Trumpet vines, commonly referred to by their botanical name Campsis, are deciduous woody climbers with spectacular red, orange or yellow tubular flowers that bloom from late summer through to autumn. They need a large space to grow, ideally a south-facing wall or a pergola in full sun.
Campsis radicans will quickly cover a framework, but annual pruning helps control its growth. Although it originates from the south-eastern US, this sun-loving perennial is reasonably hardy throughout most of the UK, if grown in a sheltered, sunny spot.
Campsis grandiflora, also known as the Chinese trumpet creeper, is another vigorous grower (though not as vigorous as Campsis radicans), with clusters of deep orange-red trumpet flowers in late summer and autumn. Although native to Japan and China rather than the US, the Chinese trumpet creeper shares many characteristics with its American cousin, including a preference for sunny locations.
The main difference between the two species is that Chinese trumpet vine has very few aerial roots, so will need tying on to its support. In contrast, Campsis radicans produces many aerial roots and should be self-supporting once established.
Trumpet vines are poisonous and can cause skin irritation, so always wear gloves when handling. Bear in mind that all parts of the plant are highly flammable, so if you live in a dry region or near an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty you may want to take appropriate precautions.
How to grow campsis
Plant trumpet vines against a large wall or fence, or train up a sturdy trellis or pergola in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil. They can also be grown in large pots filled with loam-based compost and added grit to provide extra drainage.
Where to grow campsis
Although trumpet vines are frost hardy, they require the protection of a warm, sheltered spot against a wall or fence, especially in colder areas of the UK. They will grow in light shade, but full sun helps ripen the new wood, improving hardiness and promoting prolific flowering. Depending on the species and variety, campsis can grow up to 12m high with wall support and can spread for up to 4m.
More compact varieties, such as Campsis x tagliabuana Summer Jazz Fire Trumpet (‘Takarazuka Fresa’), are ideal for containers and smaller gardens. Campsis can be invasive, especially in their native habitat, so growing them in containers helps restrict their spread.
How to plant campsis
Campsis is best planted in spring or early autumn, but can be planted at any time from autumn to spring as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. Make sure you have enough space in a sheltered spot with a sturdy support for the trumpet vine as it grows.
More like this
- Water the plant thoroughly
- Mix plenty of organic matter such as garden compost into the planting area
- Dig a planting hole at least twice as wide as the pot and about the same depth, 45cm from the base of the wall or fence. Loosen the soil at the edges of the hole
- Remove the plant from its pot and tease out the roots. Place in the hole with the top of the rootball at soil level
- Refill the hole and gently firm around the plant to remove any air pockets. Water and mulch with compost or chipped bark
- Tie shoots into supports to start training the vine
How to care for campsis
Keep your trumpet vine well-watered during the first year. They have fairly good drought tolerance once established, but grow better if watered in dry periods. Plants in containers benefit from regular watering and feeding with a high potassium liquid feed, such as tomato fertiliser or homemade comfrey tea, to encourage flowering. Adding a layer of mulch once a year in spring or autumn helps retain moisture in the soil and prevent plants drying out.
Campsis can take a few years to flower freely after planting. If you have a mature trumpet vine that is not flowering, it may be as a result of being planted in too shady a spot, being fertilised with nitrogen-rich feed that encourages vegetative growth at the expense of flowers, or being pruned too late in spring. Trumpet vines require full sun to ripen the wood and help the plant produce a profusion of blooms.
If foliage starts to turn yellow or brown, or leaves fall off, it is worth checking the compost is not too dry or too wet. Trumpet vines can be overwintered successfully in many parts of the UK, provided they are grown in a sheltered location such as against a sunny wall.
How to prune campsis
Annual pruning will help control the spread of the vine and create a strong framework of woody branches from which flower-bearing shoots will grow. Formative pruning involves creating a strong woody framework by cutting stems back to 15cm above the ground after planting to encourage new growth. Tie two or three of the strongest resulting shoots into the trellis or other support structure, and remove the rest.
After two or three years, the framework of stems should be complete. In subsequent years, spur-prune the sideshoots back to within two or three buds of the permanent framework in late winter or early spring. Remove any diseased or damaged stems. Campsis can also be cut back hard if it has become overgrown. In February or March, prune all stems back to 30cm from the base, and then train the vine as you would a new plant.
How to propagate campsis
Trumpet vines can be propagated by layering, taking cuttings or sowing seeds. You can layer campsis as you would any other suitable climber or shrub, by choosing a flexible young stem that can be bent down to lie along the ground. Nick the stem with secateurs to encourage rooting, gently pin it into the soil and water. Once roots develop, you can cut the new plant free of the parent and pot it up.
Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken from trumpet vines in summer and hardwood cuttings in autumn. It is also possible to propagate campsis from root cuttings in late autumn or early winter when the plant is dormant. These vigorous climbers tend to produce suckering runners that can be severed from the parent plant once they have roots. Pot up these rooted suckers in spring and water well for the first season; then transplant into their final position once they are fully established.
If you want to try growing campsis from seed, sow into seed compost in autumn. Place in a cold frame where seeds should germinate in spring after a period of cold winter temperatures. It is likely to be several years until your vine begins to flower.
Pests and diseases
Trumpet vines have few issues with pests and diseases, but can drop flower buds if the soil becomes too dry or temperatures too cold. Though they like plenty of water, they dislike boggy conditions and can suffer and drop leaves if soil is permanently wet.
Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew sometimes cause white patches on the leaves, but this rarely becomes a significant problem and does not usually need treating. The foliage can sometimes suffer damage from aphids, mealybugs or scale insects, but outbreaks are not normally serious and well-established plants should recover without intervention.
Advice on buying a trumpet vine
- Campsis need warm, sheltered conditions, so make sure you have a suitable spot with a strong support for the plant to climb up
- With vibrant flowers in a range of hot shades from deep yellows to vivid oranges and reds, you can select a variety that fits the colour scheme in your garden
- If you intend to grow a trumpet vine in a pot, choose a compact variety such as Campsis x tagliabuana Summer Jazz Fire Trumpet
Where to buy campsis online
Campsis varieties to try
Campsis grandiflora – this trumpet vine has similar orange-red tubular blooms to Campsis radicans, but will need tying in to sturdy supports as it is not self-clinging. Less vigorous than its American cousin, Campsis grandiflora can still reach up to 10m in height.
Campsis radicans – this species produces large orange and red trumpet-shaped flowers from July to September. Its deciduous ash-like foliage quickly covers walls and other vertical surfaces, and it should be hardy in most areas when grown against a warm, sheltered wall in full sun.
Campsis radicans f. flava – with its showy golden-yellow tubular blooms, this trumpet vine has been awarded a coveted RHS Award of Garden Merit. It is included on the RHS Plants for Pollinators list.
Campsis radicans ‘Flamenco’ – clusters of glorious scarlet flowers ensure that ‘Flamenco’ creates a dramatic backdrop for summer displays. Another vigorous grower, it needs sturdy support and plenty of space to grow.
Campsis x tagliabuana Indian Summer (‘Kudian’) – Campsis x tagliabuana is a cross between C. radicans and C. grandiflora. Indian Summer is a fairly compact variety with dark green foliage and vivid orange flowers with red throats that create an eye-catching display when grown up a sunny wall or along a trellis.
Campsis x tagliabuana Summer Jazz Fire Trumpet (‘Takarazuka Fresa’) – this compact variety is ideal for containers. Only growing up to 1.5m, and with a spread of 1.2m, it produces the same dazzling orange-red trumpet-shaped flowers as other campsis, but in a much smaller space.
Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’ – the coral-red flowers on this vigorous trumpet vine are perfect for the back of a hot border or along a sunny wall. This magnificent hybrid campsis has won an RHS Award of Garden Merit.