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Crossvines Offer Climbing Beauties
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
It seems the gardening world has gone crazy with arbors, trellises, towers, fences and more. Everyone is looking for perfect or unusual vines to drape or climb these structures. One of the best choices is the crossvine.
It is also called quartervine and is known botanically as Bignonia capreolata. It is hardy throughout the state. Bignonia comes from the name of King Louis IV's librarian.
The much-underused, semi-evergreen native vine may have more flowers per foot when in bloom than any other plant. Thousands of flowers literally cover the arbor at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs.
The flowers last for weeks and even now there are as many blooms as your basic honeysuckle. The flower production does taper off, but oh what a spring. The orange trumpet-shaped flowers capture the attention of everyone who sees them.
The variety growing at the station in Crystal Springs is called Tangerine Beauty. It is an improved selection over the native in the woods. Tangerine Beauty blooms for a little over a month during mid-April to May but will vary slightly from year to year and from zone to zone.
While Tangerine Beauty is the most well-known selection, other choices you might find include Atrosanguinea (red-purple) and Shalimar Red (red).
You can grow the crossvine and let it drape a fence or porch railing that borders the flower garden. Companion plants are almost limitless. Blue crown pansies usually still look good during this time, and they will contrast perfectly with the crossvine as does Victoria Blue salvia. If fresh yellow marigolds or ageratums have been planted, the blooming crossvine will frame the garden nicely.
Lately, I have been showing slides in my presentations and invariably some of our senior citizens will acknowledge smoking the vine when they were kids. Those whipper-snappers from the Depression era evidently had an appreciation for the crossvine other than for its use in the landscape.
To grow yours, choose a site in full sun for the most spectacular flower show. Amend tight soils with the addition of 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Select a sturdy support structure or let it climb a brick or masonry wall.
The vines climb by tendrils but have small disks that allow it to attach itself to a wall. Plant superior selections from nursery grown transplants. Set out at the same depth they are growing in the container, water and apply mulch. Space your plants 10 to 15 feet apart and be aware they can climb 20 to 30 feet.
I would like to tell you there is some magic to making them look great. Maybe an alfalfa tea or some mixture with Epsom salts. But the truth is probably anyone can grow Tangerine Beauty.
Feed with a light application of a 5-10-5 fertilizer in late winter and slow release 12-6-6 in mid-summer. Prune to maintain shape and confinement. Do major removing or thinning of vines after spring bloom.
Look for crossvine and other great vines now at your local garden center or nursery. Once you start "growing up," your garden will really come alive.