Color your spring garden with morning glories

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | 3:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:21 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Do you enjoy morning glories? Did you know that each flower only lasts one day and each morning brings you all-new, fresh flowers? These flowers have always been a favorite of mine and perhaps they are for you as well. Morning glories (Ipomoea) are prized for their abundance of large, deep-throated flowers as well as for their heart or ivy-shaped leaves. These flowers can be found in many colors, including white, red, blue shades or streaked color patterns.

These flowers are annuals in Missouri and need to be replanted each season.

Morning glories are closely related to another beautiful flower, the Moonflower. The Moonflower has huge, pure-white fragrant blooms that open at dusk and stay open throughout the night. Their scent is to draw night-flying moths for pollination purposes. Moonflowers are easily grown from large seeds, which are appealing to children as they are easy to handle. These flowers are especially nice for evening gardens, scented gardens or white garden plantings.

The morning glory variety “Heavenly Blue” is the best-selling variety of morning glory seeds and plants. It is the most prolific bloomer and has some of the largest flowers. The seeds are easy to start and will germinate in about a week in warm soil. All morning glories need lots of sun and good drainage. Keeping them on the dry side will help trigger their blooming cycle.

Steps to planting morning glories

• Plant the seed no more than a week before the last frost.

• Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting to speed up germination.

• Choose a site that has full sun and well-drained soil.

• Plant seeds about a half-inch deep, 8 to 12 inches apart. You can also start seeds indoors in individual 3-inch peat pots four to six weeks before the last frost is due and then set the pots into the garden.

• Provide supports. Morning glories are climbers and will wrap themselves around any nearby support — chain-link fence, trellis, string, poles, etc. This beautiful plant can provide shade for porches or arbors in gardens or can cover walls. These flowers also do very well in containers and hanging baskets. They make a beautiful display with their cascading vines, flowers and leaves.

• As the plants grow, start them on their support by gently twining them around the support. They will handle it from there.

• Keep the plants evenly moist.

• Fertilize once or twice later in the summer with liquid plant fertilizer.

• Discard plants after fall frost.

Seed collection for these plants is easy. Simply clasp the papery-brown pods with one hand and crumble the seeds into a cup held below with your other hand. Dry the seeds for about a week on an open plate before packing; allow for more drying time if the seeds are large and/or the weather is damp.

If the flowers fail to bloom, it would indicate a lack of sun, overly rich soil, too much fertilizer or a combination of these factors. Rainy summers are also hard on these flowers as the excess water and cloudy days can lead to prolific vines with few flowers. Some types of morning glories reseed prolifically and may become invasive. If a morning glory reseeds too much in your garden, quickly pull it out and don’t replant.

In addition to the popular “Heavenly Blue,” morning glories come in varieties galore. If you like purples or reds, consider “Scarlet O’Hara,” “Scarlet Star” or “Crimson Rambler.” If you prefer white, consider “Pearly Gates.” Whatever color you prefer, you won’t be disappointed with this flower that well deserves its name of morning glory.

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