Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture

Bignonia Capreolata - Cross Vine

"Is cross vine our favorite Texas vine or what! The SFA Mast Arboretum has long promoted our native cross vine as a stellar landscape plant for the South. After all, we are talking about a glossy-leaved, evergreen, heavy-flowering vine that never fails to awe when sporting orange-red flowers in heavy bloom. Glossy, evergreen leaves are opposite, oblong to 6 inches long and ½” to 2 inches wide.

It’s not so rambunctious as an ill-mannered Wisteria or Carolina yellow jessamine at full battle status; yet, when fertilized and watered, the cross vine can cover a big space quick. My conclusion: this is a knockout native that deserves much greater use. In our area, the key for the full flowering effect is sunlight and the more the better. The plant is native to the dark woodlands of the South, where it is most often recognized by the fallen flower soldiers on the forest floor. On the roadsides, rambling through fence lines and tucked here and there in the wildlands of the South, the plant can make a strong statement. Put this vine in full sun in a modestly tended garden, and a cross vine in full bloom can literally take your breath away.

Care and culture of cross vine is rather simple. For the first year or two give the plant a modicum of attention and provide the vine with something to climb on. Get that crown into the sun. Result: noisy show.

The variety picture is becoming interesting. ‘Atrosanguinea’ commonly sports a dark-red purple flower – one that appears as a single color. The SFA Mast Arboretum was one of the first gardens to promote this variety when it became available out of the southeast.

‘Helen Fredel’ ‘Tangerine Beauty’ was introduced years ago and then heavily promoted by JC Raulston and for good reason – orange flowers with yellow throats that stand out in dramatic fashion against the evergreen foliage. ‘Jekyll’ is a Mike Dirr selection from Jekyll island. According to Mike, a bicycle crash was involved in its discovery; this cultivar displays rich orange, yellow-throated flowers and is reported to be very cold hardy by Head-Lee Nursery. Greg Grant’s introduction of ‘Helen Fredel’ really is special and our tape measure reveals that this is the one with the biggest flowers. Wouldn’t you know it? Texas likes big. ‘Shalimar Red’ is another repeat-blooming, red form we do not have in the Arboretum. There are great opportunities for selection: first one out the gate with a bright or not quite full yellow gets my nomination for the Luther Burbank award.

Propagation is simple. Seed requires no pretreatment. The species can be rooted at any time of the year but June/July cuttings are generally recommended. Cross vines root easily, albeit a bit on the slow side for us (six to eight weeks). The plant can be trained to an espalier in the can and can be forced into flower in the second year. Much work remains to be done in terms of optimizing bloom show at sale time. The plant sells itself in the container if copious in bloom. Cross vine should be used and seen more. It’s a Southern native with lots of class and opportunities for varietal development remain exciting." ~ Dave Creech