Trumpet vine or trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is a native North American vine with orange-red flowers that appear in summer. The plant's reputation for invasiveness is due to its vigorous growth habit, extending its reach by aerial roots that attach to walls and other supports. Trumpet vines have dense foliage and produce long seed pods. They are deciduous, and the twisting vines offer visual interest in winter.
Trumpet vine is a native plant from New York and Ontario, down to Florida and Texas, and into North and South Dakota, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was introduced to Great Britain in the 17th century. The Chinese species arrived in Great Britain in 1800, and was later introduced to America. These two species cross easily on their own. Harvard's Arnold Arboretum says that the hybrid 'Madame Galen' (Campsis x tagliabuano 'Madame Galen') might well have been a "happy accident."
The American trumpet vine grows to 40 feet and has several hybrids, such as the yellow 'Flava' and the deep-red 'Crimson Trumpet.' Native to Asia, the Chinese trumpet vine has showy red flowers and isn't as vigorous, reaching only 10 feet at maturity. The 'Madame Galen' trumpet vine is salmon-red and quite hardy.
Trumpet vine is beautiful in the landscape. Its brightly colored flowers attract hummingbirds, long-tongued bees and the trumpet vine sphinx moth whose caterpillars feed on the leaves as well. Its invasiveness makes it great for erosion control. The Missouri Botanic Garden reports that no serious diseases or insects affect trumpet vines.
Unrestrained, trumpet vine can damage the exterior of houses and has even broken windows. In the southeastern United States, it is called "Devil's Shoestring." It is also known as "cow-itch vine," because the sap and leaves can irritate the skin. Trumpet vines take about six years to produce prolific flowers. If a plant is in too much shade, it will not flower well.
Trumpet vines prefer full sun and well-drained garden soil. They can tolerate some drought, but may need supplemental water. Plants are heavy and need strong support, such as a sturdy pergola. American trumpet vine and the 'Madame Galen' trumpet vine are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9. The Chinese species is cold-hardy only as far north as USDA Zone 7.
Pruning and Controlling
Prune trumpet vine at any time, says James Romer of the Iowa State University Extension. To control trumpet vine, mow or dig suckers out. To kill the plant, cut back to ground and paint stems with weed killer as needed. Follow safety instructions on label.
Trumpet vine spreads by suckers as well as seeds. Propagate by semi-hardwood cuttings or collect seeds when pods turn brown. Remove seeds, dry, then put in closed containers and refrigerate for 30-60 days. Scatter outdoors in the fall.