Morning glory

Morning glory
Ipomoea is the name for the huge family more commonly known as Morning Glories. These include perennials, biennials and annuals. They range in color from pink to white to deep blue. They grow in vines and bushes. Sounds confusing? Don't worry. No matter what variety you pick, they have the same general requirements. And their showy flowers are a delightful choice.

Growing ipomoeas

Gardeners looking for a vigorous climber to cover a wall or trellis in only one season will be delighted with ipomoeas. If you have cool springs, sow seeds indoors. Morning glories don't like their roots disturbed, but in cooler climates you'll need a jump on the season or you won't get flowers until late summer.

Start seeds three to four weeks before the last expected frost date. Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting, or carefully file or chip their hard overcoats to encourage germination, then soak them. Put them in peat pots so the transition into the garden won't disturb their roots as much. Seeds will germinate in about a week. If you start them too soon, some of the quick-growing varieties will seek a support to climb on, or start twining around each other. If your seedlings get to this point, insert twigs in their pots (carefully, so as not to damage the roots), and transplant as soon as the weather warms up.

In zones with longer growing seasons and milder temperatures, sow seeds outdoors where they are to flower, after the last frost date. Plant morning glories in average, well-drained soil but make sure they get a full blast of sun (especially I. alba). I have grown the tricolor morning glories in partial sun on a western wall. They took longer to flower, but once they did, it was in profusion.

I. alba likes rich soil, but most of the I. tricolor cultivars prefer soil that is not too rich, otherwise you'll get an abundance of foliage and few flowers. Morning glories aren't water lovers, either, and will do well with average precipitation.

Morning glories are twiners: they reach out, pirouetting in their predetermined, typically clockwise direction, seeking something to grab hold of. (The plants are genetically programmed to grow and unfurl in one direction only—watch your plants, you'll see.) The tendrils are far stronger than they appear. Give them a trellis, a string, a lamp post—anything that will allow them to grow upward. And grow they will, until a frost stops them dead in their tendriling tracks.

Site Preparation

The most popular morning glories grow as vines. They will therefore need some kind of support as well as full sun, particularly in the morning hours. Planting them right next to a wall may block the sun. The best solution is to plant them next to a fence, if possible. For the most part, morning glories grow easily from seed, but you can also transplant a vine that has begun to grow. Till the soil until it is soft and crumbly. Add a spade-full of compost.

Planting

Sow morning glory seeds about 1 week after the last frost. If you are planting seeds, you need to prepare the seeds first. Since they have a hard, outer seed-coat, soak the seeds in warm water for about 2 hours. Then, make half-inch holes (use your finger) in the spot you chose. Place 1 seed in each hole, and each seed about 6 inches apart. Once 1 plant starts to outgrow the others, take the other ones out. Morning glories will grow quickly, and they need all the room they can get. If you are transplanting, make sure the vine is as deep into the soil as it was before.

Care

As the vine starts to grow, you may want to train it. Twist it around its support, very gently. Water the morning glory regularly, but be careful to avoid overwatering. You should have blooms from early summer until early winter. The flowers will bloom, as the name indicates, in the morning.

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