How to Grow Morning Glories

Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor)
Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Overview and Description

Morning Glories are fast growing, annual flowering vines. They are in the same botanical family as sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), but they do not produce edible tubers. The brightly colored flowers have a slight fragrance and are popular with butterflies and hummingbirds. The vines grow by clinging with tendrils.

  • Leaves: The long vines have bright green heart-shaped leaves and slender tendrils that cling to supports and just about anything else they encounter.
  • Flowers: Morning glory flowers are trumpet-shaped, in shades of pink, white, magenta, purple-blue and bi-colors. The buds are twirled up tightly and unfold when the sun hits them, in the morning.

Botanical Name

lpomoea tricolor

Common Name

Morning Glory

Exposure

The flowers will only open when they are in direct sunlight, so an exposure with full sun 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.

Hardiness

Morning glories are annuals. They will readily self-seed. It is also very easy to save the seeds to plant elsewhere, next season.

Mature Plant Size

  • Height: 5 - 15 ft. or more
  • Spread: space seed 6 - 8 in. apart and the vines will spread as far as they can

Days to Maturity

Morning glories can start blooming by early summer, but many times they are infuriatingly slow to begin setting flowers. They have earned the nickname "back to school vine", because they have a tendency to hold off flowering until almost the fall.

Plants that self-sowed are the earliest to bloom. If you don't want them to self-sow, you could also try sowing the seed in early spring, by scattering them on the frozen ground and even on a little snow.

But if you find your vines are growing lots of foliage and few or no flowers, it could be that the soil is too rich for them or they are not getting enough sun and heat.

Try giving them some fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous - then hope for more sunny days.

Suggested Varieties

They're all beautiful and easy to grow, so it really depends on what color you prefer. A word of warning: the "blue" varieties tend toward purple and the "red" varieties tend toward purple. Hmm, there seems to be a pattern here.

  • 'Carnivale De Venezia' - a combination of splotchy-striped 'Venice Blue' and 'Venice Pink'. Height approx. 5 - 7 ft.
  • 'Blue Picotee' and 'Red Picotee' - unusual Japanese varieties with a white edge. Height approx. 5 - 6 ft.
  • 'Grandpa Ott' - this is one of the 2 seeds that started the Seed Savers Exchange. A Bavarian heirloom, the flowers are a rich purple-blue with red markings that form a star. Height approx. 12 ft.
  • 'Heavenly Blue' - a classic with sky blue flowers and white throats. Fairly dependably bloomers and self-sowers. Height approx. 12 ft.
  • Shadow Dance - a combination of dark blue and pure white flowers. Height approx. 5 - 7 ft.
  • 'Split Second' - small, fluffy, double, pink flowers. Height approx. 5 - 7 ft.

Other popular vines in the same family as morning glories are: Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea x multifida), Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) and Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas).

Pairing morning glories with moonflowers gives you morning and evening blooms, although I find moonflowers far harder to grow than morning glories.

Design Suggestions

Since the vines grow and fill in so quickly, morning glories are popular for camouflaging ugly parts of the yard, like screening in front of central air conditioner units and garbage cans. But these vines have a very old fashioned charm and can be used on teepees in the garden border, grown up gutter down spouts or grown through other plants. Since they are good at attracting pollinating insects, you could also dress up the vegetable garden with them.

Morning Glory Growing Tips

Soil: A neutral soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8. is best, but morning glories will grow just about anywhere. I find they bloom better in a soil that is not too rich in organic matter.

You can always amend it later, if the vines look like they are struggling.

Choose a sunny sight, with well-draining soil.

Sowing: You can start seed indoors, 4 - 6 weeks before your last frost date, but it's not necessary. They do very well when direct sown. What until the soil is able to be worked and the soil has warmed to at least 60 F.

Morning glory seeds are very hard and germination will be faster with scarification. I rub them between 2 pieces of coarse sandpaper for a few seconds and then soak them overnight. You will notice they are a lot plumper in the morning and look ready to sprout.

Sow them about 1/4 in. deep, spaced a few inches apart. If you are don't a row of morning glories, 6 in. spacing will be fine. If you are planting a trellis, you don't need to be too particular about spacing. Don't forget to water the seeds in well and keep the soil moist until they sprout.

Maintenance

Morning glories are very low maintenance. You don't need to prune or deadhead.

Have your support in place, when you plant the seeds. Once the vines find the support, they will train themselves to grow up it. If they don't have anything to climb, they will tangle around themselves, on the ground.

Provide regular water, about 1 in. per week, and mulch around the roots, to retain moisture. Go easy on feeding the plants. Give them a low nitrogen fertilizer every 4 - 5 weeks, as needed.

Pests and Problems

Morning glory vines seldom are seldom bothered by insects or diseases, although in wet weather they can contract several fungal problems, like leaf spot, stem rot, thread blight and white blister.

A bigger problem is 4-footed animals who love to munch on the leaves. Deer, rabbits and groundhogs can do a lot of damage to the lower vines, especially while they are young. You can prevent this by fencing around the lower 3 - 5 ft. The vines will eventually grow through the fencing and disguise it. At that point, if animals do a little browsing, it shouldn't kill the whole plant. You could also spray them with deterrent.