Morning glories are beautiful, old-fashioned flowers. Their climbing vines can quickly fill in empty spaces in your gardens, and their huge blooms have a romantic air about them.
Perfect for cottage gardens, you can plant morning glory as a ground cover, trailing plant, or to cover arbors and trellises. This plant is not, however, for the faint of heart. Be prepared for an enthusiastic growing vine (to say the least).
If you want to add this charmer to your garden, here’s what you need to know about how to grow and care for morning glory.
What Are Morning Glories?
Morning glories belong to the Ipomoea genus, which has over 300 different species of plants, including sweet potatoes. The most commonly grown morning glory species are Ipomoea purpurea and I. tricolor.
In most USDA hardiness zones, morning glories are annuals, although they can be perennial in tropical climates where temperatures don’t dip below 40-45°F.
Despite being annuals, the plants freely reseed themselves in your garden, so you’re likely to have volunteers coming up year after year.
Morning glories are annual vines that bloom with huge and vibrant flowers. The most traditional flower color is blue, but they also come in shades of purple, white, pink, and red.
Plants can grow 12-15 feet in one season, making them extremely fast growers. Morning glories bloom from early or mid summer to fall with large, tubular, fragrant flowers. True to their name, flowers open in the morning and close as the afternoon comes on.
Flower colors can be blue, purple, white, red, pink, or bi-color. The leaves of morning glory are also large and heart-shaped.
Benefits of Planting Morning Glory
Morning glories are one of the easiest annual vines to grow. They tolerate poor, dry soils and can quickly fill in bare spots in your garden or cover up unsightly walls, etc.
In spite of how long they grow, morning glory plants only have a spread of 1-2 feet and can be grown in containers and hanging baskets as well as in the ground.
The large, lovely flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies while sending out a fragrance that humans also enjoy. If you find you love morning glories, it’s easy to keep them growing in your garden by allowing plants to reseed.
Are They Invasive?
Because they are quick growing and freely reseed, there’s often a question of whether morning glories are invasive.
Morning glory has an aggressive and invasive cousin called field bindweed. You can tell the two apart because bindweed has smaller leaves and blossoms and only blooms with white or pink flowers.
True morning glories from the Ipomoea genus are not invasive, although certain regions and states list them as noxious weeds because they reproduce so quickly from seed.
There’s a closely related plant cousin to morning glory called field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). The two are often confused because they have a similar appearance. In fact, bindweed looks like a smaller version of morning glory, although the leaves are more arrow-shaped than heart-shaped, and the smaller flowers only bloom in pink or white.
Bindweed is an invasive plant in many regions and very difficult to get rid of. It sends down extremely deep roots that allow it to overwinter, even in cold regions. Digging up bindweed is often unsuccessful since it can regrow from just a small piece of root.
The main concern with morning glories, on the other hand, is that they return from seed each year. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening, which we’ll discuss later.
Morning Glory Varieties to Try
Here are a few of the more popular morning glory varieties:
- ‘Heavenly Blue’– This is one of the most gorgeous and classic blue varieties. Flowers are 4-5 inches wide and a bright azure blue. They also have a yellow center and a white throat. Plants are fast-growing and reach 12 feet.
There are many lovely varieties and colors to choose from. ‘Grandpa Ott’ is an heirloom from Germany that has purple flowers with red stars in the center.
- ‘Flying Saucers’– A very unique cultivar that has 5-6 inch blooms that are silvery-white streaked with sky blue. Also fast-growing and reaches 10-12 feet.
- ‘Scarlet O’Hara’– This variety has deep, wine red blooms that are 3-4 inches across and have white throats. Fast-growing and reaches 8-10 feet.
- ‘Sunrise Serenade’– This is a very rare double-flowering morning glory. Blooms are truly double, ruffled, and red with white centers. Plants don’t climb as well as other varieties but will give you a stunning display once they start to bloom.
- ‘Kniola’s Black Night’– Another unique variety with deep purple to almost black flowers that have hot pink centers. Blooms abundantly and climbs on average 6-8 feet.
- ‘Grandpa Ott’– This is an heirloom variety with purple blooms that have a red star in the center. The flowers are a bit smaller than other cultivars (2-3 inches wide), but it blooms continuously from early summer to fall. Fast-growing and reaches 8-10 feet.
- Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)– There could be some debate about whether this can be counted as a morning glory, but either way this is an Ipomoea species to try. Flowers are large (6 inches), pure white, and open in the evening rather than the morning.
How to Grow Morning Glories
Besides buying plants from a nursery, morning glories are also easy to start from seed (as you might imagine).
Starting Seeds Outdoors
The best method for growing morning glory is to sow seeds directly in your garden or containers anywhere from late spring to early summer.
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Start by prepping the area where you want them to grow. Work the soil, breaking up clumps and removing rocks. Mix in some compost to give plants more fertile soil.
Before sowing the seeds, file into one side of each seed until you break through the seed coat. Then, soak all of your seeds in water for 24 hours. Breaking the seed coat and soaking the seeds gives them a head start on germination and will give you a better germination rate.
Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in your chosen location and space seeds 6-12 inches apart. Make sure they are all covered with soil and water thoroughly.
Water as needed over the next few days to make sure the soil where your seeds are stays damp. Morning glories usually germinate quickly, so you’ll soon see little seedlings popping up.
Caution: Morning glory seeds are toxic if ingested, so be sure you keep them away from children and pets. The vines and flowers are not toxic.
Starting Seeds Indoors
You can also start morning glory seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before your last frost date. Be aware that because morning glories grow so rapidly they will quickly outgrow seed starting flats and pots.
Starting morning glory seeds indoors in biodegradable pots like these ones can help to reduce transplant shock when you plant them in the ground later.
File into the seed coats and soak seeds for 24 hours just like you would when sowing outdoors.
Get your planting containers ready by mixing a good quality seed starter mix with water until it starts to clump together when squeezed. Fill your trays or peat pots with the mix and make ½ inch indents for the seeds to go in.
Sow one seed per pot or cell and cover them with more soil. Water all the seeds thoroughly and place the trays somewhere warm to germinate.
Once seeds sprout, place the seedlings under grow lights or by a sunny window. Make sure plants get plenty of sunlight and good airflow while they grow.
Growing Conditions and Planting Morning Glory
Morning glories need lots of sunlight to be at their best and to bloom abundantly, so choose spots in full sun to plant. They tolerate many different types of soil, including poor and dry, but appreciate moderate fertility and well-drained soil.
Growing morning glory up a decorative trellis is one way to ensure that it has lots of room to grow. Plant a mix of differently colored plants for a stunning display later in the summer.
Make sure you choose a spot where morning glories can grow to their full size. They don’t fit into tight spaces and frequently take over other plants if grown too close to them.
If you have morning glory plants, they can go in the ground after all threat of frost has passed. Wait until the ground warms up to about 64°F, since the plants won’t get established well in cold soil.
Try to disturb the roots as little as possible when planting, and be sure to water your plants well once they’re in the ground.
Morning Glory Care
Keep your seedlings well watered for the first few weeks, but after that morning glories are practically maintenance free.
You can apply a weak, balanced fertilizer if needed, but too much fertilizing will produce lots of foliage and few blooms. Keep plants well-weeded and put down a light layer of mulch if desired.
Unless you want them to be a ground cover, provide morning glory plants with support that they can climb up. You may need to guide wayward tendrils back to their support throughout the season, since the plants like to venture towards new areas.
Once established, morning glories require very little care. Watch your vines grow throughout the summer and enjoy the large blossoms when they start opening!
If you don’t want morning glories popping up all over your yard next year, you can simply clip off spent flowers before seedpods form. Or pull up any seedlings that sprout next spring.
Clean up in the fall or winter by removing vines after they get killed off by a hard frost.
Pests and Diseases
Morning glories are very sturdy and resilient plants that aren’t generally affected by many pests or diseases.
The biggest pest might be deer who will stop by to eat the vines and flowers. You can use some type of deer repellent to keep them away.
Aphids and fungal diseases will sometimes bother morning glories but don’t usually cause enough damage to harm plants.
Tips + Growing Ideas
There are many creative ways to incorporate morning glory into your landscape, even if you have a small garden. Here are a few tips and ideas:
- First, don’t forget to be a good neighbor. Even if you don’t mind morning glory reseeding itself, plant it where the seeds won’t fall on your neighbor’s yard.
You can easily snip off dead/spent flowers to prevent your plants from reseeding themselves. If you miss any, just pull out any seedlings that come up in the spring.
- Morning glories don’t make very good companion plants because they tend to overwhelm other annuals and perennials both. They work best on their own, paired with other morning glories, or sent to climb up evergreen shrubs like junipers.
- Morning glory looks beautiful climbing up and over trellises, arbors, pergolas, fences, poles, and walls. The tendrils wrap around their support system rather than clinging to it, so they need something with a narrow enough diameter to hold onto. If your support system has wider parts, work in some string or garden twine for plants to wrap around.
- If you’re working with a smaller area, try growing morning glories in hanging baskets. The plants will trail gracefully (and enthusiastically) out of the baskets rather than climbing. You can place them so that they spill dramatically over a porch railing or something similar.
- Some states and/or regions don’t allow certain species of morning glory to be grown. Check before planting to see whether they are allowed in your area.
Despite their aggressive reseeding habit, there’s a lot to love about old-fashioned and romantic morning glories. They are sure to brighten up your summer mornings and happily grow with little to no maintenance!