Morning glories, moonflowers and relatives

Morning glories and moonflowers as well as a host of other attractive species and hybrids, are members of the genus, Ipomoea, a group of about 500 species belonging to the Genera Convolulaceae or (morning glory family)

The name “Ipomoea comes from the Greek ips (worms) and homolos (similar), in reference to the plants climbing or trailing habit. They are twinners and some of them can reach 20ft in a single season. Ipomoeas are natives of the tropics and they thrive in warm weather.

Although they are perennials in the tropics, the native habitats, they are grown as annuals in temperate gardens. All have flowers whose petals are fused into a tubular or tunnel-shaped corolla and their seeds are poisonous if ingested.

MORNING GLORIES COLOURFUL TRIO
Three closely related species- Ipomoea nil, I.purpurea and I. Tricolor are all called morning glories. They read a height of eight to ten feet or more, with heart shaped leaves four to six inches across. The flowers have a wide, fluted corolla and a long tubular throat that is pale white and pale yellow in some cultivars. These species have been much hybridized and with so many beautiful, eye-catching cultivars

Although each blossom last just a single day, opening with the rising sun and closing in the afternoon, the plants produce lots of them, so
Continuous blooming year round. “Magical moon flower Ipomoea Alba”, is sometimes referred to by its old name “Calonyction aculeatum” is the morning glory’s nocturnal counterpart. It has the lush, the heart-shaped leaves of morning glory and big white irresistible flowers, (thorn of “Giant White” six inches across). The corolla is wide and flaring with a slight flush of green on the outside.

The fragrance is pure delight. The flowers open in the late afternoon or early evening, it stays open, all open through the night to attract pollinating moths and close the next morning. The vine can grow up to 40 feet in its native tropical habitat.

GROWING IPOMOEAS (PROPAGATION)
Morning glories, moonflowers and their relatives are easy to grow and adaptable to a range of soils. They all need plenty of sunshine except for sweet potato vines (I. balatas which. can handle partial shade) they do best in soil that is light, moist but well drained and of just average fertility. Don’t over do the nitrogen; if you put too much manure on the garden, the Ipomoeas will produce luxuriant leaves but fewer blossoms.

Sweet potato vines are best started from cuttings. The others will grow readily from seeds. The seed though have a hard coat that slows germination, unless you nick them with a file (a rather time consuming exercise to say the least) or to soak them in lukewarm water overnight to break the coat before sowing. Soaking works just as well as scarifying and its less trouble. (They look like worms).

The recommended spacing in garden is 8-12 inches. You can train vines on an arch or arbor or use a trellis or netting or plant them alongside a shrub and train the vines up into its branches, you can also train them to twine along a hedge. For a laissez-faire approach, let the vine scramble around on the ground. Large leaved varieties are great for making shade in a hurry.

TRAINING VINES
Step One:
Select a sunny well-drained site. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 inches and work in several inches of compost. If some sort of support is not already in place, set it up before transplanting seedlings. Space the plants from 6-12 inches apart. If you are transplanting seedlings peats pots, plant them deep enough so that the edge of the pot is buried, or tear off any portion of the pot that remains exposed, otherwise the rims can wick moisture away from the roots.

Step Two:
To encourage the vines to grow in the right direction, lean the bamboo stake (if you are using one) and vine toward the permanent support. If you have not used a stake to train the seedlings (and sometimes even if you have) you may find it necessary to tie the stems to the support with soft string or flexible ties until they begin twinning.

Care:
Support climbers and trailing species.
Ipomoeas low maintenance. Water during dry periods so as to retain moisture and avoid weeds.

PEST AND DISEASES
PESTS:
Tortoise beetles, aphids, spider mites, caterpillars (leaf cutter) may attack foliage. Control with insecticidal soap.

DISEASE/FUNGUS:
Rust, fungal leaf spots and fusarium wilt. Treat with natural herbicides.



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