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In the right location, this multi-stemmed, deciduous, woody vine grows over 30 feet long with dense foliage and clusters of long-blooming, reddish-orange flowers that are irresistible to pollinators. Trumpet vine is native to the Southeastern US, but it has naturalized in many other areas, including Ohio. It grows easily in a wide range of soils and in full or part sun, although prolific blooming occurs in sunny conditions. It thrives in hot, dry climates and is tolerant of salt. It’s also known as trumpet creeper, hell vine, and devil’s shoestring because of its trumpet-shaped flowers and vigorous suckering habit (radicans means “rooting stems”). The root system grows deep and spreads away from the vine, surfacing in other areas of the yard to sprout new vines. Sections of vine that come into contact with the soil will put down new roots which, in turn, will spread. While ideal for erosion control or for use as a sprawling groundcover, this manner of spreading is not desirable for all areas of the landscape. However, if sited and managed properly, trumpet vine is a glorious summertime vision, and its masses of tubular flowers never fail to attract a bouquet of hummingbirds.


Strategic siting and aggressive regular pruning is necessary to successfully grow trumpet vine, which attaches easily to structures and climbs by hairy, aerial rootlets. The structure should be sturdy enough to handle the increasing weight of the fast-growing vine, which may develop thick, trunk-like stems that are able to topple less-sturdy supports and strangle small trees. The vine is well suited for planting at the base of an arbor or trellis, which also makes pruning easier. Like English ivy, trumpet vine can damage wood siding, stone, and brick. If you want to grow it on a garage or outbuilding, try hanging wire across the surface to give the vine something to attach to and to make pruning easier. Don’t let the vines grow too close to the building or driveway because the aerial roots can get into cracks of the building, as well as concrete or down drain spouts.


An aggressive annual pruning is the best way to keep trumpet vine in check. Blooms appear on new stems, so prune early in the spring before growth starts. Cut the plant back to nearly ground level, leaving only a few buds. Pruning may also be done in late fall after the leaves have withered. While pruning, remove any stray pieces of vine that drop because even small segments can form roots and grow into a vine.  Another way to prevent rampant rooting is to prune the plant so that it grows up and out, rather than down to the ground; once branches are touching the soil, they put out new roots. Mowing the suckers discourages growth, and removing seed pods will discourage self-seeding. Trumpet vine is also known as “cow-itch vine.” Gardeners should heed this warning by wearing gloves while handling the plant, which causes some people’s skin to redden and inflame.


Containers are another method for successfully growing and controlling trumpet vine. A large, very heavy concrete or ceramic container may be equipped with a sturdy climbing trellis. For in-ground control, a bottomless plastic container such as a five-gallon bucket can be placed in a large hole and then planted with the vine.


Native habitats include trees of moist woods or forest thickets, woodland edges, telephone poles, fence rows in old fields, and seasonal swamps. Besides being an excellent plant for hummingbird gardens, this is a good vine for hot, dry sites with plenty of space and for woodland gardens and naturalized areas. It provides quick cover for fences, arbors, walls, and other structures. It will spread to camouflage rock piles or old tree stumps.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows quickly to 20-40’ long and 5-10’ wide.


Needs full sun for maximum flowering. Grows foliage but fewer flowers in part sun.


Prefers moist, well-drained soils but grows in clay, sand, loam, acidic, and slightly alkaline soils.


Cymes of 2-8 flowers 3-4” long bloom sporadically June-September along the length of the vines. Flowers have five petals that curl backwards to create a trumpet-like appearance, and reddish lines along the inner surface function as nectar guides. There are extrafloral nectaries at the base of each flower. Seed pods are 3-6” long and tapered at both ends. They split to release flattened, two-winged seeds that are wind-dispersed. 


Compound, dark green leaves up to 15” long have 7-11 elliptical to oblong leaflets around 4” long with coarsely toothed margins. Leaves turn yellow in fall.


Mature plants are often multi-trunked with flaky, tan bark.


Wildlife Value:

Trumpet vine is a host plant for 7 species of lepidoptera larvae, including white-marked tussock moth, waved sphinx, greater red dart and specialist trumpet vine moth, which feeds on the seed pods. Baltimore orioles and orchard orioles drink the nectar. Bumble bees and honeybees also visit for nectar and pollen. The extrafloral nectaries attract ants, flies, and halictid bees. The dense foliage provides good cover and nesting for many species of songbirds.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Trumpet vine is used to treat menstrual disorders, rheumatoid pain, and difficult urination.

Caution: Plant parts are slightly toxic if ingested.

Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

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