Morning glory flowers are a classic choice for any garden. They’re incredibly easy to grow, and as a result, they make an excellent addition to any gardener’s home. Even if you aren’t confident in your skills or you’re just getting started as a gardener, morning glories won’t disappoint.
I have to admit, I may be more than slightly biased when it comes to these beauties. I’m not quite sure how it happened but as a young girl, I found myself sent home from school one day with some newly sprouted morning glory seeds. In retrospect, this was probably a public school science lesson.
However it happened, they became the first plants that I have clear memories of taking care of. They grow quite quickly, so every day there was new growth to be seen. This was undoubtedly a winning factor for a young child! Needless to say, this was one of the first plants that inspired my life-long love of gardening.
Morning Glory Varieties
Morning glories belong to the Ipomoea genus. There’s a staggering number of varieties in this plant’s family—over 1000 to be exact. Interestingly, morning glories belong to the same family as sweet potatoes. The difference, of course, being that they don’t produce edible tubers.
The most common colours to be found are shades of blue, purple, pink, and white. A few of the more popular varieties are:
1. Heavenly Blue
This morning glory cultivar has classic sky blue flowers with white throats. These are fairly dependable bloomers and self-sowers, with vines that can reach as high as 12 feet. I’m fairly certain this is the variety I brought home with me.
2. Granpa Ott
This absolute beauty is one of the two seeds that started the Seed Savers Exchange. The flowers are a rich purple-blue with red, star-like markings reaching out from their throats. Vines can reach as high as 12 feet.
3. Scarlet O’Hara
This is an eye-catching reddish pink cultivar with bright white throats. It’s known to be particularly vigorous and fast growing, so it’s perfect for arbors and trellises. Vines can reach anywhere from 8-10 feet tall.
4. Picotee (Blue or Red)
This is a Japanese variety that comes in either blue or red with white edges. Its mature vines are a little shorter, reaching a height of approximately 5–6 feet.
Growing Morning Glory Plants
Morning glory seed casings are very hard, so a bit of persuasion goes a long way in increasing your success rate with germination. Scar the seeds with sandpaper to open up that tough outer coating. You can use a knife as well, but since the seeds aren’t very large, sandpaper is a much safer option.
Soaking the seeds overnight in warm water will also help to encourage germination. By morning, your seeds should be nice and plump. This is a sure sign that they’re ready to sprout.
When it comes to light requirements, it’s very simple: sun, sun, and more sun. In fact, those glorious blooms won’t open unless they’re actually touched by the sun’s rays.
Other than their love of sun, morning glories can flourish in a wide variety of environments. They’ll perform well all the way from USDA zones 3–10, in just about any soil type. Contrary to popular belief, these flowers will bloom without morning sun: they just won’t be “morning” glories.
Planting the Seeds
You can choose to start your seeds indoors 4-6 weeks prior to the last expected frost. Just note that since the plants grow so quickly, it really isn’t necessary to do so. Plants will perform their best in a neutral soil p.H of about 6.0, but they’re so resilient that they’ll do fine just about anywhere.
When planting a long row of seeds, sowing them at 6 inches apart is best. If you’re planting them in a container, however, or planting them around a trellis, spacing isn’t as important.
If you’d like your plants to climb a trellis, do make sure that it is already in place when starting the seeds. The vines grow very quickly and without something to wind around, they will simply tangle themselves up in a heap on the ground.
Caring for Morning Glory Flowers
These plants are incredibly easy keepers and won’t require too much maintenance during the growing season. You’ll be happy to learn that no pruning or deadheading is needed. In fact, these plants practically thrive on neglect.
Water well when first starting the seeds and make sure to keep the soil moist until seeds have spouted. Water on a weekly basis throughout the summer unless you’re having a particularly dry spell. In that case, you should keep an eye on the plants and increase watering as needed. If you expect to be away, you can place mulch around the bases of the plants to help maintain soil moisture.
Don’t go overboard feeding your morning glories. Giving them a low nitrogen fertilizer every 4–5 weeks is more than enough. In fact, you should be careful not to include too much rich organic matter in your plants’ soil. Too much nitrogen can cause them to overproduce on foliage, which will result in fewer flowers for you to enjoy.
Pests and Problems
There are very few diseases that affect the morning glory. The only problems they’re susceptible to mostly occur if the plant is growing in extremely damp conditions. Fungal problems such as stem rot, leaf spot, and white blister have been known to be a problem.
A more common issue seems to be predation by rodents and herbivorous mammals. Deer, groundhogs, and rabbits seem to find morning glories particularly tasty. If this becomes a problem for you, you may need to erect fencing to keep their snacking to a minimum.
Protecting the first 3-4 feet of growth is most important. Nibbling at higher levels is less likely to affect the plant’s overall health
Collecting and Saving Seeds
Morning glories will happily re-seed on their own, but you can also collect and store the seeds. Grow these in other parts of the garden, and share them with friends, family and neighbours.
The flowers will drop off once they’ve finished blooming, leaving small round pods attached to the stem. Break off one of these pods once it has hardened and turned brown. If the seeds inside are black, then they’re ready for harvest.
Collect as many of these pods as you like and bring them inside to continue drying. After a couple of weeks, crack them open and spread out the seeds in a warm dry place. The seeds are hard enough to store away when you can no longer puncture them with a fingernail.
I recommend using a small envelope for storage so that you can write the plant’s name for easy reference when planning next year’s garden. If you’re going to use zippered plastic baggies, place a small piece of paper towel in the bag to collect any lingering moisture from the seeds.
Morning glories produce a mild fragrance and are therefore popular with butterflies and hummingbirds. If you’d like to entice more pollinators into your vegetable garden, interspersing a few plants in amongst your veggies.
Plants can be very slow to set flowers. Don’t be surprised or frustrated if you don’t see blooms until closer to the fall. It’s because of this that they’ve earned the nickname “back-to-school vine”. Many varieties won’t start blooming until the summer is almost over. This really isn’t that bad, since a touch of colour in the autumn is always appreciated.
Although their flowers can be late to set, the foliage is quick to grow. This makes it a fabulous choice as a privacy wall, or for hiding less desirable sections of your garden.
Try pairing morning glory and moon flowers together. This way, when the morning glory blooms are fading, the moon flowers will just be opening up. It should be noted, however, that moon flowers can be somewhat more difficult to grow than morning glories.
It’s very important to note that morning glory seeds are highly poisonous, especially in large numbers. Be careful to keep them away from children and pets, especially when you have seeds laid out for drying.
Once the cooler weather has arrived and the vines have turned brown, pull down all of the vines and add them into your compost. While the vines are great for the next batch to climb on next season, you’ll quickly end up with masses of tangled vines that you’ll eventually have to clear out. Pull roots out of containers to make room for next year’s growth.
Now that you know how easy morning glories are to care for, and have an idea of which variety you’d like to try, you should have no problem adding this beauty to your garden. You really can’t go wrong with this plant. Don’t forget to collect seeds and share the joy with friends and family.