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Monday - June 06, 2011

From: Stockdale, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Vines
Title: Finicky Trumpet Vine in Stockdale Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I need help dealing with a very old trumpet vine. It was my grandmothers and she died in 79. It's always been beautiful till 99 when my grandmothers house burned down. It was right behind it. It came back alive, or it didn't die (however you want to look at it), and has been doing pretty good but it won't bloom, besides in 06. I figured it was stress from the fire, and figured after the 06 blooms, I would have no problems anymore. BUT that's not the case. I don't do anything with this plant, it only got watered when it rained. Just recently my husband has put up another trellis for it, but it just doesn't seem to care. (of course it's only been 2 weeks) I have also cleaned up around it, pulled old grass, and it's just dirt right now and aerated that soil. What can I do to help this 30+ year old trumpet vine? I'm in the San Antonio area so it should be doing great..but I don't have the beautiful flowers it used to and that makes me sad. I have noticed in the last 6 years that it is sprouting out in more spots and I do control where it grows. THANKS in advance!


Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) are tricky. You can almost hear them laugh every time you show them some love. They are independent and down right contrary. If you drive around town and look at really great trumpet vines in full bloom. Our bet is that most of them are along broken fences in vacant lots or anywhere near a parking lot that looks like it has been abandoned. When you see huge magnificent blooms doing so well in harsh conditions, rather than shake your fist and scratch your head, pay attention to what these spaces have in common and fight back with crafty common sense. 

Trumpets like bad soil. They like spaces that are hot and sunny and neglected. They don't like fertilizer at all. As you mentioned that you have removed grass near the plant, could it be that this trumpet is next to, or near a lawn? If the lawn is fertilized, this could be preventing your vine from blooming. Lawn fertilizers are usually high in nitrogen and trumpets don't like that. Also even though they can take some water they won't respond well to the amount of water a lawn would typically receive. You have done some of the work already. Get the lawn out of the area where they vine is. Its too bad you aerated, it knows now that you care, which will work against you, so don't do that again.

Blooms come off of new growth from the sides of the main stalk. Try a bit of a pruning. Not the main stalk but the branches extending off of that stalk along the side. Make a little note as to where you pruned and see if some blooms show up with the new growth. If you luck out and see a new bloom then prune it more the same way. You mention that you have been pruning to keep it under control. It might be that you are actually pruning all of the new bloom stalks so be careful and make sure to leave some of those new shoots if they are coming off of the side.

 Is this space shady? If so, see if you can give it some more sun. It will bloom best in full sun. 

Some trumpets can take three to six, even ten years before the first bloom. Even though you think your plant is thirty years old, you described the burn as pretty bad so it may be a whole new plant that has come up off of the roots as a sucker. Or it may be a new plant that germinated in the spot where it had previously dropped seed. Either way you are still due some blooms, as you witnessed some in 06.

In review, pay attention to any fertilization that might be getting close to it (maybe even a neighbors lawn) and prune it into thinking it needs some bloom stalks. As a desperate measure you could drop an old tee shirt or a discarded shoe next to it, something to give the space a neglectful vibe. And lastly when you do have new blooms, don't even think about smiling when you pass it by. 


Campsis radicans



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