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Campsis radicans - trumpet creeper

If you look for a robust, summer-flowering climber to plant in a sunny spot, trumpet creeper called also cow itch vine or hummingbird vine is definitely worth your interest. Campsis is a woody vine of the the Bignoniaceae – Trumpet Creeper family.

Campsis radicans - trumpet creeper

It is native to northern America and was brought to Europe in 17th century.  It's very vigorous and attains the height of 6-10 m, climbing by means of aerial roots and slightly windy stems. 

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Campsis radicans 'Gabor' - photo Sz. Marczynski

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Campsis radicans - an old, matured stem - photo Sz. Marczynski
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Campsis radicans 'Gabor' - photo Sz. Marczynski

Young shoots are green and turn pale brown when they get woody. The stems that are more than one year old are covered with pale brown, peeling bark. Old specimens can have even as many as over a dozen centimetres in diameter at the base.

Trumpet creepers start late its growing season in spring, which works to their advantage as it reduces the risk of damage caused by frost. At the end of May they start growing very vigorously to form a thick greenery in early July. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, and reach up to 40 cm in length.

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'Campsis radicans 'Gabor' - fruit - photo Sz. Marczynski
They are composed of 7-11 coarsely toothed leaflets, 3-10 cm long. Leaves are green in spring and summer, then, in autumn, turn yellow and fall.

The main attraction of the plant are its flared trumpet flowers that, depending on the variety, can be orange, red or yellow. They reach 6-10 cm in length and 3-5 cm across. The flowers appear from July to September in clusters of 4-12 blossoms at the tips of this year’s horizontal shoots. The fruits are long (10-20 cm) pods, which split open when ripe releasing winged seed. Since the fruits are not very attractive it's best to remove them as soon as they are set. This will also enhance longer and more prolific flowering- till the end of autumn. In the USA trumpet creeper is recommended to all hummingbird lovers, as these small birds are fond of its nectar and will fly in to the plant from the entire region.

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Campsis radicans 'Flava' - photo Sz. Marczynski
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Campsis radicans - photo Sz. Marczynski


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Campsis radicans 'Ursynów'
growing on a wall of a block of flats - photo Sz. Marczynski
Once it’s taken root and formed a sturdy base, which takes about 2-3 years, it will tolerate drying soil and seasonal changes in soil salinity and moisture levels.
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Campsis radicans 'Ursynów' - on a wall - photo Sz. Marczynski
The plants obtained by vegetative reproduction normally start blooming in the 2nd-3rdyear after planting. When grown from seeds, the plants will take longer, even up to 5-8 years, to start flowering.

It's best to plant denoted varieties of trumpet creeper, so that you know what to expect.
I especially recommend:

  • 'Flamenco' - large, intensely red flowers from July to September
  • 'Flava' - yellow flowers in July-August. Less robust than the rest of the cultivars. It starts flowering 1-2 years later than the rest of trumpet creepers.
  • 'Gabor' - dark red flowers, borne abundantly and for a long time, from July to September. Selected in Hungary by the professor Gabor Schmidt, it was named by Szczepan Marczynski and introduced to the market in 2004.
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Campsis radicans 'Flamenco' - photo Sz. Marczynski
  • 'Judy' - striking yellow flowers, the inside of the trumpet is orange. It flowers from July to September. The cultivar was selected in the USA.
  • 'Ursynów' - vividly orange flowers borne in profusion from July to September, large leaves. It starts blooming already in the 1st-2nd year after planting. Quite frost hardy. Selected in the Warsaw district Ursynów by Szczepan Marczynski and introduced to the market in 1997.

Campsis x tagliabuana 

A hybrid species resulted from a cross between Campsis grandiflora and Campsis radicans. It’s less vigorous than Campsis radicans, attains the height of 4 m (1-2 m of new growth a year), but its flowers are more attractive, bigger and have more flared coronas. It has similar soil requirements, pruning method and applications to Campsis radicans. Although less frost hardy than Campsis radicans, it will grow and flower almost everywhere in Poland. 'Mme Galen' – large, salmon-pink-red flowers. It starts flowering very profusely in the 2nd-3rd year after planting.

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Campsis radicans - support for a young plant - photo Sz. Marczynski


Trumpet creeper is quite undemanding when it comes to soil conditions but it requires a lot of heat and light. It grows and flowers best in full sun and in well drained soil that is moderately rich, neutral, slightly acid or slightly alkaline (pH 5,5 - 7,5). The stems can freeze during harsh winters, but in spring new shoots sprout from the base of the plant, and quickly cover the supports. I've seen flowering specimens of Trumpet creeper even in Suwalki region, which is the polish cold pole. Trumpet creeper is disease and pest resistant: there are no specific diseases or pests that affect the plant. In certain conditions it may be prone to the powdery mildew attack (white coating on the upper side of the leaves), as well as to aphids and spiders.


Trumpet creepers are best suited for covering walls, but you can also grow them over a fence, a pergola, an arbour or any other kind of support. It may also climb up a tree trunk as long as it is in full sun. It will bloom very abundantly when grown over a small building and over a roof that faces south, as roofs store up well the solar heat.

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Campsis radicans - pruning - photo Sz. Marczynski

Trumpet creeper can also be used in sunny urban open spaces. It can efficiently mask unsightly constructions, creating screens, covering noise barriers, piles of stones, concrete constructions. Suitable for land rehabilitation.


During the first two years after planting, until it’s has spread out and strengthened, it's good to provide a support and, in winter, to protect the base of the plant against the cold. Straight after planting, all shoots should be cut at about 15 cm from the ground to encourage branching. Train the new, strong shoots to the sides and tie to the wiring or poles so that they cover the desired space. Weak shoots should be removed. After creating a robust frame, every year trim young shoots above the 2nd-3rd node (a pair of buds) over the leading shoot. Side shoots that are weak or damaged should be either removed or only one bud should be left.

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Campsis radicans - adventitious roots- photo Sz. Marczynski
Basic pruning is best carried out in spring - late March or early April. In summer, if necessary, you should thin out all the excessive growth. Hard pruning hinders growth and encourages flowering. What’s more, after a few years of such pruning you can get a flowering plant with stems so thick that they won’t need any support.

Trumpet creeper produces root suckers, especially if it's hard pruned or when the root system has been damaged, so you must control the spreading of the plant to the sides. You should only choose plants propagated from stem cuttings (with their own root system), and not propagated by grafting, producing "wild" root suckers from the base.

All the parts of the plant are slightly toxic and its juice can cause skin irritation in people allergic to it. The pollen may also cause an allergic response.

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Campsis radicans 'Judy' - flowers - photo Sz. Marczynski
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Campsis radicans 'Judy' - flowers - photo Sz. Marczynski

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Campsis radicans 'Flava' - photo Sz. Marczynski
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Campsis radicans 'Ursynów' - photo Sz. Marczynski
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Campsis radicans 'Gabor' - photo Sz. Marczynski
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