Bignonia - Campsis radicans

Bignonia - Campsis radicans

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Bignonia belongs to the Bignoniaceae family and is a genus that includes only one delicate, evergreen, particularly vigorous climbing species, which grows with remarkable rapidity: Bignonia Capredata.
This species is native to North America and more precisely to the central and southern regions of the United States. In Italy it grows outdoors in the hottest regions of central and southern Italy; in the northern ones, however, it is grown in greenhouses, or outdoors in lake areas, where the climate is milder throughout the year.
It is a plant that can reach up to 10 meters in height. The leaves are oblong and toothed and develop two by two in a symmetrical manner with respect to the branch, then ending in a branched tendril, equipped with suction cups that allow the plant to "climb".
Among the most widespread species we mention the Bignonia venusta, which blooms at the end of winter and the Bignonia campsis, which blooms between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and which is able to withstand even the cold.
With the name "bignonia" many climbing plants that produce trumpet flowers are popularly indicated. Among the most common we can indicate the campsis radicans, the Podranea ricasoliana, the Tecoma capensis and the Pandorea jasminoпdes. Actually all these plants are currently always part of the Bignoniaceae family, but no longer of the bignonia genus. As the study of this vast family progressed, each formed an autonomous genre. In the genre bignonia (only one of the plants in cultivation) bignonia capreolata (also called doxantha capreolata). Originally from the North American continent, it has become increasingly widespread in our gardens thanks to its resistance, abundance and durability of blooms and the interesting cultivars currently available on the market.

The flowers

The flowers of Campsis radicans are red-orange in color, grouped in pedunculate peaks and provided with a 4-5 cm long, tubular corolla, ending in 5 enlarged lobes.
Planting must be done in spring, placing the plant in large pots filled with fertile soil, rich in organic substance on a base with a strong clay component; care should be taken to position the pots in areas sheltered from currents and cold.
Watering must be abundant during the spring-summer period, moderate during the winter.


The multiplication of Campsis radicans is carried out in spring and is obtained by taking semi-woody cuttings from the side shoots of the plant; the cuttings must be planted in the special multiplication boxes, filled with sand. Once the rooting has taken place (after about 2 months), the seedlings must be transferred to medium-sized pots, filled with compact compost.
The pruning of Campsis radicans plants is to be practiced in spring, taking care to eliminate the dry branches and to shorten the larger branches.
In general the propagation of bignonia is carried out by cutting. Select a branch of the plant of non-woody consistency (semi-mature) leaving a couple of leaves near the apex. It is placed in a vase with a mixture of peat and sand (or, better still, sand and agriperlite). It gets wet and remains covered with a plastic film (because the humidity remains high). It is placed in the shade with temperatures around 20 ° C. The rooting usually takes place in three weeks.
The offshoot is even simpler: take a long branch and direct it towards the ground, burying it for about twenty centimeters (some small incisions will have been made on the bark). In a short time it will emit roots. At that point we will be able to cut upstream and transfer the seedling to a pot to reinforce it.
If you want you can get the same effect by covering a branch with plastic filled with earth.

Characteristics and origins bignonia

Campsis radicans is native to Virginia and southern Illinois, but can also be found as spontaneous in Florida and Louisiana.
It is a glabrous, evergreen liana (where the winters are mild) that can reach 20 meters in height (but remains much more contained in the northern regions). The leaves are rigid and end with a branched tendril that adheres by means of small suckers; they are equipped with oblong petioles, sharp and cordate, of a beautiful glossy green, 5 to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced in numerous racemes composed from 2 to 5. At the moment of flowering they are often so numerous that they completely cover the foliage. The corolla, in the species, is red with orange nuances, from 4 to 5 cm long. The edges are rounded. Some cultivars give off an intoxicating scent that is often combined with that of coffee.

Description and classification

The mandevilla genus is very numerous: it includes about 120 species, all native to tropical America. There are about fifty shrub or climbing species originating in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and others still from other areas and with different habitats (for example creeping). It is quite curious that in cultivation only two are present, both climbing plants.
Mandevilla sanderi It is by far the most widespread species on the market (also called jasmine from Chile). Native to Argentina and Bolivia, it is a woody climbing vine that can reach up to 6 meters in height. The leaves at the base are heart-shaped, the others oval, opposite and pointed, 5 to 15 cm long and 2 to 5 wide, deep green and glabrous on the upper side, gray-green in the lower one. The racemes, which carry up to nine flowers, are axillary or terminal, on peduncles longer than the leaves. The flowers are white, bell-shaped and fragrant. The diameter of the corolla is about 5 cm
It has given rise to a large number of hybrids and cultivars, with ever-larger flowers, particular habitats and multiple colors.
Mandevilla boliviensis it is much less widespread in cultivation. Originally also from Argentina and Bolivia, it has bare branches, sharp and elongated leaves, with longer peduncles than the sanderi. The flowers give off an intense and very pleasant fragrance.

The name Bignonia

The name bignonia honors the abbot Paul Brignon, librarian of Louis XIV and academic of France. "Capreolata" instead unites honeysuckle: both plants have the ability to cling to supports through small tendrils.

Bignonia cultivation

The cultivation of bignonia is quite simple and is rarely a source of problems. We only need to pay particular attention to the support offered to grow. In fact, networks, trees or materials that are not resistant are not suitable. In time, in fact, the specimen can become large and the weight will not be indifferent. The metal structures could bend and other vegetables used as support risk being suffocated. Instead, they are suitable walls, poles and pergolas.
Before planting this creeper, however, we keep in mind that the strong scent emanated usually attracts a large number of insects (especially wasps and hornets). We therefore pay particular attention in case children and animals play in that area. We also reflect well on the opportunity to include it in the immediate vicinity of the house.

Use bignonia

The uses are many. The most classic is undoubtedly as a creeper to cover walls, pergolas, gates or other structures.
However, it can also be used as a ground cover to hide the ground in slopes or hilly areas.

Rusticity bignonia

Until a few years ago it was considered a little rustic and the cultivation in the open ground was recommended only in the Center-South, on the coasts, and, in the North, on the banks of the great lakes.
It actually turned out to be much more resilient than previously thought, especially once it is well set.
Surely it resists up to -10 ° C having the sole reaction the loss of the leaves (which occurs below 5 ° C). However, well-rooted specimens managed to overcome even very cold winters with peaks of -15 ° C without damage.
We only recommend protecting the foot during the first two or three years after planting. We can prepare a thick mulch based on straw, hay, leaves or, even better, very mature flour manure (to be incorporated into the soil with a light hoe, once spring arrives).
The first winter can also be useful to cover the foliage with non-woven fabric.

Bignonia soil

In this respect, bignonia is not very demanding. To give the best, however, it needs a soil rich in organic, fresh, possibly clayey, but still with good drainage. The ideal is to mix a good amount of manure and some handfuls of cornunga on the substrate at the time of implantation.
On the bottom it is essential to create a thick draining layer with gravel.

How and when to do the planting?

The best time for this operation is the beginning of spring, when no more frost is expected.
We prepare a large hole and insert the slightly inclined bignonia towards its support. We irrigate abundantly after having pressed the soil well.

Bignonia irrigation

It is very resistant to drought and therefore we will hardly lose it even in the event of prolonged absence of rain.
However, in order to obtain a fast growth and abundant blooms, it is good to irrigate rather frequently, especially during the summer.
In the cold season, instead, it is good to suspend almost completely so that it can enter into vegetative rest, as is natural in this type of vines.

Fertilization bignonia

The supply of nutrients is extremely important for fast development and because the blooms are abundant and very colorful.
The plant, to start producing corollas, must reach maturity. Generally, three or four years must elapse after planting. In this period it is good to administer in the autumn a good quantity of flour manure added with cornunghia. In spring it will be helped by a few handfuls of slow release granular fertilizer in which nitrogen and phosphorus prevail.
Adult plants always like the addition of soil conditioner in autumn, but should instead be used during the vegetative period, supported with a product for flowering plants, therefore in which potassium is prevalent. Usually the best results are obtained with rose fertilizers.

Bignonia display

The ideal exposure is certainly full sun. In the South they can grow and flourish well even in partial shade, where they can in any case take advantage of the light and heat during the afternoon hours.

Pruning bignonia

There bignonia capreolata it flowers on the axillary stems on the branches of the previous year. It is therefore good to proceed with pruning at the end of the summer; in this way the plant will be immediately stimulated to produce flowering shoots for the following year.
All the main branches must be shortened and the secondary branches that have just finished bringing the corollas removed.
If we want we can also thin it to favor air circulation (which prevents the onset of mold), especially if the foliage is very dense.
At the end of the winter, you can always proceed with a pruning to remove, if necessary, dead branches, damaged or sick.

Pests diseases bignonia

It is rarely prey to diseases or pests.
If the growth conditions were not optimal, attacks could occur
- Aphids: to fight with strong jets of water or specific insecticides (only in severe cases)
- Cochineal: carry out winter prevention treatments with white oil activated by specific insecticide for eggs
- Red spider mite: increase humidity through frequent nebulizations with water
- Powdery mildew: caused by strong environmental humidity: thin out the plant to increase ventilation. Eliminate the affected parts.

Bignonia - Campsis radicans: Variety

This climber is finding more and more admirers both in Europe and in the United States, also thanks to some nurserymen who have taken care of selecting new cultivars characterized by interesting colors and good resistance to cold and diseases.
Family and gender
Bignoniaceae, gen. bignonia, sp. capreolata
Type of plant Perennial, climbing, evergreen in mild climates
Exposure Full sun
Rustic Medium rustic
Ground Clayey and rich
Irrigation Abundant, but it is very resistant to drought
Composting Autumn with organic soil improver, spring with granular for flowering plants
colors Yellow, orange, red
Flowering From April to July. Generally from the third year of the planting
Propagation Cutting, offshoot

  • Bignonia

    Many plants of the genus Bignonia have been, in recent decades, gathered in another genus, the genus Campsis; in par

    visit: bignonia


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Name of cultivarColor of flowers and specific characteristics
atrosanguinea With intense purple flowers
Dragon Lady Orange-red flowers and darker foliage than the species, beautiful color contrast
Tangerine beauty Mandarin-colored flowers with a yellow throat, very long flowering, light green foliage
Helen F redel ' Orange flowers with a yellow throat, huge corollas
Shalimar Red Red flowers and very long flowering
Jekyll Very resistant to cold, slightly re-flowering