Vines are becoming extremely popular as choices for a wide range of garden styles. Their adaptability to many growing conditions, wonderful ornamental qualities, and unique textural characters give vines the opportunity to contribute in many ways to every landscape space. The recent fascination of many gardeners with vines is the perfect reason to consider planting the magnificent Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata in gardens throughout the south.
This semi-evergreen to evergreen climbing vine is covered with masses of two inch long, trumpet-shaped flowers for three to five weeks in late spring and into summer. The salmon-orange to reddish-brown flowers are quite variable in color among wild populations but they all generally have yellow-orange throats. Set against the large, four inch long and dark, glossy leaves, the coralline colors of Crossvine's flowers are very striking. The foliage is handsome in itself with formal, narrowly oval-shaped, and distinctly pointed leaves. In warmer areas, this vine is completely evergreen and adds attractive texture to the winter garden, especially in combination with other vines of contrasting form.
Crossvine is a southeastern US native with an indigenous range that stretches from Louisiana all the way north and east to North Carolina and Virginia. Its common name refers to the outline of the stem's cross-section. It is completely hardy throughout the southeastern US, from the coast to the mountains, and will happily prosper in almost any landscape site with no pest or disease problems. Crossvine is particularly tolerant of wet, clay soils and will also grow in deep shade (although flowering will be sparse in heavy shade). Crossvine is readily propagated from seed that can be sowed directly after harvest, or from softwood cuttings taken in early summer and rooted under mist.
Crossvine is a vigorous plant that climbs using tendrils and 'holdfasts', small circular appendages that enable the vine to cling to, and therefore climb, seemingly impossible walls, e.g. flat wood or porous concrete surfaces. This makes it a vine that requires pruning and training in small gardens but also means that it is an excellent choice for rambling over new fences that need softening with color and texture, for covering unattractive poles or utility features in the midst of compacted soil, or for bringing new interest to old vertical features that have worn a bit thin in the garden.
Surprisingly, there are few named cultivars or color forms of this wonderful vine. 'Atrosanguinea' is a red-flowered form with slightly narrower blooms than the species that open to an inconspiculously orange-red throat. A clear yellow selection has recently been made in Texas but is not yet in production. A salmon-orange colored form from Wayside Gardens is currently the star of the patio trellis at The NCSU Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum). This older, incredibly floriferous variety is undergoing propagation for renaming and release from Wayside in the future - make sure to watch for it.
Crossvine is a striking and robust vine that can wrap many landscape problems, or features, in a beautiful cloak of foliar texture and uniquely colored flowers. The combination of adaptability with special beauty is one that many vines can boast, but few express this wonderful combination with the cheerful burst of vigor and color that Crossvine brings to the garden. At The NCSU Arboretum (now the JC Raulston Arboretum), the young Crossvine on the patio trellis has recently drawn gardeners like bees to blue flowers. A visit to the Arboretum will show why every gardener has been fascinated with this marvelous vine.