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Trumpet vine woes

Definition of good intentions gone bad

What is not to like about a plant that is naturalized to Ohio, produces showy yellow orange to red trumpet-shaped flowers, attracts hummingbirds, bees and deer, and can be expected to grow 15 feet a year in a sunny location when supported by a trellis, large tree or fence?

This is the trumpet vine / creeper also known as the Campsis radicans.

Stop the press! Hold on a minute before you run to the nursery to buy one of these.

My interest in the trumpet vine / creeper was piqued when I observed this vine growing at least 40 feet high on a very tall oak tree and the flowers were impressive. However, a bit of research cooled my interest.

Trumpet creeper can be an invasive weed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Plant Data Center lists the following warning: “Contact with the leaves and flowers of trumpet creeper results in skin redness and swelling among mammals (that includes humans). It is also slightly toxic if ingested.”

The plant guide continues: “This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed.”

Another caveat — do not let them grow too close to your house, driveway or an outbuilding because their aerial roots can literally raise the roof, crack the concrete, or pull down the spouting. If left to grow on a smaller tree, it may even strangle it.

People living in arid climates love this plant because it thrives with little rainfall. In Ohio and more hospitable climates, you will find constant pruning is needed to keep your trumpet vine / creeper from becoming a menace. It is impossible to overprune this vine. The suggestion is to cut it to the ground in the spring and to pull up the shoots and roots that appear. It readily sends out new roots and develops new suckers.

If trumpet creeper / vine is a self-clinging woody climber and hummingbird attracter you cannot live without, there is a suggestion for planting that will help control the invasion. Plant the trumpet creeper in a 5-gallon plastic bucket. First dig a hole bigger than the bucket from which you have removed the bottom. Place the bucket with dirt and plant in the hole. The bucket SHOULD keep the vine’s root from spreading.

Trumpet vine can be difficult to control. Mechanical control can work, but takes many, many cuttings over a year or two before control can be achieved. If you try a herbicide, be sure the herbicide is labeled for trumpet vine (organic or conventional herbicide). Be sure to read and follow all label instructions.

When you think a plant is fantastic, be sure to do your homework. As with all aggressive plants, choose your spot wisely and be careful about good intentions gone bad.

To learn more about this plant go to http://go.osu.edu/trumpetvine.

Novotny is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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