Moonflower vines are to the evening as Morning Glories are to the early hours after sunrise. We love the charm of watching these cottage garden favorites open before our eyes. The buds are gently twisted at first, opening to show funnel shaped flowers with plenty of pollen for moths at night from Moonflowers and, for bees during the day from Morning Glories.
Whether they are climbing over an archway, a trellis, through shrubs or over a country mailbox, Moonflowers and Morning Glories never fail to make us smile about their exuberance.
All 500 trees, shrubs and vine in the plant genus, Ipomoea prefer warm climates. In fact all the plants in their family, Convolvulaceae have funnel shaped flowers and triangle shaped leaves.
Moonflowers, Ipomoea alba, need sun, water and a little fertilizer to bloom their best. The flowers unfold in 2-3 minutes and you can watch them go from bud to 6-inch flower. Some catalogs list Moonflowers as Calonyction album or C. aculeatum.
The seeds have a thick coating so it is recommended that they are nicked with sandpaper and/or soaked in warm water overnight. The seedlings will not come up when temperatures are under 55-degrees so they have to be started indoors or after the soil warms.
Seeds from this year’s plants can be planted in pots in the late fall, and left outside where the cold temperatures of winter will crack open the outer shell.
Morning Glories prefer unfertilized soil and will climb and twine clockwise around almost anything in their path. Their seeds are pressed into the ground mid-April or planted an inch deep in pots in March, after an overnight soak in warm water.
Morning Glories come in a dozen colors. Tricolor Heavenly Blue is the classic blue; Blue Ensign is a Mediterranean miniature with 1-2 inch flowers that are indigo blue with a band of white between the blue outer edge and the yellow throat.
The striped colors usually come packaged together with pinks, reds and blues mixed together. British seed catalogues list them as Convolvulus major Trumpet Mix.
Unique Morning Glories include the double flowered ones such as Sunrise Serenade, Double Kikyo Pink and Split Second.
If your garden could use a splash of red, choose Scarlet O’Hara, Scarlet, Scarlet Star, Morning Star, Crimson Rambler, Mt. Fuji or Grandpa Ott. Pearly Gates is pure white and could be planted with Moonflowers in a white garden to extend flowering time.
There are plenty of garden favorites in the Ipomoea family. For example, Ipomeas batatas is our edible sweet potato and Ipomoea aquatics is edible water spinach whose flowers look like Morning Glories.
Field Bindweed is one of the weedy members of the Convolvulus family. Another agricultural invasive is Purple Moonflower, Ipomoea turbinate, that has stickers and pretty lavender flowers.
Convolvulus is from the Latin, convolve, to entwine. Cardinal Climber vines, Ipomoea x multified, have feathery vines and leaves with tiny red flowers. Once established they can become a beautiful pest that reseeds and climbs everything.
Plant growers sell Convolvulus mauritanicus, Ground Morning Glory as a low-growing, perennial evergreen groundcover (www.monrovia.com) with lavender-blue flowers. They call it a water-wise and fire-scaping plant. Convolvulus sabatius mauritanicus, Blue Rock Bindweed, is a Royal Horticultural Society Garden Merit winner with purple-blue flowers.
Silverbush or Bush Morning Glory, Convolvulus cneorum, is also called a drought tolerant, deer resistant, fire retardant evergreen whose white or pink flowers attract hummingbirds. Perennial in South Texas, they are cold hardy to zone 8, so in a warm microclimate such as a southwest facing corner of the house, Silverbush might overwinter in zone 7.
With all these plants, each flower lasts a single day, fading to be replaced by dozens more.