Balboa sunset trumpet creeper

Pruning Trumpet Vines: Learn When And How To Prune A Trumpet Vine

Tough and beautiful, woody trumpet vines (Campsis radicans) rise to 13 feet (4 m.), scaling trellises or walls using their aerial roots. This North American native produces 3-inch (7.5 cm.) long, bright orange flowers in the shape of trumpets. Pruning trumpet vines is critical to establish a strong framework for the plant. Read on to learn how to prune a trumpet vine.

How to Prune a Trumpet Vine

It takes two or three years for a trumpet vine to develop a strong framework of branches. To accomplish this, you’ll want to start pruning trumpet vines the year after you plant them.

Since trumpet vine blooms in midsummer on current year’s growth, severe fall pruning won’t limit the vine’s flowers the next summer. In fact, pruning trumpet vines properly encourages the plants to produce more flowers every summer.

The plant is prolific and sends up multiple basal shoots. It’s a gardener’s job to reduce that number to begin building a long-term framework for the flowering shoots.

This process requires cutting trumpet vine plants back in the fall. The following spring, it’s time to select the best and the strongest vine shoots and prune back the rest. This pruning procedure is appropriate for newly planted trumpet vines and also for mature trumpet vines that need renovation.

When to Prune Trumpet Vines

Your first job is to harden your heart to cutting trumpet vine plants in autumn. When you are cutting trumpet vine plants back, you can prune them off at ground level or leave up to 8 inches (20 cm.) of vine.

This type of trumpet vine pruning encourages vigorous basal shoot development in spring. When new growth begins, you select several of the strongest shoots and train them to the supporting trellis. The rest must be cut to the ground.

Once a framework of several strong shoots extends over the trellis or allotted space – a process that may take several growing seasons – trumpet vine pruning becomes an annual affair. In spring, after all danger of frost is past, you prune off all lateral shoots to within three buds of the framework vines.

Q. How can I get rid of unwanted trumpet vine offshoots?

— Mary Cuny, Chicago

A. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a high-climbing, aggressively colonizing woody vine that is cultivated for its attractive reddish-orange flowers, which attract hummingbirds. There also are cultivars with red, yellow or orange flowers.

This plant is easily grown in most soils and will flower best in full sun. Routine pruning is important to keep it under control, as it tends to grow rampantly. The vine blooms on new growth, so early spring pruning will not affect flowering.

Trumpet vines spread in three ways: by seed, by rooting wherever the plants touch the ground and by underground runners, from which shoots will come up in your garden.

To slow down the growth of your plant, remove seed by regular deadheading. Keep the parent plant pruned so that vines stay off the ground and cannot take root.

Regular mowing will deter shoots from the underground runners that come up in turf areas. Offshoots in garden beds will need to be dug up or cut off with a hoe as they appear. Remove the shoots as you do your routine garden weeding.

If you are adding a new trumpet vine, you may be able to contain the runners by planting the vine in a 5-gallon bucket with the bottom removed that is sunk in the ground and filled with soil. (This technique of planting in a sunken, bottomless pot also is used to control mint in the garden.)

If routinely removing the offshoots does not work for your schedule, it may be best to remove the trumpet vine and replace it with a less aggressive vine such as clematis. You may want to wear gloves when working with a trumpet vine, as some people experience skin redness and itching after contact with the foliage.

Suckering may persist for some time after you dig out the plant, so plan on some follow-up weeding for a few years. Suckering will become more sporadic over time. Treating the suckers with a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate will kill the root system more quickly.

Balboa Sunset Trumpetvine

Intense color distinguishes this trumpet vine; spectacular effects are created with clusters of up to a dozen luxurious scarlet red blooms; excellent as a garden focal point or accent, grows very quickly and covers by self clinging.

Add to Wishlist Add to Wishlist SKU: 42705690df2f Category: Vines

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Species: radicans

Other Species Names: Trumpetcreeper

Plant Height: 480 in.

Spread: 24 in.

Evergreen: No

Plant Form: spreading

Summer Foliage Color: dark green

Minimum Sunlight: partial shade

Maximum Sunlight: full sun

Ornamental Features

Intense color distinguishes this trumpet vine; spectacular effects are created with clusters of up to a dozen luxurious scarlet red blooms; excellent as a garden focal point or accent, grows very quickly and covers by self clinging

Landscape Attributes

Balboa Sunset Trumpetvine is a dense multi-stemmed deciduous woody vine with a twining and trailing habit of growth. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

Planting & Growing

Balboa Sunset Trumpetvine will grow to be about 40 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. As a climbing vine, it tends to be leggy near the base and should be underplanted with low-growing facer plants. It should be planted near a fence, trellis or other landscape structure where it can be trained to grow upwards on it, or allowed to trail off a retaining wall or slope. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 20 years. This woody vine does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under average home landscape conditions. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for xeriscaping or the moisture-conserving landscape. It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selection of a native North American species.

While the hydrangeas wilt, the trumpet vine runs rampant

“Hot, hot, hot” the plants in the garden have been saying, some with pleasure like the tropical-looking climber Campsis x tagliabuana `Mme Galen’, which is ramping all over the roof with its orange-red trumpets; some with despair, like the hydrangeas, which are limp and droopy and as desperate for a drink as an alcoholic at a temperance meeting.

I waited 12 years for the campsis (trumpet vine) to flower and it first did so five years ago, when it was already putting all its energies into growing along the gutter, completely spurning the south-facing wall it was supposed to decorate. It has never looked better than it does this summer, the flowers waving in an outrageously blatant way from the chimney and the ridge tiles. This is quite a shock when you see them unawares from the other side of the house.

I have been debating whether to cut the whole thing down and try and force it to do its thing on the wall rather than the roof. Its phenomenal display this summer has persuaded me that I will not. I will just plant another one further along the wall and make sure that I am tougher with this second vine than I was with the first. They should be hard pruned in early spring every year. I was loath to do that when I first got it as it seemed unlikely it would ever make enough growth to flower successfully. Now I know better.

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Luck dictates whether you plant the right things for the right season. It has been a long time since I have grown sunflowers, but I happened to plant them this spring, setting seeds of `Velvet Queen’ (Thompson & Morgan, pounds 1.49) in individual three-inch pots to grow on before I planted them out in the border under the study window. They are flowering now with red dahlias and dark paddle-leaved cannas. They are not monsters, for a sunflower with a bit between its teeth can get up to 10ft and mine are only half that, but they are an easy height to fit into a border.

The flowers are tan and mahogany, the centres very dark, the petals shading from burnt umber through to quite a dark chocolate brown. They are not anything like the “velvety red” flowers described and photographed in T&M’s catalogue, but I am not complaining. I like them so much I am going to grow lots more sunflowers next year, starting with `Italian White’ (T&M, pounds 1.29) which are actually cream. What I do not want are the ones that T&M describes as “a marvel of breeding ingenuity” – knee-high sunflowers with blooms 10in across. That is not ingenuity. It is deformity.

Next year, too, I want to add to the sunflower/dahlia mix a stunning gladiolus that I saw this week at Bourton House, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire. It had the same colour tones as the sunflowers, each petal on the spike overlaid with a rich brownish red on an equally rich yellow. It is the kind of colouring I have only before seen in tulips. The gladiolus is a species called G. natalensis and according to The Plant Finder is available from Michael Wickenden at Cally Gardens, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas, Scotland DG7 2DJ. The sensible man is not on the phone. You can also get it from Ballyrogan Nurseries, The Grange, Ballyrogan, Newtownards, Co Down, Northern Ireland BT23 4SD (01247 810451). Both nurseries do mail order.

How to Prune Trumpet Vines

Marina Lohrbach/iStock/Getty Images

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is spectacular but once this aggressive grower gets out of hand, its unrestrained growth can be downright destructive. In addition, its sap can irritate skin, causing a rash for some and it is mildly toxic if eaten. You’ll need sharp hand shears, a lopper and a sharp garden spade, long sleeves and gloves to groom your trumpet vine. And keep the kids and dogs indoors until you’ve cleaned up every twig.

What to Prune

A trumpet vine requires two or three years to establish itself and start blooming. Prune weaker branches off from young vines to leave one main stem and branches that cover your trellis or wall. When the vine matures, cut the flowering shoots that have grown away from the supported branches back to the main branches in early or late winter. These branches will regrow the next year.

Use hand shears to trim and loppers to extend your reach or cut branches thicker than 1/4 inch. Cut back branches that grow into gutters or the roof. Remove suckers by forcing a garden spade across the sucker underground. Wipe tools frequently with a solution of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water or hand sanitizer.

When to Prune

Ill-timed trimming can leave you with few or no flowers the next season. In U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 6, prune a trumpet vine in late winter when average daytime temperatures begin to rise above freezing, usually from February through March. In USDA zones 7 through 9, prune a trumpet vine after the flowers fade in fall, from October through November. Take suckers and pinch back overgrown growing tips whenever they appear from spring through summer. Whenever you prune, wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and eye protection.

Simplify the Job

Position your vines for success. Trumpet vines climb by sinking strong, intrusive aerial roots, so grow them on wood or metal trellises that stand 4 to 6 inches away from siding, delaminated stucco, ventilation panels and cracked mortar that they could pry loose. Cut back an old branch or two every year to maintain control. And when a trumpet vine outflanks you and grows too large and ungainly, cut it to within 12 inches of the ground in late winter to renovate it. Begin training the strongest new shoots to the trellis in spring.

Choosing a Trumpet Vine

Some trumpet vines are considered invasive in some areas, so check before planting. Common trumpet vine, which grows in USDA zones 4 through 9, grows to 40 feet.

Chinese trumpet vine (Campsis grandifora), which grows in USDA zones 6 through 9, tops out at 30 feet. Trumpet creeper (Campsis x tagliabuana), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9, is a hybrid between the common and Chinese varieties that grows 15 to 25 feet tall.

Common trumpet vine blooms from the first hot weather in July through early fall in September. The hybrid creeper follows in August and the Chinese vine follows later in August.

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