How to Grow and Care for Cardinal Climber

Cardinal climber plant with red trumpet-shaped flowers on vines with palm-like leaves climbing column closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Cardinal climber (Ipomoea × multifida) is one of those plants that fully lives up to its name. The blossoms of this hybrid plant are a true cardinal red, and the vine reaches for whatever it can grab. This is a very graceful, airy annual vine, related to morning glory (one of the parent plants of this hybrid). It blooms profusely throughout the summer and the red, trumpet-shaped flowers are big favorites of hummingbirds and other pollinators. The bright green leaves are triangular, with deep, narrow lobes that give them a lacy appearance resembling that of small palm leaves. The tubular flowers are red, with white or yellow throats. Five petals overlap to form a swept-back pentagon at the opening.

Cardinal climber is often planted near a trellis or other structure that it can climb; it can also be used as a dense ground-cover. The delicate, lacy leaves form a peek-a-boo screen rather than blocking the view entirely. This makes them great for training over an arbor or trellis. They are also a good choice for softening a wall and adding an airy feeling.

Cardinal climber can also be grown in containers. Add support in the container for even more height. The plant looks wonderful growing around an obelisk, in the center of other flowers.

Like all Ipomoea species and hybrids, the plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Common Name Cardinal climber
Botanical Name Ipomoea × multifida
Family Convolvulaceae
Plant Type Annual, vine
Mature Size 6-15 ft. long, 9-2 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer thru fall
Flower Color Red
Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA); annual in colder zones
Native Area Hybrid plant, no native range
Toxicity Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses

Cardinal Climber Care

Plant cardinal climber in any well-drained soil in a full-sun location. It requires regular watering but does not need to be fertilized unless the soil is poor. It is often planted from potted seedlings, but it can also be seeded directly into the soil, covering the seeds 1/4 inch deep. Space plants 6 to 12 inches apart and provide a support structure such as a trellis, obelisk, or arbor.

Cardinal climber plant vine on column with red trumpet-like flowers and palm-like leaves closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Cardinal climber plant vine with red trumpet-like flowers surrounded by palm-like leaves closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Cardinal climber plant with bright red trumpet-like flower closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault


Cardinal climber prefers full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days) but will tolerate partial at the expense of blooms.


This plant does well in any well-drained soil; it prefers a neutral pH (6.0 to 7.2).


Cardinal climber will tolerate dry soil, but its parent species are tropical plants, and it grows best if kept moist. Make sure it receives at least one inch of water each week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Cardinal climber doesn't like prolonged periods of dryness.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant likes hot, humid weather for best growth; cool weather will cause it to grow more slowly.


Cardinal climber rarely needs feeding unless the soil is very poor and infertile.

Propagating Cardinal Climber

This is a hybrid annual that grows true from its seeds. Let the seeds dry on the plant before collecting them to start them from seed the following year.

How to Grow Cardinal Climber From Seed

You can sow seeds directly into the garden after danger of frost has passed to a depth of 1/4 inch. Or, start seeds indoors four to six weeks before the average last frost date of spring.

The seeds have a hard shell and germinate best if scarification is done before planting. The easiest method is to soak them in water overnight. If you're really ambitious, you can rub them gently with sandpaper and then soak them overnight. Seeds should germinate within ten days. Give the young plants a regular weekly watering of at least one to two inches while they become established.

Cardinal Climber vs. Cypress Vine and Morning Glory

Cardinal climber is a hybrid of cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and red morning glory (Ipomoea coccinea) and is sometimes confused with those plants because it shares characteristics of both. However, its leaves are distinctly different than the fine, feathery leaves of cypress vine and the heart-shaped leaves of morning glory.

Common Pests

Cardinal climber is virtually pest-free. If the vines get too thick, they might attract whitefly. Insecticidal soap should control the problem.

Common Problems with Cardinal Climber

In warmer climates, all members of the morning glory family (Ipomoea) can become aggressive self-seeders.

  • Do cardinal climbers come back every year?

    Cardinal climber is a true annual that completes its life cycle in one year.

  • Are cardinal climbers invasive?

    The vine easily reseeds itself and spreads quite rapidly. To keep it under control, remove the seed pods while they are still green, and discard them in the trash, never in the compost. Also, remove any emerging seedlings.

  • Can you grow cardinal climber in pots?

    You can grow it in containers but the vine needs support to climb. Because cardinal climber grows vigorously, it can overgrow other plants in the container or nearby. You can also plant it in a hanging basket where it cascades down and won't need support.

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  1. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: Morning Glory. ASPCA.

  2. Mahr, Written by Susan. “Cardinal Climber, Ipomoea Sloteri.” Wisconsin Horticulture,