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Looking for a vining plant that can give off an idyllic and vintage look to your garden? Then morning glories would be a great choice for you! These plants are strong climbers with picturesque blooms and soft tendrils that only take very little effort to grow and care for. In fact, they grow so easily, that many gardeners mistake them for weeds.
About Morning Glories
Botanically named “Ipomoea”, morning glories are annual plants that are found in about 600 different varieties. They produce striking trumpet-shaped flowers in many shades including pink, blue, purple, red, white, and even bi-colors. These plants have heart-shaped leaves and can grow from 6-12 feet in length. Some most popular growing species of morning glories include the following:
- Ivy morning glory
- Beach morning glory
- Scarlet O’ Hara
- Morning star
- Cardinal climber
- Heavenly Blue
- Flying saucers
- Grandpa Ott
What’s the best time to plant morning glories?
Don’t sow morning glory seeds outside until the threat of the last frost is completely over. The ideal ground temperature should be at least 64 Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) degrees for the seeds to germinate successfully. You can start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost to give them a head-start and get them ready for the outdoor spring planting.
Choosing a Planting Site
Morning glories are strong plants that can survive in considerably poor growing environments. However, when grown in good conditions they will bloom vigorously and grow healthier.
Choose a place for your plants that gets 6-8 hours of full sun throughout the day though a little bit of shade will also be fine. Morning glories prefer somewhat fertile and well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.8. If you want to improve the soil drainage, mix in some gravel before planting. Avoid using any rich soil types with a lot of organic matter as it can cause excessive growth of foliage instead of producing more flowers.
You can plant your morning glories next to an external structure such as an outdoor wall or a fence. Your other options include building a trellis or an archway to support their growth. You can also leave the plants to grow along the ground as they make beautiful ground covers.
If you’re planting your morning glories in containers, choose large pots at least 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) wide and 15 cm (6 inches) deep. There should be enough holes in the base to keep the pots from getting waterlogged. Choose pots made with non-porous materials such as plastic and fiberglass as these will help keep the soil moist.
Planting Morning Glories
Morning glory seeds have a tough outer rind, so it’s important to soak them well in clean water overnight prior to sowing. This will soften the rind so that the seeds can germinate faster. Plant the seeds about 1 cm (1/2 inches) deep in the soil, keeping at least 15-31 cm (6-12 inches) in between, and water them well.
The seeds will quickly germinate within 15-21 days but will take at least 5-6 weeks for them to get well-established. This would be the perfect time to move and transplant them outside. When doing so, be extra careful not to damage the plants and their roots. Once your morning glory vines have grown about 15 cm (6 inches) tall, it’s time to build a structure to support their forthcoming growth and spread.
Care and Maintenance
While morning glories are extremely low-maintenance plants, a little bit of extra care will help them bloom better and faster. Here’s how to care for and maintain them:
Water your morning glories more often in hot climates and less in colder climates. Avoid watering your morning glories in the afternoon to prevent rapid water evaporation. Instead, water them in the morning and evening when they need more frequent watering.
Morning glories don’t need any fertilizing to survive, but you can always add some to boost growth. You can use either a dry or liquid all-purpose fertilizer monthly to feed your plants or one that contains potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous in an equal ratio of 10:10:10 for a well-balanced feeding. Avoid over-feeding them as it can cause these plants to have various nutrition disorders.
Mulching can help retain soil moisture longer while suppressing weeds. You can use any type of organic mulch such as pine bark or decaying grit. There are some mulching products in the market you can find that are specially made for morning glories. You can try one of these or you can even try making your own. Apply a mulch layer at least 1-2 inches thick by spreading it around the roots equally.
Pests and Diseases
Morning glories can be infested with a few common garden pests such as:
- Spider mites
- Leaf miners
To rid your plants of an infestation, wash the pests off with water. Then, try spraying the plants with insecticidal soap, sulfur, or horticultural oil.
Some common diseases that can infect morning glories include:
- Fusarium wilt
- Fungal leaf spots
- Canker disease
Mold, discolored and spotty leaves and stems, wilted and rotting parts are some signs of these diseases. Once infected, the best way to control the infection is by separating and disposing of the infected vines, then using a fungicide to avoid a relapse and further spread.
Apart from these, lack of sunlight, over-watering, and over-fertilizing can also cause numerous complications so it’s important to be careful about these.
Morning Glories in Landscaping
Morning glories are used for landscaping in various ways. Here are some reasons why these plants are so popular for landscaping.
- It’s an ideal plant for vertical gardening.
- Perfect to be planted in hanging baskets and any other type of container.
- It grows conveniently and quickly on trellises, archways, and other landscaping structures.
- These plants make charming covers for walls, fences, and any other unattractive areas in your garden.
- Make beautiful natural decorations in landscaping.
Morning glories Vs. Field Bindweed
“Field bindweed” or “Creeping Jenny” is a perennial that’s often mistaken as another species of annual morning glories due to the similarities between the two plants. However, this plant is an invasive weed that’s indigenous to many Asian and European regions. They grow and expand roots in the ground aggressively making it hard to remove and control the spread.
If you look close enough, you can tell the difference between Field bindweed and morning glories by looking at their flowers and foliage. For example, morning glory leaves are heart-shaped while bindweed has leaves shaped like arrow heads and they’ve also got smaller flowers. Morning glory vines are also much thicker than bindweeds.
Facts about Morning Glories
- Morning glory seeds are poisonous if consumed.
- Morning glories have the ability to naturally propagate through self-seeding.
- The species named “ivy morning glories” have medicinal components in their seeds.
- Another variety named “water morning glory” is used in various cuisines as a green vegetable.
- While most of their species produce flowers in the morning some varieties bloom at night.
So there you have it! As you can see, morning glories are interesting little plants that can be quite fun and easy to grow. If you’re a beginner gardener, they’d be an excellent plant to try growing since they require very basic gardening skills.