How to grow morning glory vines
Question: I’d like to grow morning glories in my garden, but I’ve trouble growing them in the past. People say they can be invasive, but I can’t even get mine started. I planted the seeds in peat pots filled with potting soil inside two years ago, but when I moved the plants out into the garden, they died. Then last year, I planted the seeds outside in early spring and they never even germinated. What am I don’t wrong?
Answer: Morning glories ( Ipomoea tricolor ) are fast-growing vines that are excellent for covering fences, arbors and trellises with colorful summer blooms. They come in many colors and the plants are typically easy to grow, if you follow some basic guidelines.
First, morning glory vines are not tolerant of frost, so it’s important to wait until after the danger of frost has passed before planting them in the spring. They also prefer warm soil to cool. Here in Pennsylvania, that means holding off on planting the seeds or plants until mid- to late May. Earlier plantings may be killed by late frosts, or be slow to take off due to cooler soil temperatures.
As you know, morning glories can be planted from seeds sown directly into the garden, or you can start the seeds indoors. If you choose to directly seed your morning glories into the garden, you can expect your first blooms in early August. Plants grown indoors will begin to bloom three to four weeks earlier. Most varieties take at least 80 days from seed to reach maturity. Be sure to buy fresh seeds each season from a reputable source.
If you start morning glory seeds indoors, under grow lights, sow them about a month to six weeks before you plan to plant them outdoors. Morning glories do not like to be transplanted and often don’t survive the process if their roots are disturbed. You were smart to plant them in peat pots, but be sure to gently tear away the top half of the pot before planting the young vine. Try not to disturb the roots during this process.
Whether planted by direct seeding or seeded indoors under lights, always pre-soak morning glory seeds in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting to soften the seed coat and speed germination. Another option is to nick the seed coat with a metal file before planting. This is especially important when sowing the seeds into cool, outdoor soil.
It’s essential that you keep the young vines well watered from the day the seeds are planted until the vines are 12 to 18 inches tall. After that point, you’ll only need to water during times of drought. Morning glories are resilient vines and are reasonably drought and heat tolerant.
Morning glory growers should have a sturdy climbing structure in place when the seeds or vines are planted. Morning glories can grow quite tall — up to 10 feet. Unlike some other vines, these don’t have to be trained to grow up a structure. The vines themselves wrap around the trellis and climb automatically.
All gardeners should be aware that morning glories seeds are extremely poisonous and care should be taken to keep them away from curious young children.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.