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How to Grow Ipomoea — Morning Glory

Common morning glory
Common morning glory, Ipomoea purpureus

Ipomoea–commonly called Morning glory–is a fast-growing short-lived perennial or annual twining climber with heart-shaped leaves and, from summer to early fall, funnel-shaped, white, pink, red, blue, or variegated flowers. Ipomoea can quickly cover a fence, wall, or rose arch.

Ipomoea flowers are abundant though usually very short-lived. Flowers are trumpet-shaped or tubular. They usually open in the morning and fade in the early afternoon. Morning glories bloom during summer and early autumn.

The best-known Ipomoea species include the decorative blue dawn flower, the useful sweet-potato, and a weed called wild sweet-potato-vine. There is some confusion between this genus and Convolvulus, also called morning glory.

Ipomoea is easily grown in fairly good soil. Ipomoea will tolerate most situations. Placing a trellis or support in place at planting time will help ensure stems do not become tangled as they grow; this will allow for the best display of blooms.

One important note: the seeds of many species are poisonous.

 Morning glory, Ipomoea tricolor 'Crimson Rambler'
Morning glory, Ipomoea tricolor ‘Crimson Rambler’

Get to Know Ipomoea

  • Plant type: Annual summer and fall-blooming vine; perennial in very warm zones
  • Growing Zones and range: 2-11
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Height and width: 18 inches (20cm) to 15 feet (3m) depending on growing conditions
  • Foliage: Vigorous, twining stems with heart-shape green leaves 4 to 5 inches long
  • Flowers: Trumpet-shape flowers 3 to 5 inches wide
  • Flower colors: Blues, reds, pinks, lavenders, white, and bi-colors, sometimes striped or margined wit contrasting colors
  • Bloom time: Summer and fall
  • Uses: Grow on large trellis, fence, or let crawl as a groundcover
  • Common name: Morning Glory
  • Botanical name: Ipomoea spp.
  • Family: Convolvulaceae
  • Origin: Native to warm regions worldwide
Morning glory, Ipomoea nil
Morning glory, Ipomoea nil

Where to Plant Ipomoea

  • Plant morning glory in full sun.
  • Grow morning glory in average to humus-rich well-drained soil.
  • Most ipomoeas require strings, a trellis, or other support on which to climb.
  • Ipomoea prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5

Ipomoea Uses

  • Grow Ipomoea on trellises, fences, or arbors.
  • Use Ipomoea as a quick screen grown on a trellis.
  • Ipomoea can trail across the ground as a groundcover.
Red Morning Glory, Ipomoea coccinea
Red Morning Glory, Ipomoea coccinea

When to Plant Ipomoea

  • Plant morning glory in late winter or spring after all danger of soil has passed.
  • Sow seeds indoors in individual pots 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • Germination takes 7 to 21 days at 65° to 70°F (18°-21°C).
  • To speed germination, nick seed oats with a knife or file or soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing.
  • Seedlings need a stake to climb on even when they are small; otherwise, vines can become entangled.
  • Transplant seedlings to the garden once temperatures remain warmer than 45°F (7.2°C).
  • Sow seeds directly in the garden 2 weeks after the last spring frost. Put the trellis in place before sowing seed.

Planting and Spacing Ipomoea

  • Space morning glory 3 to 15 feet (.9-4.5m) apart depending on the variety.
  • Plant seeds directly in soil; soak seeds in warm or tepid water for 24 hours to soften seed coat before sowing.
  • Work a few spadefuls of compost into the soil or add slow-release fertilizer.
Cypress vine, Ipomoea quamoclit
Cypress vine, Ipomoea quamoclit

How to Water and Feed Ipomoea

  • Morning glory needs ample moisture for best flowering; keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Limit fertilizer to keep plant size in check.

Ipomoea Care

  • Mulch around morning glory to conserve soil moisture.
  • Ipomoea can self-sow; remove plants you don’t want.
  • Ipomoea can be trained to a trellis or up fences and trellises. Set supports in place before or right after sowing seed or setting out seedlings.

Growing Ipomoea as a Houseplant

  • Ipomoea purpurea can be grown as a houseplant.
  • Grow Ipomoea in a soulless medium in a warm room where light is direct and humidity is average to high.
  • The medium should be kept barely moist at all times.
  • Fertilize monthly while the plant is flowering.
  • A trellis or other support is required if the plant is not grown in a hanging basket.
Moonflower, Ipomoea alba
Moonflower, Ipomoea alba

Ipomoea Common Problems

  • Seedlings can be slow to develop.
  • Too much fertilizer or water can promote vegetative growth as the expense of flowers.
  • Aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, red spider mites and whitefly can attack Ipomoea.
  • Leaf spot and root rot can occur.

Ipomoea Propagation

  • Sow seed in spring; from seed, plants will bloom in about 6 months.
  • Seeds are very hard; for good germination, nick seed coat with a file or soak in lukewarm water overnight.
  • Seeds germinate in 7 to 21 days.
  • For earliest blooms, start seeds indoors at 70° to 75°F (21°-24°C) in peat pots.
  • Perennial Ipomoea can be propagated by cuttings taken in spring or summer.
Spanish flag, Ipomoea lobata
Spanish flag, Ipomoea lobata

Ipomoea Varieties to Grow

  • Ipomea acuminata, blue morning glory: Perennial; rapid growth 15 to 30 (4.5-9m) feet; flowers bright blue fading to pink, 3 to 5 inches (7.6-12cm) across.
  • I. alba, moonflower: Perennial, fast-growth 20 to 30 feet (2.25-9m); night-blooming flowers to 6 inches (15cm) across in white, sometimes lavender pink
  • I. batata, sweet potato: Perennial grown in food gardens; plants grow to 10 feet (1.1m) bear pale purple flowers in summer; ‘Blackie’ bears dark purple-black leaves.
  • I. corrinea, red morning glory, star morning glory: Annual; vigorous grower to 6 feet (1.8m) bears clusters of small 3/4 inch scarlet trumpet flowers in summer.
  • I. hederacea: Annual climber grows 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3m) long; bears clusters of 1 inch wide blue, purple, or purple-red flowers in summer.
  • I. lobata, Spanish flag: Tender perennial grows 6 to 15 feet (1.8-4.5m)l bears small tubular flowers initially red then turn to orange, yellow, and cream with age.
  • I. x multifida, cardinal climber: Annual cross between I. corrinea and I. quamocliot; bears small crimson flowers in summer.
  • I. nil, morning glory: Short-lived perennial bears large flowers in a range of colors in summer; grows to 15 feet (4.5m); several cultivars include ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Scarlett O’Hara.’
  • I. purpurea, common morning glory: Annual climber grows 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3m); bears 2-inch-wide trumpet flowers in shades of blue, purple-blue, pink, white, or red, also some with stripes of color.
  • I. quamocliot, cypress vine: Annual grows 6 to 20 feet; bears small scarlet flowers in summer.
  • I. tricolor, morning glory: Vigorous annual; the most popular morning glory; grows 10 to 12 feet; bears 3-inch-wide pale blue to purple flowers with white throats; cultivar ‘Crimson Rambler’ has red flowers with white throat; cultivar ‘Heavenly Blue’ bear sky blue flowers with white throats and ‘Pearly Gates’ bears white flowers.

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