Morning glories are one of my favorite flowers. They are very easy to grow vining annuals with heart-shaped leaves that produce a profusion new 4” to 5” diameter flowers each morning.
Morning Glory Varieties
There are many varieties of morning glories. The variety shown in blog is Heavenly Blue (Ipomoea tricolor), but the same information applies to other garden varieties of the genus Ipomoea that are grown as annuals in North America. Varieties such as Flying Saucers, Pearly Gates, Star of Yelta and Scarlett O’Hara. These varieties are not invasive like the related perennial bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).
Location should be one of the first considerations before planting morning glories. They need a location that receives at least six hours of full sun per day and a trellis, fence, arbor, arch, pergola, or other structure to climb. Morning glory vines grow between 8’ to 10’ tall. So, the structure should be at least 6 feet tall. Whenever the vines reach the top of a structure, they will intertwine again and again to form a top-heavy mass. They can also be grown in a large pot containing a trellis and pruned to keep a bushier form.
I have had the best luck growing morning glories on the south side of a house in full sun. I also like to plant them near an entryway interspersed with night-blooming moonflowers (Ipomea Alba, grows 15’ tall). Planting morning glories and moonflowers together will provide you with morning glory flowers in the day, followed by 6” to 7” diameter white moonflowers at night! Moonflowers also have an intoxicating scent, so growing them by an entryway will allow you to enjoy them as you enter and exit the house during the night.
Moonflowers attract large hawk and sphinx moths that visit the flowers for their nectar. If you would like to observe the moths up-close, stand still near a flower and hold or wear something white. They will be drawn to you and even land on you. Sometimes it is also easy to run into one of the moths if you are in a hurry. But they are very docile and will not hurt you.
Planting Morning Glories
Morning glories are easily grown from seeds planted ½” deep in ordinary garden soil after all danger of frost has passed (March 21st – 2nd week in April usually). The seeds have a thick wall so nicking the seed coat with a file and soaking them, or just soaking overnight before planting will help them germinate faster.
I like to prepare my soil and then push what I call plant moats into the ground and sow two pre-soaked seeds in each. Plant moats are open ended sections cut from the middle of a sports drink or water bottle. The plant moat helps to protect the small seedlings from becoming a snack for a slug or snail and serve as a well to fill when watering to keep more water around the roots.
After planting the seeds, keep the soil evenly moist and seedlings will emerge in 5 to 7 days (or up to 21 days if not pre-soaked). Thin to one seedling per plant moat or one every six inches or so apart.
Watering and Freeze Protection
Water morning glories when the soil is dry to the touch. Don’t let them dry out too much. They like moisture. It is a good idea to water in the evening so the plants can enjoy the moisture longer over the cooler hours of the night.
If a late season freeze of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower is predicted, water the seedlings in the afternoon or evening before the low temperature is expected and cover them with a blanket, towel or cloche until temperatures rise above freezing.
Troubleshooting: no blooms
Morning glories usually begin to bloom after 75 days. If they are not blooming but are growing plenty of lush green leaves then they may be receiving too much water, or the soil may be too rich, and or they are not getting enough sunlight. Sometimes they will begin to bloom closer to fall when the days begin to be cooler and shorter.
Morning glory pests include aphids, spider mites, and some types of caterpillars. Small numbers of aphids can be removed with blasts of water. Aphids and spider mites can be controlled with insecticidal soap. Lady bugs also work well for aphids. Neem oil will kill aphids, spider mites and caterpillars.
Moonflower pests include sphinx and hawk moth caterpillars. These large hornworm caterpillars can be removed by hand. I love the large moths that these caterpillars transform into, so I prefer to relocate them to another host plant or hand raise them. To find host plants, search for hawkmoth or sphinx moths on this site: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species_search. Identify the caterpillar/moth, and then look under “Caterpillar Hosts” to see the host plants.
Harvesting and Saving Morning Glory Seeds
Your morning glory vines will provide you with many stunning flowers every day from mid-June to the first frost. Each flower turns into a seed pod that yields 3-5 black seeds. If you want to save seeds for next year, then harvest them when the morning glory pods are dark brown and crack a little when squeezed between your fingers.
Store the seeds in a paper envelope in a cool, dry and dark location until you are ready to plant them next spring. If you forget to save seeds, lightly hoe, or scratch the surface of the ground where your morning glories were planted the previous year and water well. More plants should emerge from seeds that fell from the vines.
Morning glories do not transplant well, but if you do want to move some of the plants to another location in the bed, then wait until they have at least two sets of true leaves on them and use a dinner fork or trowel to gently lift them out the ground during the evening without removing the soil surrounding the root. Transplant them to their new spot and water well. Water them again the next day and or evening until they are no longer wilting.
Morning Glory Brief Summary
Seed Planting Depth:
Spring, after the last frost (March 21st – early April)
Full sun, 6+ hours or more
Well-draining average garden soil
6″ or more inches apart
Water if the soil is dry, they like moisture
Morning glories – 8’ to 10’ vines, Moonflowers – 15’ vines
Spring, after the last frost (March 21st – early April)
Light: Full sun, 6+ hours or more
Seed Planting Depth: 1/2″
Soil: 6″ or more inches apart
Water: Water if the soil is dry, they like moisture
Height: Morning glories – 8’ to 10’ vines, Moonflowers – 15’ vines