Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) is part of the bindweed family and is valued as a flowering vine with small, delicate, papery star-shaped blooms, mostly in bright red. But flowers aren't this plant's only attributes; it also functions fabulously as a foliage plant with graceful, dainty, and feathery fern-like leaves.
Though it is considered an annual, the cypress vine can also be technically called a perennial because its self-seeding ability makes it appear year after year without much intervention. If planting from scratch, do so in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. The fast-growing vine begins its aggressive climb once the soil becomes warm and blooms in about a month. (Keep an eye out for straying, invasive vines that may be reaching out to other plants)
Cypress vine poses a moderate threat of toxicity to humans, cats, dogs, and horses.
|Common Name||Cypress vine, red cypress vine, Indian pink, star glory, hummingbird vine|
|Botanical Name||Ipomoea quamoclit|
|Plant Type||Annual vine|
|Mature Size||6-15 ft. in length, spread of 3-6 ft.|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Fertile, well-drained, and kept evenly moist|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly acidic or slightly alkaline|
|Bloom Time||June to October|
|Flower Color||Red; less commonly, pink or white|
|Hardiness Zones||11-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Tropical America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
Cypress Vine Care
When it comes to gardening with wildlife in mind, the cypress vine hits the trifecta: Deer avoid it, yet hummingbirds love it, and it draws butterflies. It's also relatively free of pest and disease problems.
Once you have decided on an outdoor location for them, the next step will generally be to provide a supporting vertical structure for them to grow on. Cypress vine is a true climber that climbs by twining around objects and it is not a good container plant.
This vine is delicate and easily damaged, so be careful in handling a runner when you are moving it this way or that to encourage it to climb in a particular direction. The vine can also grow out rather than up and it may accidentally latch on to other plants and overtake them, so it requires a watchful eye. Suitable supporting structures can include:
By growing cypress vines up a chain-link fence, for example, you're able to disguise the unsightly nature of a fence while achieving privacy for part of the summer.
Cypress vines are considered invasive weeds in the Southeastern U.S. Deadheading the flowers will prevent seed production and spread.
Cypress vine needs full sun for it to bloom. Giving it proper support to climb on (so that it is not shaded by nearby plants) is often a necessary step in meeting this requirement.
Of the three recommendations for soil conditions (fertile, well-drained, and evenly moist), well-drained is the most critical. Cypress vine, once established, is reasonably tolerant of drought and can often get by without much fertilizing. But soil that does not drain well will stress the plant.
For ideal growth, water to keep the soil evenly moist (but not soggy).
Temperature and Humidity
The plant can tolerate temporary dry spells but prefers moderate moisture (not bogginess). It can withstand extremes of heat but will quickly wither in cold temperatures.
Cypress vine will grow bigger and more reliably if it is fed with a balanced fertilizer per the product recommendations.
Types of Cypress Vine
In addition to the cypress vine and its close relative the morning glory, other plants from the Ipomoea genus used in landscaping include:
- Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas)
- Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)
Especially interesting is the relationship between cypress vine and cardinal climber (Ipomoea sloteri), a hybrid plant that offers similar features. Cypress vine is one of the parents of the latter, the other parent being red morning glory (Ipomoea coccinea).
Confusingly, "cypress vine" is also sometimes used as a common name for Ipomoea sloteri and "cardinal climber" for Ipomoea quamoclit, which is why it is better to use the scientific names of plants when in doubt.
Since cypress vine grows so quickly, it can begin to crowd itself and become too dense, encouraging dampness and potential disease issues. So, trim as needed to open up the plant a bit and allow airflow.
You can also prune to keep the plant at a desired height, but this will be a continual effort throughout the growing season because of the plant's rapid growth.
During the winter, cut back dead vines to allow unencumbered fresh growth in the spring.
Propagating Cypress Vine
The cypress vine is easily propagated by simply letting it seed itself. Just allow dead flower heads to remain on the vine through the fall, and the seeds will naturally sow themselves. If you'd like to move a vine to another location, dig up the seedling in the spring and transplant it.
Keep in mind that these hardy vines tend to spread vigorously when allowed to seed themselves, so be sure to contain the growth within your target areas so that it does not become invasive.
How to Grow Cypress Vine From Seed
Cypress vine is grown from seed. While it is possible to sow the seeds directly outdoors (after the danger of frost has passed), it can take a long time to get flowers from them in the northern states this way unless growing conditions are ideal. Many gardeners like to get a jump on the growing season by starting the plants indoors from seed in peat pots filled with potting mix, four to six weeks prior to the last frost date. Here's how:
- Keep seeds moist for 24 hours before planting.
- Lightly scar the surface of the seeds using sandpaper.
- Plant the seeds 1/4-inch deep and cover them with the potting mix.
- Keep the potting mix damp and warm (at least 70 Fahrenheit).
- Germination will occur in about 10 days.
- Water the newly-germinated plants well to get them established.
- Transplant the plants outside after all danger of frost has passed.
Avoid damping off problems with the seedlings. The fungus that causes this problem is usually the result of overly wet and fertilized soil. Thin out seedlings to make sure there's plenty of air circulation.
After cypress vine foliage has wilted to brown, cut the dead vegetation at ground level and mulch as you do the rest of your flower bed.
If you left deadhead flowers on the vine, then seeds will germinate in the spring. If you deadheaded the flowers and you wish to grow another cypress vine, then you will need to plant a new one in the spring.
How to Get Cypress Vines to Bloom
Cypress vines rarely require effort to encourage blooming, but if your vine seems reluctant, there are a few things you can do:
- Ensure full sun exposure.
- Make sure the soil doesn't stay too wet.
- Keep the soil as loose as possible (avoid compaction).
- Add fertilizer.
Common Problems with Cypress Vines
Cypress vines may look delicate, but they are hardy and relatively problem-free. If you notice leaves yellowing, it is likely due to inadequate sunlight or over-watering. Ensure proper sun exposure and soil drainage, and you shouldn't experience problems with this resilient plant.
How long can a cypress vine live?
While the vine technically only lasts one season as an annual, its self-seeding ability allows it to spontaneously regrow the following year. Cypress vines should be monitored, though, to make sure they don't seed themselves into an invasive problem with neighbors or wildlands because these plants can spread aggressively.
What are alternatives to cypress vines?
Climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala) are a great alternative to cypress vines because they are perennial flowering climbers that are not considered invasive.
Can cypress vines grow indoors?
While, in theory, you could grow a cypress vine indoors, you would need to be prepared to trellis an aggressively growing climber that can reach 10 feet tall.
Ipomoea quamoclit. N.C. Cooperative Extension.