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Plant Spotlight: Morning Glory (Ipomoea)

Lisa is a writer and gardener with extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy-care tips for home gardeners.

Morning Glory Origins

The Morning Glory is a wonderful, fast-growing annual vine that has been cultivated as an ornamental in Japan since the 9th Century. The Japanese are responsible for cross-breeding of this vine to produce the varieties you see on the market today.

The name Morning Glory includes over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the Convolvulaceae family. Most varieties open in the morning (thus the name Morning Glory) and close by mid-afternoon. The flowers only last one day, but another flush of flowers open the very next day.

Morning Glories come in a wide array of hues; White, Blue, Purple, Pink, Red and variations of these colors.

Some of the most popular varieties on the market today are:

Heavenly Blue- the most common, sky blue flowers with white throats. Often seen growing wild on roadsides, fences etc.

Grandpa Ott- Royal Purple flowers with magenta throats and stripes.

Crimson Rambler- Red with white throats.

Scarlet O'Hara- Cool red throughout.

Morning Glory "Heavenly Blue"

Morning Glory "Heavenly Blue"

An Annual that acts like a Perennial

In areas in the north, Morning Glory is an annual that self-seeds profusely. Once you plant it, you only need to plant it once. The shell of the Morning Glory seed is extremely hard, which helps it survive the winter weather and germinate in the spring.

One caveat: make sure you choose your planting site carefully. Once you plant Morning Glory, it will be there forever unless you vigorously stay on top of weeding the area. The seed can remain viable for several years.

Morning Glory Specifications

Morning Glory blooms summer through fall. The leaves are a rich green color and heart-shaped. The blooms can be between 5 to 8 inches across. This vine is very aggressive and can climb up to 15 feet in one season. The blooms attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

How to Plant Morning Glory

Morning Glory can be direct sowed outside when temperatures are 65 degrees or above. A little prep work is involved to sow them successfully:

  1. Take the seeds and use a nail file to gently nick the outer coating of the seed.
  2. Place the nicked seeds overnight in room temperature water. This will help speed up germination.
  3. The next day, plant your seeds about 6 inches apart and cover with 1/4 of an inch of soil.
  4. Water moderately. Seedlings should emerge within two weeks.

Morning Glory isn't picky about what type of soil it is planted in. It does well in heavy clay and poor soils.

Morning Glory "Grandpa Ott"

Morning Glory "Grandpa Ott"

Culinary Uses

The Morning Glory leaves are widely used in Asia as a green vegetable commonly known as "Water Spinach" and cooked similarly to regular spinach. It's culinary use has spread to the U.S. and some chefs are now using it in restaurant applications.

Ornamental Applications

Because Morning Glory is such a vigorous spreader, the best applications for growing are as follows:

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  • On an Arbor or Pergola
  • On a fence as a privacy screen (you should check with your neighbor if you share a fence to make sure they don't mind)
  • On a light post or utility post
  • On a mailbox post
  • Any place where you need a large amount of space covered in little time!
Morning Glory quickly taking over an arbor in July.

Morning Glory quickly taking over an arbor in July.

Cardinal Climber blooms

Cardinal Climber blooms

Morning Glory Family of Plants

Other plants that are in the same family perform in the same way as Morning Glory, thus are great for the applications listed above. These plants include:

  • Moonflower (Fragrant & Night Blooming, Great for patios)
  • Cardinal Climber
  • Cypress Vine

Morning Glory Folklore

In Victorian times, the Morning Glory was commonly grown. It was a romanticized plant that signified Love, Affection and Mortality.

In Chinese folklore, the Morning Glory represented a single day for lovers to meet.

Morning Glory represents the month of September and the 11th year wedding anniversary.

Morning Glory "Split Personality"

Morning Glory "Split Personality"

Morning Glory Controversy

There is some controversy as of late regarding the seeds of the plant because of it's toxic and hallucinogenic properties. Morning Glory seeds contain d-Lysergic Acid Amide, which is a substance that is similar to LSD and produces a hallucinogenic effect when ingested in large quantities (Native Americans commonly used them in this way).

Because of the information found on the internet, some teens have been experimenting with the seeds by purchasing large quantities from home improvement store's seed aisle and using it to get high. Some communities have started putting restrictions on buying large quantities of seed packets for this reason. Other seed sources have started mislabeling seed packets to confuse anyone who is purchasing them to get high.

If you have teens/ young adults in your household, I would advise you having a frank discussion about this plant before you decide to grow it. The seeds are very toxic regardless of it's LSD-like properties and should never be ingested. They can wind up in the hospital gravely ill, not to mention even a small amount causes severe nausea.

Morning Glory "Grandpa Ott" in bloom

Morning Glory "Grandpa Ott" in bloom

Example of a flower closing up for the afternoon

Example of a flower closing up for the afternoon


Lisa Roppolo (author) from New Lenox, IL on April 02, 2014:

Thank you!

Eiddwen from Wales on April 02, 2014:

A wonderful hub; so interesting and well informed. I loved it and vote it up.


Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 31, 2014:

Great article and pictures, I love morning glories...and moon glories.

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