Thursday, October 8, 2009
This unique and beautiful vine has been a success this year. I have grown it in the past but I have always put it in places where you couldn't see it easily. Since it is an evening blooming vine, it is not wise to put it on the other side of your lower 40 for viewing pleasure. I also find it sad that a plant might be blooming but there is no audience to enjoy the blooms. But I digress.
This year I planted the seeds next to a gate right next to the street. I can see the blooms from our kitchen window and when I wander out into the vegetable garden to pick tomatoes or cut some herbs for supper, the blooms have opened. The blooms usually stay open late into the morning (especially with all the cloudiness we've had lately), so I see them as I'm heading off to work.
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a tropical beauty and is a perennial in warmer regions. It loves the heat and it usually doesn't begin to bloom until very late in the summer. Therefore, it is advisable to plant the seeds early. It is a relative of the morning glory and I've heard people suggest that you should plant them together to enjoy the morning glory blooms during the day and the moonflower blooms at night. I have to pass on this suggestion because I refuse to grow morning glory. I think they are absolutely beautiful but they pop up all over the place and it isn't fun pulling them out of your perennial borders in the middle of August.
I've learned some interesting facts about moonflower. They say that people used to have parties when the vines started to bloom. I don't recall ever hearing anyone do this, it had to have been a nineteenth century thing. It sounds like fun though, doesn't it?
I also learned - and I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know it (I suppose I'm not a very observant gardener) - that the blooms open in less than 30 seconds so you have to be on your toes to see them unfurl. I'm guessing this is where the parties come in?
The seeds are tough and should be soaked overnight in water before planting. Plant them in a sunny location near an archway, a trellis, fence or other type of structure. The vines will climb into trees which is really not good because the blooms will be so high up that you can't enjoy them. Vines can grow quickly up to 20 feet and the leaves are large enough to provide good shade. The flowers are pure white and fragrant and large (up to 6"-8" inches across).