Morning glory

These twining annuals always bring a splash of colour.

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You will know summer has finally arrived then the vibrant blooms of the morning glory, or ipomoea trumpet their presence. These half hardy plants, a mix of twining annual and tender perennial climbers are usually grown for summer display, discarded after flowering. Rapid growing, they soon clothe a tepee of canes or obelisks, or grow over an arbour clothed in blooms from mid-summer through to autumn, with only pure yellow forming the rarest colour. Each flower lasts just a day, or in the case of the Moonflower, I. alba, just a night, but are quickly replaced with a succession of bloom right through to autumn.

The vines are clothed in heart-shaped, or lobed foliage, with Victorian hybrid I. sloteri having the most intricately shaped leaves, ideal for smaller spaces and providing something quite different. They do well in warm sunny summers, rather than those which are cold and wet, but can be grown indoors in a conservatory, with the more delicately bloomed varieties from Japan, such as I. nil ‘Chocolate’ doing better in such conditions, but keep a watch out for attacks by red spider mite.

Morning glories are easily grown from seed sown in spring, under glass sown at a temperature of 20C (68F). Pot seedlings on, train up short canes and gradually harden off before planting outdoors after late frost has passed in June. Seed coats can be hard so chip with a knife or file or soak seed in warm water overnight before sowing. They like moist, well-drained rich soil in full sun, and do better in a sheltered position, such as in a pot on a patio. Pinch out growth when they have reached their desired height and remove spent flowers as they form.