Is that garlic or Bignonia aequinoctialis I smell? Sometimes identifying plants includes a sense of smell, and the garlic vine, in addition to its beautiful flower color, has a definite, conversation-starting, odor that smells just like garlic. You must crush the plant parts first to generate the smell, but it is distinct. But enough of its smell, garlic vine is a spectacular ornamental flowering vine worth investigating.
Garlic vine is one of several Bignonia species including the Painted Trumpet, the Cross Vine, and the Glow Vine, which make attractive flowering vines for the landscape in our area. Hailing from the Caribbean area, garlic vine is a fast-growing evergreen plant growing to at least eight feet long that requires some type of supportive structure in the form of a trellis, fence or arbor. Look carefully and you will see that each four-inch leaf is made up of two leaflets. At a glance, this gives the appearance of a single leaf. The clusters of trumpet-like flowers are lavender fading to pink with a white throat, and bloom in abundance, barring a cold winter, during March and April, and, again in October and November. The garlic vine may also bloom on and off during the summer. In late December I visited the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens© in Sarasota and found a nice display of these flowers still in full bloom, so there is some wiggle room on the flowering period.
Once a suitable support system is identified, plant the garlic vine in a full sun area with good soil drainage. Find a very visible site as the flowers do put on quite a seasonal show – both for you and passersby. The garlic vine is best in zone 10, so its hardiness can be challenged by a frost or freeze possible away from the coast. However, it will generally recover and grow back in time.
If you have access to a garlic vine, this flowering plant is easily started from semi-hardwood cuttings. Although this can be accomplished, I have seen garlic vines regularly available as well-developed specimens at our local box store garden centers.
Never mind the garlicy smell, the garlic vine really just needs a better lobbyist and name! It is well-worth your attention – keep your eyes on the flowers and enjoy the show! For more information on all types of flowering vines suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Just as a reminder, our new office is located at the North Charlotte Regional Park at 1120 O’Donnell Blvd, Port Charlotte FL 33953. The Plant Lifeline will also be at our new site starting in 2020. Our phone numbers and email addresses continue to remain the same. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/charlotte/docs/pdf/Plant-Clinics-Schedule1.pdf. Our Eastport Environmental Demonstration Garden is always open to the public outside the gate at 25550 Harbor View Road and will continue to be in operation. Master Gardener volunteers tend this garden on Tuesday mornings from 8 to 10 am and are available for questions. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or email@example.com.
Gilman, E. F. (1999) Cydista aequinoctialis. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
MacCubbin, T. (2006) Garlic Vine. Orlando Sentinel.
Brown S. P. & Knox G. W. (2016) Flowering Vines for Florida. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Spengler, T. (2020) Garlic Vine Care: Tips For Growing Garlic Vine Plants. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/vines/garlic-vine/growing-garlic-vine-plants.htm