With its coral-colored flowers and evergreen foliage, crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) makes a colorful and useful addition to landscaping within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 9. It is an adaptable and low-maintenance vine with few serious problems or afflictions once established in a suitable planting site. However, there are several reasons why it may develop a sickly or dying appearance over time.
It's More Fun in the Sun
While adaptable and rugged, crossvine still requires adequate growing conditions to maintain a healthy appearance. Dim light, wet soil and cold air all contribute to less vigorous growth with diffuse or localized dieback within the foliage. Plant the vine in a sunny or lightly shaded bed with southern exposure and fast-draining soil. Pruning off the dead growth will improve its appearance in the short term, but a poorly positioned crossvine must be transplanted into a more suitable site to assure its health and longevity.
Enough Pruning, Already
Perhaps the most common and easily amendable problem plaguing crossvines is overzealous care. An excess of nutrients and water will weaken the plant's roots, causing a general decline in its health and appearance. Also, too much pruning may open the plant up to disease and infections that are otherwise rare in crossvine. A hands-off approach is best for raising healthy, long-lasting vines. They require little more than occasional summer watering and one feeding each spring with half-strength general purpose fertilizer, as well as periodic light pruning to remove spent flowers and unwanted stems.
Bugs? Not Too Bad
Crossvines are blessedly free from most pests and common illnesses, although they sometimes attract mealybugs. The most obvious sign of mealybugs is a sticky, cottony substance clinging to the base of the leaves and twigs, although the symptoms become more severe as the infestation intensifies. A large colony of mealybugs will cause foliage death and twig dieback, which can eventually shorten the vine's lifespan. Manual removal with a strong stream of water works on minor infestations, although more established populations require chemical control with an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray treatment.
We All Get Older
Age-related decline impacts crossvine less severely than many other native vines, although it still takes a toll on the plant's appearance. An accumulation of brown leaves, less vigorous growth and dwindling blooms all indicate aging, which typically begins to show after more than three years in the garden. A properly positioned and maintained crossvine is less likely to age poorly, although age-related decline can occur despite thoughtful care. To rejuvenate an aging plant, cut back the stem growth by half in late winter or early spring and feed it with a half-strength fertilizer solution to support new growth.
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