Good Morning Glories
“Good Morning, - Glory,” is one of my friend's favorite greeting, and it's one of my favorite flowers. They are fantastic, easy to grow vines that have masses of large, heart-shaped leaves and big, bright, eye-catching blossoms that really do seen to shout out “good morning.” I've spent many an early, summer morning with a good cup of coffee or tea watching these delicate flowers unfold to the sunrise, all the while knowing each one will be gone by mid-afternoon. But not to despair, as there will be another group of blossoms opening the next morning.
I plant morning glories. I plant them in every corner, in every spot in my yard that doesn't have something else growing there. I plant them to grow on the fence along my back yard, and around all the trees in the yard. They are a great sight planted around a mailbox along the curb. I like to see them climbing the trellis near my back door. I don't have a very big flower or vegetable garden by there are lots of volunteer morning glories every where in my yard. I have mounds of them around trees, bushes, and the large pots most of my veggies and flowers are planted in.
As a child I resented having to do any yard work but I quickly learned to admire the fast growing vines with their large heart shaped leaves and beautiful flowers. I was taught to grow it as a child and let my son grew them when he was a small child. I consider it one of the best flowers to introduce children to gardening. The seeds are large enough for small hands to be able to hold and the child to see easily and the plants grow fast enough that children can begin to understand how they grow.
Last summer I read everything I could find about morning glories and decided to do some experimenting with them. I bought as many different kinds as I could find seed for and planned to grow them in the ground and in pots.
Morning glories or Ipomoea come in several different colors. Heavenly Blue is the all time favorite, it's flowers being four to five inches across, and is a sky blue in color. There is also Scarlet O'Hara in red, and Pearly Gates in white. The three make a beautiful red, white, and blue showing for the Fourth of July. Other colors includes different shades of pink and purple. If you don't plant seeds each year most glories will throw back to the basic pinkish-purple color.
Morning Glory vines are considered annuals, meaning they only last one summer season. In the fall when you are pulling out the dead vines you will see hundreds of little black morning glory seeds falling everywhere. These seeds will usually sprout the next spring but don't always come back to the color they were the previous year. To get a certain color you need to plant from seed which is best done directly in the ground or pot were you want the vines to grow. This should be done after all danger of frost is past or they can be started in pots about six weeks ahead of time in peat pots that can be put directly into the soil of the flower bed without disturbing the roots. They can be a bit difficult to transplant so I just plant them where I want them. If the roots are disturbed the plant won't do as well if at all. Seeds should be planted ½ inch deep after being soaked overnight or for about four hours to soften the seeds so they sprout better. I found it is not necessary as some books and seed packs recommend that the seed shell be scarified or nicked with a small file or fingernail clippers before soaking. To do this hold the seed between thumb and forefinger and nick the pointed end. Avoid damaging the rounded end as that is where the baby plant embryo is located.
I have had good luck with out soaking them, also, but it may take a day or so longer for the first leaves to appear. Remember first leaves will not be the heart shape of all other leaves so don't think it is something other than a morning glory. First leaves are more round but still larger than most first leaves of flowers. Give it a chance.
Morning glories are called twiners, meaning they go round and round the first upright support they come in contact with. They have growing tips that are very sensitive to tell them where to climb. Strangely enough, they usually grow in a counter-clockwise movement. If the tip finds a horizontal or lengthwise object, it will try to avoid it and “feel” for a vertical object to climb. And climb they do. They try to climb on anything and everything but do best with a little help. Chain link or open wooden fences work well, as do trellis, lattice work and even chicken wire. Special nails or hooks with glue can be used on cinder block walls and houses, along with a grid of criss-crossing string. Or if you prefer glories make a nice ground cover if they can't find anything to climb on. They grow very quickly, reaching twelve to fifteen feet in a season. If allowed to climb up a tree you will see glory flowers all over the tree confusing the neighbors as to what kind of tree you have.
In one of the books I read about glories it said that during World War Two, in parts of southeast Asia, morning glories were used by the British to camouflage ammunition dumps and gun emplacements to hide them from the enemy. You can use them to screen unsightly garbage cans or fences or your neighbors yard for a few months. In the southern states the vines will last almost year round while in the colder areas only during the warm months.
Remember that morning glories don't like rich soil. Living in New Mexico I already knew that they did well in our hot dry climate with its poor sandy, soil. They should do well anywhere they do not get to much water. I add a little compost from my compost pile, that is mostly horse manure and kitchen vegetable trimmings, to the area where I want to grow the flowers. But not a lot, as you would with most other flowers, trees or shrubs. Don't fertilize, either, or you may find you have long vines with wonderful leaves, but no flowers. The same with watering your morning glories. They prefer low to moderate watering, and will rot and die quickly if over-watered. Living in the desert I have to water about every other day and sometimes everyday if they are wilted. In many states if there is enough rain you won't have to water them at all.
I have never been overly bothered with any kind of insect pest on my morning glories, which is great for all gardeners especially those of us that are organic gardeners. No spraying, or bug picking. I did have a friend who said she had some problem with powdery mildew in humid weather. I have not encountered this problem here on the desert.
If you think you want to try morning glories, but don't want the vines, I found several seed packets for plants in a dwarf or bush style. They are usually pink, blue, or red with a white throat, and are really showy in pots or hanging baskets. There is one vine called a Moon Flower that is white and blooms at night with a sweet odor.
After you have planted your morning glories, sprinkle a packet of portulaca, cosmos or marigold seed in close to where the glories are planted These annual flowers will add more color and take about the same care and watering as the morning glories do. One year I planted sunflowers with some morning glories. The sunflowers provided support for the vines and the blue and gold mixture of flowers were very colorful at the end of one of our long summers when everything else seemed to have weathered and dried out from the heat.
I'm searching the seed catalogs for new verities and color for this year and next. Hope you'll try a morning glory garden, too.