damage to any plant they visit, leaving blemishes, brown spots, and potentially even killing off sections of if left unchecked.

aphids eating through a leaf
Hungry critters revelling amidst the damage they’ve caused

Keep vigilant, and look for any bugs that are visible to the naked eye. If you find any, remove by hand and check back to make sure they don’t return. Should they return, pesticide is often the next course of action. Different products are recommended depending on the type of visitor and the scale of the infestation.

Blow your own trumpet (vine)

If you find yourself captivated by the alluring floral bloom of the trumpet vine, we hope that our guide has given you enough information to get this plant established in your garden. While a vine certainly isn’t for everyone, they are deeply rewarding to grow if you’re ready for the challenge.

It may seem like a lot of time and effort to train your fledgling plant, maintain it throughout its life, and renovate it once growth starts to get a little tired. Once you see the lush, vibrant blooms, however, you’ll feel completely gratified.

Once you’ve got trumpet vine established it’s relatively less demanding than many other plants, too, which is something to keep in mind.

We wish you all the best in getting this exciting and attractive plant growing in your garden.

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