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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - June 28, 2011

From: Elkins, WV
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Vines
Title: Failure to bloom of Campsis radicans in Elkins WV
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, We live in a very cool climate of West Virginia, in the mountains, and it seems impossible for our Campsis radicans vines to flower! Perhaps the growing season is too short? We can have frost in early June, and then again in late September. Or do they flower only after several years of growth? We have had them since 2005. What can I do to encourage them to flower? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Go first to our webpage on Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) to find out the particulars on the plant. It is usually considered almost invasive and can be a skin irritant, but it does attract the hummingbirds, and for that you need flowers. According to this USDA Plant Profile map of West Virginia, this plant does grow in or near Rudolph County, so your soils are probably not the problem. Although, as you say, you live in a mountainous area, the elevation of Elkins is only about 2000 ft, so that should not materially affect the blooming.

The only indication that we found on our webpage that we thought might be a clue is that this native plant is frequently crossed with Asian species Campsis grandiflora, which is less hardy than native species. Apparently, the results of this cross yield larger blossoms, but if you have a late or early freeze, the lack of hardiness could retard the blooming. The native plant, Trumpet Creeper, grows as far north as Ontario so if you have the native, the blooming should be normal. Frequently, nurseries will sell hybrids of this sort because the blooms are much showier.

It appears that Randolph County is in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b, and the Trumpet Creeper is hardy from Zone 4a to 10b. You might be interested in reading the Dave's Garden Forum on this plant, there are a lot of negative comments. Maybe the plant is doing you a favor by sulking and not blooming.

Just one more possibility we can think of for the non-blooming: This plant really doesn't need fertilizer, and even if you have not fertilized it but have put down lawn fertilizer or fertilized the flower beds with a high nitrogen content fertilizer, that can retard blooms. You get really good leaves from high nitrogen fertilizers, that's why it's used for lawns, but so much energy goes into making those leaves that a lot of plants don't have enough left to make blooms, too.

 

From the Image Gallery


Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

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