Special to the Journal
As we drive around in Central Texas, we see many signs of spring, especially the flowers that are in bloom. Even though spring has not officially arrived, the warm weather and recent rains have caused the arrival of the beauty that is displayed through the appearance of bright green landscape dotted with bluebonnets, buttercups and other wildflowers. We have memories of spring last year when the bluebonnets were their brightest and most prolific. What happened to them this year? We simply did not receive the rains bluebonnets need to soften their hard seeds in order to sprout. With the drought we had in January and February, we are extremely lucky to have the showing of their beauty that we now enjoy.
One of my favorite vines that will be bursting with color very soon is crossvine. Crossvine or Bignonia capreolata is a Texas native that is a member of the trumpet native family. Do not confuse this vine with trumpet vine which is different and very invasive. Crossvine grows quite vigorously, but it does not take over your landscape. It is perfect to cover a fence, trellis or arbor because its vines can grow up to fifty feet long and spread from six to thirty feet wide.
It does well in sun or part shade and in just about any soil. Once established, it needs little water, but don’t forget to give it a drink as needed, especially during a drought. This earthkind vine tolerates our hot summers well and cold temperatures in areas up to Zone 6.
The Tangerine Beauty variety blooms a spectacular show of bright coral blooms in the spring and then sporadically flowers during the rest of the year. Other varieties come in shades yellow, buff-orange, brick and red. The approximately two-inch trumpet shaped blooms are prolific in the spring. Leaves of the crossvine are a glossy bright green from four to six inches long and about two inches wide. Though non-deciduous (it keeps its leaves year around), its leaves tend to turn reddish after the first frost. It has tendrils or modified leaves that act as claws allowing it to cling to fences without help.
Crossvine is attractive to hummingbirds and bees. It is NOT deer resistant so not recommended for areas where deer wander. Most people cannot smell the flowers. After blooming, four to eight-inch long, dark brown, woody seed pods are formed. Pruning is recommended after crossvine has bloomed because it blooms on old wood. This will encourage new growth and later flowers.
Crossvine can be propagated by its seeds or by rooted cuttings. Pick the dried seed pods in the late summer or fall. Stored seeds are good for about a year. A couple of disadvantages of this vine is that it can take over the space it has been given and sometimes suckers appear that have to be removed to keep the plant in its allocated space.
Of interest is that native Americans used crossvine as a remedy for several physical conditions, including diphtheria, edema, headaches and rheumatism. It is said that the plant received its name “crossvine” from the design of the cut cross-section of the stems.
All of the attributes of this easy to grow, low water requirements, low maintenance, beautifully blooming vine lead it to be an asset to any fence, arbor or trellis that cries out for improved landscaping.
Crossvine along with a wide variety of other Texas natives, perennials, vegetables, roses, grasses, herbs and succulents will be available at the Bell County Master Gardener 2016 Spring Plant Sale which will be held on Saturday, April 2, from 8:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. at the Master Gardener Building at the Bell County Extension Office at 1605 N. Main in Belton. Free information booths about composting and rain water harvesting along with the popular kids camp and Ask a Master Gardener are also a favorite feature of the plant sale.