I received a couple of small transplants of cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) three years ago in a plant trade with Gerhard of Succulents and More. In his California climate, these viney shrubs (or are they shrubby vines?) are quite the nuisance, suckering from their roots and taking over garden beds. Since I loved the foliage and was looking for a vine that could handle the tough conditions of my south wall trellis, I thought I'd give this "tropical" plant a go.

Expecting this to act like an annual for me, I soon realized that this plant may never flower. Still, some attractive foliage that won't wilt in the hot conditions over here would be nice. I was a little surprised when this vine survived the first two winters, but they were so mild for us in St. Louis that I wasn't shocked. Seeing the vine reaching a little bit higher up the trellis each year made me happy too.


This past winter though... well, it was brutal. Low temperatures of -8ºF (-22ºC) a couple of times, with single-digit (F) or lower thermometer readings on more nights than I care to tally, this plant that is listed as zone 9 (hardy to 20ºF) would surely be a goner.

As you can see, there is something scary about this plant. It did not die.

Sure, it's planted on a south-facing wall and that provides a warmer microclimate, but this wall is completely shaded in the winter -- it gets no sunlight at all. Besides, this vine is held at least 6" (15cm) from the wall, where the -8ºF air was sure to be.

How did this plant survive?

It's even spread about 7' (2m) away along the base of the wall:

I'm quite happy to see this guy surviving what is probably the coldest winter of the last 10 or 15 years, but I'm also a bit worried. I'm certainly eager to see if I'll get any blooms this year, but since it apparently blooms in the winter in warm climates, I'm not sure that I'll ever see any.

I wonder if the part of this that rooted into my flagstone patio near the driveway survived the winter too?

Does anybody else have any tales of surprising plant survival from this past winter?


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outlawgardener  – (April 23, 2014 at 9:26 AM)  

Wow! I've admired this "tender" beauty on blogs and at a specialty nursery but dismissed it as not being hardy. Your post proves otherwise. Very exciting. I've no tales of horribly surprising plant survival but was excited the other day to see that my Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue' is coming back from the roots after I thought it was a goner.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (April 23, 2014 at 1:03 PM)  

AMAZING! And nurseries continue to rate this a zone 9 plant.

How about calling it a "rambling shrub?" I've been trying to kill our original plant for 10+ years now, without success. This year is has appeared on the other side of the fence where it's nice and sunny. I think I'll let it go and train it up the fence. It *is* stunning when in bloom, and the leaves are attractive too.

Alan  – (April 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM)  

I just checked and the one that is rooted in the flagstone is starting to sprout too. That one had snow on top of it during the coldest weather, but it's still amazing.

danger garden  – (April 24, 2014 at 12:33 AM)  

Freaky, but fabulous (do not fear the rambling shrub). The only odd survivor that I can think of are a handful of Sedum rubrotinctum that survived last winter. Rated as a Zone 9 plant they shouldn't have made it through a week below freezing and a low of 12F but they did!

Lisa  – (April 24, 2014 at 5:43 AM)  

I have what I believe is a canna lily sprouting in my bog. I pulled the bulbs out last fall hoping to get them restarted this spring... Maybe I should have left them alone!

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