Morning glories are often the first flowering vines gardeners become familiar with. They are fast-growing annual vines that are actually in the same botanical family as sweet potatoes (though they don't produce edible tubers). The brightly colored trumpet-shaped flowers have a slight fragrance and are popular with butterflies and hummingbirds. The buds are twirled up tightly and unfold when the sun hits them in the morning, giving them their unique name.
Native to Mexico and Central America, morning glory vines grow by clinging to nearby supports with tendrils, rapidly growing up to 12 feet or more a season. They can be planted by seed about a month before the last spring frost, and self-sow effusively, making it very likely they'll come back the following year. Though some gardeners find them too aggressive, unwanted seedlings can usually be pulled out easily.
|Botanical Name||Ipomoea purpurea|
|Common Name||Morning glory|
|Mature Size||6–10 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-draining|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Purple, pink, blue, white|
|Hardiness Zones||2–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Mexico, Central America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to animals and humans|
Morning Glory Care
Morning glories are a favorite of gardeners everywhere for good reason. The eye-catching vines are very low maintenance—they can be easily started from seed in early spring, and you don't need to prune or deadhead them as they grow. Have a trellis or other support in place wherever you plant your seeds and the vines will soon find the support and train themselves to grow up it.
With regular watering, morning glories can start blooming by mid-summer, but many times they are slow to begin setting flowers, earning them the nickname "back to school vine." If you want to try and speed up the flowering time of morning glories you seed yourself, you can try sowing the seeds even earlier in the spring by scattering them on the frozen ground and even on snow.
Planting your morning glory in a spot that gets full sun is especially important. The flowers will only open when they are in direct sunlight, so daily exposure to full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours a day) will give you the longest amount of bloom time. If they are in a spot that doesn't get sun until the afternoon, don't expect "morning" glories.
Morning glories do best in soil that is moist but well-draining. A neutral soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8 is best, but morning glories will grow just about anywhere. However, they do bloom better in soil that is not too rich in organic matter—you can always amend the soil later if the vines look like they are struggling.
Provide your morning glories with regular water, about one inch per week, and mulch around the roots to retain moisture. The biggest moisture needs come during the plant's growing period—once established (and in the winter), you can slow your watering cadence.
Temperature and Humidity
Morning glories are very hardy plants and can easily tolerate temperatures both cold and warm. That being said, in order for them to grow from seed, they should be planted once the ground temperature has reached at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit. They will be an annual plant in areas that drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and perennials in warmer climates. Additionally, they require no special humidity needs.
Feed your morning glories with a low nitrogen fertilizer every four to five weeks throughout their growing period. If you notice a lack of blooms, you can try a fertilizer blend that is high in phosphorous.
Morning Glory Varieties
- Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue': A popular cultivar with large azure flowers and heart-shaped leaves
- Ipomoea alba: Also called moonflower or belle de nuit; a night-blooming species with 6-inch-wide white flowers
- Ipomoea x multifida: Known as the cardinal climber; a hybrid with relatively small but deep red flowers resembling morning glory blooms
- Ipomoea purpurea 'Star of Yelta': Deep purple blooms with dark red stars and small white throats
- Ipomoea purpurea 'Kniola's Black': Another purple-flowered cultivar of Ipomoea purpurea but with blooms even darker than those of 'Star of Yelta'
How to Grow Morning Glory From Seed
You can start seed indoors about four to six weeks before your last frost date, but it's not necessary—they do very well when direct-sown as well. If you prefer to plant your seeds straight into the ground, you can wait until the soil is able to be worked and has warmed to at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
Morning glory seeds are very hard and germination will be faster with scarification. You can do this by rubbing them between two pieces of coarse sandpaper for a few seconds and then soaking them overnight. You will notice they are a lot plumper in the morning and look ready to sprout.
Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep, spaced a few inches apart. If you are planting a row of morning glories, six-inch spacing will be fine. If you are planting a trellis, you don't need to be too particular about spacing. Water the seeds well and keep the soil moist until they sprout.
Common Pests and Diseases
Morning glory vines are seldom bothered by insects or diseases, although they can contract several fungal problems if they experience a lot of wet weather, like leaf spot, stem rot, thread blight, and white blister.
A bigger problem is four-footed animals who love to munch on their leaves. Deer, rabbits, and groundhogs can do a lot of damage to the lower vines, especially while they are young. Prevent them from getting to your morning glories by fencing around the lower three to five feet of the vines. The vines will eventually grow through the fencing and disguise it all together. At that point, if animals do a little browsing, it shouldn't kill the whole plant.