Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
Looking for something unusual for your garden? How about Canary Creeper? Usually grown as a vine, its yellow flowers look like canaries flitting among the vines.
What is Canary Creeper?
Canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum) is a tropical flowering vine that is native to Ecuador and Peru. It is related to nasturtiums. Like its nasturtium cousins, both the flowers and the leaves are edible.
Canary creeper is hardy in zones 9 and 10 so most gardeners grow it as an annual. Even in that one year of growth, the vines can grow an impressive 10 – 12 feet in length. If you do not provide anything for them to climb, they will sprawl along the ground. They are not as attractive when growing on the ground.
The leaves are bright green and deeply lobed, looking like hands with fingers. They usually have 3 to 7 lobes, but most commonly 5 lobes which is what makes them look like hands with 5 fingers.
The flowers are the most distinctive part of the vines. They are bright yellow like canaries, about 1 – 1 ½ inches in size. They have two upper petals that are fringed like wings and 3 lower petals. The vines start blooming in early summer and continue until frost. There is no need to deadhead them to keep them blooming.
How to Grow Canary Creeper Vines
Canary creepers like full sun and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.1 – 7.2. The soil should also be sandy, well-draining and not rich in nutrients. There is no need to fertilize these vines. Soil that is too rich results in fewer flowers. The vines will tolerate partial shade, especially in southern zones with hot summers where a little shade in the afternoon is appreciated. They prefer dry soil. Only water after the soil has dried out.
It is best to erect a trellis for your vine to grow on. It likes thin structures which are easier for it to twine around. You can even use string to train it along a porch railing. Another interesting use is in a hanging basket where it will drape over the edge and grow downwards instead of upwards.
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How to Grow Canary Creeper From Seed
Most gardeners grow canary creeper from seed. You can start it indoors or outdoors, although in areas with shorter growing seasons, you should probably start your seeds indoors so that you can enjoy the flowers longer.
The seedcoats are hard so they will need to be scarified before planting. You can nick them with a sharp knife being careful not to damage the embryo inside. Or you can gently rub them with fine grit sandpaper, again being careful not to damage the embryo inside. My favorite method is to soak the seeds overnight. This softens the hard seedcoat enough that the embryo inside can successful germinate and grow.
To start your seeds outdoors, sow them ¼ inch deep after your last frost when outdoor temperatures are 55⁰F to 65⁰F. These are tropical plants so they need warm temperatures. Keep the soil moist. Germination should occur in 7 – 10 days. Although full grown vines like dryer conditions, your seedlings need regular watering of 1 – 2 inches per week as they get established. When your seedlings are 4 – 5 inches tall, thin them to 12 inches apart and start watering less.
This is also a good time to install your trellis if you haven’t already done so. If you wait too long to erect your trellis, you risk damaging the seedlings or their roots. I prefer to put my trellis in at the same time that I sow my seeds so that there is something for them to climb when they are big enough and I don’t have to worry about damaging my plants by putting in a trellis after they have already started growing.
To start your seeds indoors, plant them 6 – 8 weeks before your last frost ¼ inch deep in containers filled with pre-moistened soil. Keep the soil moist. Germination should occur in 7 – 10 days. You can transplant your seedlings outdoors after your last frost when the outdoor temperatures are 55⁰F - 65⁰F. They are tropical plants and like to be warm. Plant them 12 inches apart. You should install your trellis at the same time that you transplant your seedlings outdoors. Give them regular weekly waterings of 1 – 2 inches while they get established. Once they are 4 – 5 inches tall, you can start watering them less.
© 2020 Caren White
Caren White (author) on July 09, 2020:
So glad that you enjoyed it. I love bright flowers. They are so cheerful.
Danny from India on July 09, 2020:
Amazing plants, look bright like sunflowers. Nice read Caren.