It is often said that the canary creeper vines are not for every garden. This is basically true not just for these annuals but for any plant you consider for your garden. It’s not about soil suitability or favorable weather conditions either. The canary creeper is the kind of plant that defies all your attempts to contain them in a limited space and give them a tidy look. That’s not what the canary creeper vines are all about.
These are the types of creepers that take over the whole area and extend their lavish tentacles beyond the boundaries you so meticulously set up around it. Their deeply lobed leaves and bright yellow flowers create the kind of visual effects you desire out of a flowering plant. But caring for this plant is a challenge at best. If you’re the kind of proactive gardener who enjoys pruning and trimming creeping vines, then the canary creeper vines are the right ornamental plants for you.
Canary Creeper Vines at a Glance
The canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum) is an annual that could in certain conditions become a perennial. It’s an unusual plant for that unusual exotic look you want to give to your garden. Native to the remote regions of South America especially in Peru and Ecuador, it has both edible leaves and flowers. But rather than eat them raw, the edible parts are best used in herbal tea, soup, and most dishes that involve gravy.
These vines have USDA hardiness zones between 9 and 10. They thrive in warm weather conditions and need full sun. So unless you live in the South, you’ll usually grow it as an annual. It is one of the fastest growing plants you will have in your garden. It will grow anything between 9 to 10 feet in a single season. So you’d better have your pruning shears ready.
But it’s not just pruning, you also need to set up stakes or a trellis for support. When the creepers can’t latch onto something to grow and climb, they’ll just crawl all over everything and create a lush green blanket. For the most part, that’s not what you want. Gardeners grow it to climb and cover a wall or a shed with its combination of vivid green and bright yellow.
The lobed leaves are green and look like hands with tiny fingers crawling all over the space. Each leaf has anything from 3 to 7 lobes. The yellow flowers are usually small, about an inch each, and look like small canaries who took flight. This explains where they got that name.
Landscaping with Canary Creeper Vines
When you have a fast-growing plant that combines both green and yellow colors to create a lush landscape, then you know you have many landscaping possibilities here. Thanks to the delicate stems and even more exquisite flowers, there’s plenty you can do with this vine.
However, to get the most out of your canary creepers you need to set up a thin structure for the vines to climb on. They like to wrap their tendrils around slender posts or stakes and create an amazing green spectacle. If you don’t have a trellis or a suitable frame, you can easily set up strings in any shape you like and train the vines to climb all over them.
If you have a patio with wooden structures, these creepers will cover them in lush green colors in no time. The same thing goes for a terrace with a rail. Just stretch the strings across the rails and watch the canary creeper zigzag across the strings and create intricate designs and shapes.
That said, and while the flowers are beautiful on their own, it’s better to plant them alongside other flowering plants. The flowers of the canary creeper are usually too small to notice. Any flowers that bloom in red, blue, or purple will complement the yellow canaries flying in your garden.
How to Grow Canary Creeper Vines
Growing canary creeper vines is no different from growing any other flowering plant. The only exception is that you’ll need to plan your space beforehand and make sure you have a trellis or a frame to support the vines. It’s no fun growing these creepers only to let them crawl all over other plants and spread out.
Usually, you’d grow canary creeper vines from seeds. There are two ways to do that. You can start them indoors then move them out, or you can go ahead and plant them in the garden straight away. Here’s how to plant the vines outdoors in easy steps.
- Wait until the last frost has passed and the air temperature doesn’t drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the ideal temperature for germination. Any time between late April and mid-May will do.
- Give your seeds the water test before planting to make sure they are healthy and will germinate. Drop them in a bowl full of water. The seeds should drop to the bottom of the bowl. If they float, they are bad seeds.
- Soak the seeds overnight before planting to improve germination.
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden. Partial shade in the afternoon will not hurt the vines.
- Dig small holes, about a quarter inch for each seed, and drop it in the hole. Fill the hole with soil but don’t pack it.
- Water the soil immediately enough to get it moist. Don’t overwater the seeds.
- Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. This takes anything from 7 to 10 days depending on the soil temperature.
- Keep watering the seedlings giving them about 2 inches of water a week.
- When the seedlings are about 4 inches high, thin them out. Remove any sickly seedlings and keep about 12 inches between each plant.
- Set up your trellis or strings near the seedlings and let them climb them as they grow.
Canary Creeper Vines Care
Besides the trellis, you’ll often need to make sure the canary creeper vines are getting adequate light, and that the soil is not too rich. This can impact their flowering. And of course, you don’t want to neglect the training and pruning.
When planting the canary creeper vines, always take some time to observe the light patterns of the spot you chose for the vines. Northern and eastern facing areas tend to get less sunlight than southern or western areas. The creepers being tropical would prefer an area flooded with light. Partially shaded areas will also do fine as long as the plants get about 6 hours of continuous sun every day. Lack of light or too much shade could result in yellowing leaves and a sharp drop in the number of flowers you get every year.
Unlike many flowering plants that relish and flourish in rich soil, the canary creeper is averse to the fertile soil. It can tolerate poor soil as long as it’s well-drained. Slightly acidic soil is good for the vines as well. Make sure the pH levels are between 6.1 and 7.2. These are the ideal soil conditions for these creepers. You can also add some slow-release organic compost to the soil to feed the plants slowly and increase the flowering.
As every seasoned gardener knows, irrigation is usually the hardest part to get about plant care. Each plant usually needs different amounts of water and their irrigation patterns vary according to the seasons. This applies to the canary creeper vines as well. In the first few weeks of their life, the seedlings need about 2 inches of water on a weekly basis. But once the roots establish, you won’t have to water them that much. These vines have a high tolerance to drought but they cannot survive in waterlogged soil. Always water the plants early in the morning especially on hot days to avoid stressing them out.
Fertilizer and Mulch
Neither of those is necessary for the success of the canary creeper vines. As we mentioned, fertile soil has an adverse effect on the flowering habits of the vines. The richer the soil, the more leaves you get at the cost of the flowers. This is not what you want. The more flowers you have the better. As for mulching, that too can increase water retention in the soil. Since these are drought-tolerant plants, you won’t need mulching of any type.
Pests and Diseases
Since many parts of the canary creeper vines are edible including the leaves, stems, roots, and flowers, other pests feed on them as well. These include aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, flea beetles, as well as slugs and snails. They each inflict different damage on the plant and the sooner you detect the pests and get rid of them the better. The best way to eliminate these pests is often with neem oil. Since the plant is edible, you should avoid using insecticides in the garden even if you have no plans to consume the leaves or flowers.
The main diseases that you will have to deal with are the following.
- Bacterial leaf spot: This disease affects the leaves and the symptoms include brown or dark spots with yellow edges on the surface of the leaves. It occurs as a result of high humidity and lack of ventilation. Get rid of infected leaves and make sure there’s enough air circulation between the plants. Also, avoid sprinkling the leaves or stems with water.
- Bacterial wilt: Another bacterial disease that causes the leaves to turn yellow in the edges and wilt. If not treated, you could lose a lot of leaves and the plant could eventually die. There’s no cure for this lethal disease. You’ll need to pull out the vines and dispose of them safely.
- Fungal leaf spot: Similar to bacterial leaf spot except that this one is caused by fungal spores. The spores need a warm and humid surface to grow and multiply. So keep the leaves of the plant dry at all times and improve air circulation to prevent this disease.