Trumpet creeper, a native vine that provides food source for hummingbirds. Photo Credit: Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Campsis radicans is a robust native vine with a striking tropical appearance. Plants have bright green compound leaves and aerial roots that allow the stems to attach and climb. In summer, vines are clothed with red to orange trumpet-shaped flowers. This adaptable hummingbird magnet thrives in sun or shade and in almost any soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Campsis radicans ranges from Ontario through most of the eastern and central United States.
This vigorous vine is at home in open woods, savannas, thickets, riverbanks, disturbed fence rows, roadsides or neglected fields. Plants are very tolerant of disturbance and are often found in urban situations growing from sidewalk cracks and scrambling up telephone poles or clambering up trees in lawns or other mown areas.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Campsis radicans is a fast growing woody vine. Plants attach to any available woody plant or structure and quickly clamber to the top. If support structures or plants are not available the vine will sprawl on the ground until a vertical element is encountered.
Stems are green turning tan and are covered with hair-like aerial roots. Old stems become woody and several inches in diameter. Plants produce an abundance of runners which can pop out of the ground 20 or 30 feet away from the parent plant.
Leaves are deciduous, opposite and pinnately compound. Each leaf consists of 7-11 ovate or elliptical coarsely toothed leaflets. The leaflets are about 3” long and are glossy, bright green and unpalatable to mammalian herbivores.
Flowering begins in summer and continues for about two months. The red to orange blooms are borne in clustered cymes and frequented by hummingbirds. Individual flowers are about 3” long and are funnelform with shallow lobes.
Plants grow 30-40’ tall if suitable vertical support is available.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Campsis radicans blooms best in sun but will tolerate shaded exposure and almost any soil.
In natural areas this is a resilient vine that is closely associated with the ruby throated hummingbird.
In confined garden spaces plants need sturdy support and a plan of action to curb the rampant growth. Plants seed aggressively and produce many runners.
Gardeners should plan carefully and possibly plant this vine on a tall structure surrounded by concrete or by regularly mown turf.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Naturalized Area or Wildlife Garden. Campsis radicans has Showy Blooms and can be used in Deer Resistant Plantings, Roadsides or Restoration Projects.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing with Tradescantia ohioensis.
Gelsemium sempervirens is a large woody vine that grows in similar situations and attracts hummingbirds. Lonicera sempervirens is a smaller native vine that attracts hummingbirds.
TRIVIA: Ruby throated hummingbirds and sphinx moths sip nectar and pollinate Campsis radicans. Orioles, honeybees, bumblebees, ants and flies visit the flowers but are not effective pollinators.
In regions with intense summer heat, Campsis radicans flowers more profusely.
This vine is sometimes known as Cow Itch because some animals and people experience an allergic reaction after contact.
The flowers are among the best nectar sources for ruby throated hummingbirds. The vine has garnered a bad reputation unfortunately because of people who unwisely plant it in confined spaces.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CARA2