Morning glory, Ipomoea tricolor, is a frost tender annual climber that bears beautiful, exotic-looking, colourful flowers on fast-growing twining stems clothed with heart-shaped green leaves. Morning glory usually has to be grown from seed as ready-grown plants are rarely available. The name ‘morning glory’ comes from the plants’ flowering habit – saucer-shaped blooms open early and just for a day, fading by mid-afternoon in hot weather. Many flowers are borne in succession, so this plant makes a lovely display for months, flowering through summer and into early autumn. The blooms are up to 8cm across and come in a range of varieties and colours of which the best-known is ‘Heavenly Blue’, which bears azure-blue, white-throated flowers, with purple, red, pale blue, and bi-coloured flowers also available. Morning glory can grow up to several metres high or can be limited to the height of its support to around 1.5-2m.
How to grow morning glory
Sow morning glory seed in early spring and grow on in a warm well-lit spot indoors or in a heated greenhouse. Harden off young plants before planting in early summer with a suitable support on which to climb. Keep evenly moist, feed when in flower, and deadhead to encourage more blooms. Pull up and compost plants at the end of the season.
Where to grow morning glory
Morning glory needs plenty of sun and a sheltered site in order to grow well. It makes an excellent container plant either outside in the garden or indoors in a conservatory or porch. Grow this versatile climber on a range of supports – either free-standing obelisk-type supports, a trellis or next to an established shrub or conifer so the morning glory scrambles through it.
How to propagate morning glory
Sow seed in early to mid-spring as morning glory needs a long growing season. Before sowing, soak seed overnight in tepid water to soften the hard seed coat. Sow seed 1cm deep in pots of moist seed compost and place in a warm spot – ideally a propagator – to germinate. Once the seedlings appear, move to a warm well-lit windowsill or greenhouse, out of draughts, to grow on, supported individually by thin canes as the young plants soon start to climb. Transplant into individual small pots and continue growing indoors until late May or early June. Before planting out, harden off (acclimatise gradually to the outside) over a period of two weeks.
How to plant morning glory
Plant three to five morning glory plants spaced evenly around a large pot, ideally a minimum of 30-40cm wide and deep. Part-fill the pot with a good, peat-free multi-purpose potting compost, then gently remove each plant from its pot by turning it upside down with fingers spread across the surface of the compost, so as to keep the root ball as intact as possible. Place the young morning plants in the large pot, fill the gaps between the root balls with compost and firm gently. Water in to settle the compost around the roots and top up if it settles to leave any gaps. If using a free-standing support, put this over the plants. Gently remove the individual canes and wind the stems onto their support.
How to care for morning glory
Water as required to keep the compost evenly moist but take care not to overwater.
Check once or twice a week to ensure the stems continue to twine up their supports. Occasionally they may need a little training to grow in the right direction.
Start feeding every 10-14 days with a liquid fertiliser high in potash once the first flowers appear.
Removing faded and dead flower heads to encourage more blooms.
Growing morning glory: problem solving
Yellowing or white-tinged young leaves indicate cold conditions, especially when plants are small. Ensure their growing environment is warm, free from cold draughts, and if growing on a window sill, bring plants into the room at night when drawing the curtains.
Aphids often attack the young leaves and shoots. Inspect plants regularly and then gently hand-squash small infestations to prevent numbers getting out o control.
Advice on buying morning glory
- Morning glory is usually only available to buy from seed and is rarely available as ready-grown plants
- Seed is available from garden centres, but usually only in one or two varieties. A wider range of varieties is available from specialist seed suppliers by mail order
Where to buy morning glory