Crossvine – June 2018 Wildflower of the Month

Crossvine Bignonia capreolata Wildflower of the Month June 2018

Bignonia capreolata
Photo by Helen Hamilton


By Helen Hamilton, John Clayton Chapter, VNPS

 Blooming profusely in coastal Virginia from late April through June, with red and yellow bell-shaped flowers, crossvine is a stunning addition to the home garden.  The funnel-shaped flowers varying from orange to red outside and trimmed with yellow, and glossy green leaves mark crossvine as a plant of unusual beauty.    Its native habitat is moist woods and the flowers can be seen from local roadways at the edge of woodlands.  Walking the Jamestown Loop Road in May and June, the blossoms appear at your feet with no apparent source nearby.  That’s because the vine has climbed to the top of the tallest trees to catch sunlight.

While it will reach a height of 50 feet, in the home garden it will grow on a trellis, fence or porch, rewarding the homeowner with cascades of flowers at eye level. Without a structure to climb upon, crossvine will spread across the ground.  Because the leaves remain on the vine over the winter, this species is a nice alternative groundcover to nonnative periwinkle and ivy.  It has appendages on the ends of its tendrils that cling to surfaces, so that it can climb a brick wall or wood arbor without support wires.

Its stems are small, and this woody vine grows fast once it has become established, spreading throughout the area from root suckers. The orange-flowered trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is in the same family and blooms after crossvine, in late summer through fall.

Flowering occurs as the daffodils fade; the bright reds and yellows complement the wild blue phlox and azaleas.  Brown seed pods appear in late fall; the paired leaves are semi-evergreen, turning bronze or copper in the fall and remaining on the vine through the winter.

Crossvine likes swampy forests, rock outcrops and limy river banks, growing in sun or part shade, in acid to alkaline soils.  Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love the flowers.  The cut stem shows a cross pattern, which is the source for the common name.

It is deer resistant, and there are no serious disease or insect problems associated with crossvine.  This plant is a native alternative to invasive nonnative English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and the Asian wisterias.

For more information about native plants visit

By Helen Hamilton, John Clayton Chapter, VNPS

Photo: Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) taken by Helen Hamilton