Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
Question: I have a trellis going up the side of my patio. I've grown morning glories on it in the past, but a friend tells me I should try something called a firecracker vine because the butterflies and hummingbirds like it better. Can you tell me whether I should make the switch?
Answer: Firecracker vine ( Mina lobata, syn. Ipomoea lobata), also called Spanish flag, is a terrific choice for your trellis. It is in the same family as morning glories, so if you want, you can grow the plants side by side.
The flower stalks of firecracker vine are about 6- to 8-inches long, with new flowers produced at the tip. While in bud, the flowers are deep crimson. As they mature, they fade from red to orange to yellow to cream, with all colors appearing at the same time on any given plant.
The vine often reaches up to 15 feet in height and readily twines around arbors, trellises and fences, much like morning glories and cypress vine (another close relative). The vine is a Central American native that was introduced to the garden industry in the early 1800s and has since fallen out of vogue, though I don't know why.
It is easily started from seed by directly sowing the seeds into the garden each spring, and it's rapid growth rate means it covers large areas fairly quickly. To speed seed germination, soak seeds in tepid water for six hours before planting, or nick the seed coat with a metal file before planting.
Firecracker vine is an annual that does not tolerate frosts, so do not sow seeds outdoors before mid-May. Plant in full to partial sun and plan to water the vine whenever necessary — but not too frequently as overwatering can lead to rot.
The vine is deer resistant.
Because it is a vigorous grower, provide firecracker vine with plenty of sturdy support. Sometimes, when summers get hot, a few of the lower leaves will yellow and drop off. That is natural and can be masked by planting some mid-height annuals, such as zinnias and cosmos, in front of the growing vine.
You'll want to be sure to collect seeds at the end of the season. The seeds are easily dried and saved for subsequent plantings. New seeds can be purchased from local garden centers or from catalogs such as Select Seeds (www.selectseeds.com) and Swallowtail Garden Seeds (www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com).
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to email@example.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Stupid Steelers
- It’s only exhibition, but these Steelers could solidify roster spots vs. Eagles
- Steelers running backs Bell, Blount will face drug charges
- New Kensington slaying victims identified
- Vending business sold after pot-growing operation found in Lawrenceville
- Kiss’ makeup has changed, but their impact remains strong
- Brentwood man chronicles battle with haunted house
- Commitment by Steelers’ Gilbert pays off
- Youngwood shelter removes 40 dogs from shuttered Fayette County SPCA
- $4M floor project at Pittsburgh International Airport to replace drab gray, clickety-clack tile
- Indian firm plans exports of ethane from U.S. shale fields