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A fanfare for morning

Hardy and brilliantly tinted, the morning glory family's trumpet-shaped blooms resurrect memories, drape beauty over unlovely spots, and signal the arrival of a bright new day.

Published July 8, 2006

[Photo: John A. Starnes Jr.]
Morning Glory "Purpurea."

Did you ever marvel at morning glories as a child, perhaps in your grandma's garden? Even today, no vine surpasses the elegant simplicity of their funnel-shaped blooms, nor their ease of culture to dress up a drab mailbox or funky fence. And they can be a real confidence builder for a child's first gardening venture.

Though they can be planted year-round, they are easiest to grow if the seeds are planted once the summer rains kick in. A packet of seeds ranges from 10 cents to less than $2, so try planting some in spring, summer and fall to see when you get best results in your yard. Meet their simple needs for full sun, moderately fertile soil and daily waterings when the seedlings are young, and you will be rewarded with nostalgic beauty.

"Heavenly Blue" is the classic morning glory of our memories and is easy to find. "Scarlet O'Hara" substitutes a rich magenta red, and the two together can create a patriotic splendor morning after morning for many months.

These two heirlooms I. tricolor belong to the genus Ipomoea, which includes the edible sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and some ornamental morning glories that may be less familiar but are just as easy to grow. "Moon vine" (I. alba) produces the same lush, green, graceful vines, but the pure white funnels open at night to release a luscious, lemony perfume. A trellis covered by moon vine on a summer evening with a full moon, each bloom aglow in the cool dark, is a magical sight indeed.

The tree morning glory (I. carnea ssp. fistulosa) is sometimes seen towering in a landscape, the lovely pink funnels held 12 to 15 feet high. (It roots easily from cuttings if you know someone who has one). Got a yard on the beach? Indulge in the salt-tolerant native, beach morning glory (I. pes-caprae) as the perfect low-maintenance ground cover. The petite fiery-red blooms and lacy leaves of cardinal flower, also called cypress vine (I. quamoclit), do wonders for a blah mailbox.

Perhaps most regal of all is a morning glory relative I first encountered in Key West and now grow in my South Tampa yard, called Stictocardia beraviensis, available from Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, Conn. (toll-free 1-888-330-8038 or When the salmon-red trumpets open, you can get lost in the dramatic maroon-on-yellow striping, and the leaves offer a rich visual texture as the vine covers a fence or trellis. Truly tropical, it should be protected from frosts and freezes. Root a cutting to grow in a pot as a spare.

Logee's also sells blue dawn flower (I. acuminata), which very much resembles a perennial Heavenly Blue morning glory with three-lobed leaves.

Hikers, take note of the many wild native species of morning glories seen at the edge of forests and sunny fields, perfect for the butterfly garden of native flowers.

Did I mention that they all need very little water once established, and are very rarely bothered by bugs and disease? You may not be a morning person, as I am, but go ahead, indulge in their rare but easy beauty.

John A. Starnes Jr., born in Key West, is an avid organic gardener and rosarian who studies, collects, cultivates and hybridizes roses for Florida. He can be reached at

[Last modified July 7, 2006, 09:33:08]

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