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Trumpetvine Flower Frustration

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Trumpetvine Quirks

Question of the Week

Trumpetvine Flower Frustration

Spectacular when in bloom, some trumpetcreeper vines can take a decade or more to bloom for the first time! Q. I planted three hummingbird vines on a large fence almost ten years ago and they've yet to bloom. On the advice of friends, neighbors and family, I've variously fertilized them, cut them to the ground, and pruned their roots by driving a spade into the ground a foot from their trunks - all to no avail. Is there any chance that I'll see their stunning orange flowers in my lifetime?

A. First, I'm pretty sure that you're referring to Trumpetcreeper? It's an incredibly rapid-growing vine that includes both a North American native species (Campsis radicans), a species native to the Korean peninsula (Campsis grandiflora) and their hybrids (Campsis x tagliabuana).

Trumpetcreeper can easily engulf utility poles if given the opportunity!In researching this response to your question, I came across an article published in the 1994 research conference proceedings of the Southern Nursery Association that might shed some light on your frustration with these house-eating vines, at left?

Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, the article suggests that there are "adult" and "juvenile" forms of trumpetcreeper.

The adult forms generally flower within a couple of seasons of being planted in a landscape. Juvenile forms, on the other hand, may take five to ten or more years before producing their first flowers!

Because these forms look very similar to the untrained eye, nursery stock growers may be unaware that they're mixing stem cuttings of adult and juvenile forms of trumpetcreeper in their propagation beds.

While these cuttings look almost identical, those taken from adult forms apparently root slowly and in low percentages, while juvenile forms root quickly and in high percentages.

The end result is that growers may often, though  unknowingly ship trumpetcreeper vines derived mostly from easy-to-propagate, but slow-to-flower juvenile forms.

Therefore, it may be that your vines are still maturing into plants capable of flowering, even after all these years?

The only thing you can do at this point to prune them very hard in late winter or early spring to established a framework of two or three main trunks and several long shoots/branches, or "arms" off of each trunk. All remaining, vine-like stems coming off of these arms should then be cut back to no more than two or three buds.

Repeating this hard pruning for several years will result in the formation of short, palm-like stem "spurs" along the arms from which shoots capable of forming flowers are more likely to emerge.