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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: Leesburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Vines
Title: Failure to flourish of Trumpet Creeper in Leesburg VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: Late last year I planted a trumpet creeper vine to grow on my fence and attract hummingbirds. It gets full sun, is in average soil and gets adequate water. I put a few daylillies nearby. It didn't grow much nor did it bloom. I figured this was because it was late in the growing season. This year the plant started off well but growth seems to have slowed down, the ends of the vines (ie the last couple of leaves or so) are yellowing. I did apply osmocote fertilizer to the area in early spring mostly to benefit the daylillies. Can the fertilizer have a negative effect on the trumpet creeper vine? What else might be the cause of this problem? The plant does not seem as vigorous as what I have read about it. Expert advice is very much appreciated!

ANSWER:

This seems to be a bad year for Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper), as we just answered a question on the same plant from West Virginia, right next door to you. Please read this previous answer to keep us from having to repeat ourselves.

Looking at this USDA Plant Profile Map, it's clear that Trumpet Creeper grows natively in Loudoun County, so you must have the correct soils and temperatures for it. When we eliminate other factors, and especially when there is browning of leaves, we start looking at other possibilities, such as weed killers and fertilizers. You may not have sprayed a weed killer on your plant, but someone else may have and the sprays have drifted. Another possibility is that of careless spreading of a "weed and feed" fertilizer on nearby lawn grasses. Both the weeds targeted by these products and the Trumpet Creeper are broad-leaf plants and, again, an unintended dose of broad-leaf herbicide may have been administered to your vine.

Still seeking clues, we did some research on Osmocote, a brand name for a coated pellet fertilizer. We found this website from Planter's Place.com The History of Osmocote that helped us understand it a little better. Apparently this product was first developed as a slow-release fertilizer for food crops, grains and vegetables. As time went by, it was repackaged in smaller amounts for the home gardener. Here is an excerpt from that article that we thought might be enlightening:

"Osmocote is temperature controlled. The pores in the coating (which the little balls are made of) only "open" up enough to release the fertlizer within when temperatures are above the high 60s. The "Osmo" in the name refers to osmosis--the traveling of a solution through a membrane (very rough translation) That means there can be a tendency--on warmer spring days--for the fertilizer to "dump" its load all at once, especially when (soil surface)temperatures can rise rapidly above 70.

Be careful in application, don't lay down a thick layer of the stuff hoping to fuel growth. You may wind up getting an overdose in the soil. This can happen when leaves are opening in the spring--the plant isn't using the fertilizer until leaves fully open anyway--when temperatures can spike in late afternoon."

Since Campsis radicans does not normally require fertilizer to be robust, we are wondering if perhaps you "overloved" your plant by including it with the treatment for  the daylilies which share the soil with the Trumpet Creeper. It also is known to be more invasive when it is in fertile soils; in other words, again, it may be developing too many leaves too fast. We hope you can go through all this information and, added to the fact that the plant is very young in your garden, we are hopeful that time will bring you the blooms you are looking for.

 

 

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