Texas AgriLife Extension Service,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

May 2009

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

by Cynthia W. Mueller, Galveston County Master Gardener


The crossvine is a member of the Trumpet-Creeper Family (Bignoniaceae) and has gone by other names such as Anisostichus capreolata, Doxantha capreolata, and Anisostichus crucigera. This native perennial vine is usually found in east Texas forested areas, but is also found in various places in westernmost central Texas. Its woody vines climb well (up to 50 feet) due to the tendrils (modified leaves), which have claws at the tips, enabling the crossvine to cling to fences and walls without help.

The opposite leaves are usually 4-6 inches long and 2 inches wide and are glossy dark green in summer and more reddish after frost. In areas with mild winters the vine will keep its leaves during the winter, and is ready to continue growing and flower as soon as warmer weather arrives. This is a good characteristic for a vine which is planted to cover arbors and provide shade quickly.

The heavy spring blooms of crossvine are its main attraction. The vines almost completely cover themselves with clusters of 2-inch, trumpet shaped flowers – attractive to hummingbirds – in various shades of yellow, buff-orange, brick and red. The flowers are not scented, to most people. After blooming, 4 to 8” long dark brown, woody seed pods are formed.

The native Americans used crossvine as a remedy for a number of physical conditions, including diphtheria, edema, headaches and rheumatism. The genus ‘Bignonia’ honors King Louis XV of France’s librarian, Jean Paul Bignon, and the species name ‘capreolata’ describes the twisted, winding, branched tendrils. It is said that the plant received its name ‘crossvine’ from the design of the cut cross -section of the stems.

Crossvine does best in full sun, but will grow in partial shade, although there will be fewer flowers. It is able to survive standing water for short periods of time, and thrives in many different soil conditions, preferring a near-neutral pH. After establishment, it could be considered to be drought-resistant. It is said to be hardy to Zone 6. It can be quickly differentiated from the trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), another native vine, because crossvine’s compound leaves are split into two parts.

The vine may be propagated from stem or root cuttings or from seeds, which need no pre-treatment and which are considered viable for about one year. The best time to collect pods is when they are light brown in color in the late summer or early fall.

Crossvine is commercially available in several selections, but many beautiful variations have been discovered in the woods and brought into gardens. The varieties often seen include ‘Atrosanguinea’, which may too dark red in color to stand out in the garden; ‘Tangerine Beauty’ a blend of apricot and golden rust color; ‘Helen Fredel’ a more yellow specimen; and ‘Dragon Lady’ ‘Jekyl’ and ‘Shalimar Red’.

If the crossvine has any drawbacks, it might be that it grows too robustly for the space it has been given. Sometimes suckers appear that need to be taken up to keep the plant in bounds. Deer will eat it.

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