Some people have a hard time opening their eyes in the morning, and after they do they drag around for a while until they actually wake up. They may really come alive late in the day and into the night. And then there are early risers who can hardly wait to greet the day. They greet the day with enthusiasm.
There are flowers of both types as well. Consider 4-o’clocks. They are aptly named for their tendency to wait until late afternoon for their flowers to open. And moon vine, and sacred datura and some others open at dusk.
I don’t know if flowers really have attitudes, but morning glory is named with an attitude. New flowers unfurl each morning making the plant beautiful to greet the day. The flowers last only a few hours and by evening may be limp only to have a new batch paying homage to the sun the next morning. (OK. So maybe I do think they have attitude)
Not to be misunderstood, I hasten to add that the morning glory I am speaking of is not the field bindweed, a perennial with notoriously long roots and runners that send up new plants. It has morbid penchant to survive and thrive everywhere.
I am talking about Ipomoea, the morning glory that we plant on purpose. In our climate it is an annual. It has a flower similar to wild morning glory but it is much larger and more colorful. The leaves, too, are larger and heart-shaped. Most of the members of the ipomoea family are annuals everywhere but all are annuals in our climate.
Ipomoea includes sweet potatoes and sweet potato vines along with many other ornamental vines. They do not spread by underground runners but they do seed themselves. The bottom line is, they are pretty, they don’t take over, and if you pull them, they are gone.
That said they are considered weeds in the warm areas of the country because they are so prolific. It is much less of a concern here. However, they do seed quite freely and you may find yourself with lots of seedlings to pluck during the following seasons.
These lovely summer vines grow quickly up to 10 to 20 or more feet long in one season and cover themselves with trumpet-shaped flowers of white, pink, blue, red, purple or even chocolate brown, depending on the variety. Some varieties even produce flowers in multiple colors. The outer portion of the flower is colored but the throat is usually a creamy white or a contrasting color. Some of the newer varieties are bi-colored or striped. Leaves are dark green forming a great background for the blossoms.
If you want to use them as cut flowers, think ahead because what you will get in your bouquet is what is about to happen but hasn’t yet. Instead of cutting stems with the open blooms on them, cut stems with buds in various stages of development and put them in a deep vase. The buds will open on consecutive days.
Morning Glory makes wonderful covers for trellises, fences or ground covers. Try training them up on stakes; they are also lovely in hanging pots. They make excellent screens to cover less attractive areas in landscapes. Be aware that they wrap around anything that is available so don’t plant them too close to other ornamentals unless you plan to keep pulling them back.
These flowers can be grown from seed planted in full sun when danger of frost is past. They have very hard seed coats that can be slow to sprout. Speed up the process by notching the hard coat with a file or soak the seeds overnight in warm water before planting. For an earlier start, sow seeds indoors four to five weeks before the expected date of last frost. Plant them in small pots and set the seedlings out six to eight inches apart in full sun, in well-drained soil. Avoid overwatering or overfertilizing, which produce vines at the expense of flowers. Some varieties may need to be coaxed to begin climbing.
There are a number of hybrids and some are particularly attractive. Keep in mind, however, that they do seed abundantly and the plants that could come up next year from those seeds won’t be like the ones you grew this year. They tend to revert to their original color and may not bloom as freely.
One well-known variation, Ipomoea alba, is known as ‘moonflower.’ It reverses the bloom pattern becoming one of the “night owls” of the plant world. It produces fragrant white flowers that open at dusk and close by noon the next day. It grows rapidly up to 20 to 30 feet long to provide quick summer shade for arbors, trellises or fences. Leaves may be three to eight inches long, heart-shaped and close together on the stems. Flowers may be up to six inches wide.
Another favorite morning glory is ‘Heavenly Blue,’ a particularly attractive variety that twines to 15 feet long and covers itself with flowers that are four to five inches across and pure sky blue with a yellow throat. It makes a lovely mixture when inter-planted with the white moonflower variety.
There is also a dwarf strain with white makings on the leaves. It is known as ‘Spice Islands’ or perhaps may just be named ‘variegated.’ These plants grow only 9 inches tall and may spread about a foot. The dwarf varieties may produce flowers of red, blue, pink and bicolor.
I. tricolor is a summer annual. Flowers are funnel shaped and may be single or double. The throats are generally in contrasting colors with the outsides in pink, red, lavender, white or blue. Some are bicolored and some are striped.
The ‘Cardinal Climber,’ also known as ‘Cypress Vine’ is another summer annual. It twines to 20 feet producing two- to four-inch leaves that may be divided into slender threads. Flowers are tube shaped 1 1/2 inches long that flare out into a five-pointed star. They are usually scarlet.
‘Tie dye’ as the name implies, bears a mixture of colors on wrinkled blossoms amid variegated leaves.
By August, any of these varieties could be a delightful, colorful addition to your landscape. Another lovely Ipomoea that has become very popular in the past few years is the sweet potato vine. These lovely plants are close relatives of the sweet potato vegetable and do produce a small tuber under the ground, but they are favored for their attractively colored vines. They make lovely ground covers or hanging plants. Leaves may be green, chartreuse, purple, or variegated, but the green and chartreuse varieties produce the most abundant vines.
Morning glories make lovely summer garden treats. Continue the fight against wild morning glory, but nurture the annual morning glory.