Moonflowers

moonflower 8-09 I have just one question for anyone who has never planted moonflowers (ipomoea alba) – what are you waiting for?  Yes, in northern gardens they take some time to flower, and yes, they must be started indoors to insure adequate time for flowering before frost, but just look at the rewards.  The five-inch diameter blossoms in this photo opened last night and remained open into the cloudy morning – a few smaller blossoms had opened over the previous three nights – and the vines are covered with buds ready to open.

moonflower planter 8-09 In past years, I planted moonflowers so the vines would grow up and smother the posts on my front porch.  But this somewhat protected area only receives full sun during the height of summer.  Since moonflowers are true heat-loving vines, they struggled to blossom before the colder September nights zapped their strength.  So this year I potted three or four vines in a large container (at right) in a sunnier location, and provided the vines with six-foot tall bamboo stakes for support.  To add some color while waiting for the moonflower vines to grow, I added low growing ageratum and million bells petunias (both mostly hidden now).  As you can see the moonflower vines completely covered the bamboo stakes, and this weekend the blossoms opened – fully two weeks earlier than they had opened in a slightly less sunny location.  Now, we will can soak in the heavenly moonflower fragrance while we sit nearby on late summer evenings.

moonflower peeking 8-09 moonflower and buds 8-09 moonflower blossoms 8-09

Moonflowers are often included among plants for moon gardens – those with white blossoms and light foliage that will reflect the moonlight.  But, like all ipomoea, deer will browse any leaves they can reach.  Still, this does not keep me from planting morning glories and moonflowers.  After deer help themselves, the vines quickly recoup with new leaves and flowers.

The plants in these photos came from seeds soaked in water for at least 24 hours before I planted them into individual pots.  This year I did this in late April, but in warmer years I’ve started moonflowers about two weeks earlier. Each pot also gets a 10-12 inch stake to support the quickly growing vines.  Carefully protect the tender annuals from late frosts and acclimate them to outside sun as you would any other plant started indoors. Once planted in a permanent location outside, the vines will quickly encircle any taller supports – string, poles, or a fence.  Then water regularly – my large pot gets daily water – stand back, and watch them grow.

For me, planting moonflowers for their unique scent and pure white, elegant blossoms is as necessary as planting heirloom tomatoes for their flavor.  You just can’t find these pleasures any other way.

36 comments for “Moonflowers

  1. deb connors
    February 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I love these flowers too, and have planted them for years! I am surprised you did not mention that you can harvest seeds from the beautiful lanterns and make wreaths out of the vines. A versatile plant indeed.

  2. Justine
    May 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    What size container did you use? I have 5 moonflower seedlings that I wanted to put in a long rectangular container along my balcony to make a “screen”. Can I put them all in on container? And how big of a container should I use?

    • joenesgarden
      May 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      A round container, about 13″ deep and 18″ in diameter does well for about three moonflower vines. I used a larger pot, say 24″ deep and 30″ in diameter to hold 5 or six vines underplanted with petunias. A teepee of five to six foot lengths of bamboo served as the upright but the vines grow so long that they droop back down over the supports. To make a screen I advise planting vines about 6 inches apart. Single vines can lose lower leaves it’s best to allow the vines to trail back down over their supports. Use containers at least a foot deep. The roots will fill the container and you’ll need to water sometimes twice daily in really hot sun/temps. Moonflower vines may grow slowly in cool temperatures but will take off when it gets warm. If not in full sun they may not bloom until late summer. You did not say what zone you are in. All my experience is in zone 6a.

      Good luck. I hope you enjoy your moonflower vines as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. The flower scent is fantastic.

  3. Justine
    May 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Thank you so much for your helpful info! I am in zone 5 (Southern Wisconsin). My little seedlings are growing so fast already! The container I have for them is kind of like a window box but now I’m thinking maybe thats not big enough. How much space does a single plant take up? I’ve never grown them and I’m new to gardening as a whole. If I put in each plant in its own container what size would you use?

    Sorry lots of questions but I am a newbie!
    Thank you again :) :)

    • joenesgarden
      May 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      Asking questions is how you learn, Justine, and I enjoy helping a new gardener learn. I suspect a window box will not provide enough room for the roots of your moonflowers. In my experience, roots nearly fill large containers by the end of the season. I’ve never planted them in a small container such as a window box but I suspect any planted there would not grow as well as those with more root room. I would plant only three vines in 10 inch tall and wide pot, and I would fertilize this with a diluted fish emulsion once a week. Potted annuals can get quite root bound by the end of the summer and this is exactly the time when moonflowers should begin to shine in your zone. They really thrive in hot temps. Give your seedlings a short bamboo stick to wind around and transplant stick and all into a larger pot when the weather allows. The vines will twine around any longer supports you give them. Then expose the seedlings to bright light – not direct sunshine yet – for a few days. Move them into more and more direct sun over the next few days, then they can go into full sun.

      Dont’ hesitate to ask further questions … and enjoy your moonflowers. They are one of my favorites.

  4. Justine
    May 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Thank you soo much! I bought a much larger container and planted four moonflowers in it. I have them inside still and they seem to be doing good. I really can’t wait to put them outside :) When you say expose them to bright light for a few days do you mean put them by a window or actually put them outside? What temp is safe to put them out there?
    Expect me to post more as time goes on because I’m sure that I will have more questions! I really appreciate all of your feedback, I’m so hoping that they work out. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t make it :(

    • joenesgarden
      May 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      Don’t move any plants from inside full sun to outside full sun. The leaves will burn, just as we do when exposed to direct sunlight. Move indoor plants to an area of bright, but not direct sunlight for a few days. Then slowly expose them to direct sunlight. After about a week they should be okay in full outside sun. If it works out, try moving them to their permanent outside location during a period of cloudiness just to give leaves a little more time to adjust to full direct sun. Use this process for any plants you start inside for outside growing and for any houseplants you move outside for the summer.

  5. Justine
    May 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Right now I have them under a plant light for for about half of the day. They are about 6 inches tall at this point. When should I start the hardening off process? Do I just put them by a window and open the blinds to start?

    • joenesgarden
      May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      The plant light should be on for 10-12 hours a day. Plant lights simulate outdoor conditions. Once it remains in the high 50’s to low 60’s at night, move them outside into indirect light. The hardening-off process begins when you move them outside. Just watch the temps. Moonflowers DO NOT like anything below 55 degrees. Also, don’t panic if the leaves look droopy during the heat of the day – they do this. Just make sure to keep them well watered and the leaves will perk up by afternoon. The vines/flowers look best in the evening/early morning.

  6. Sheila C
    September 9, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for your information. :) I have also planted a few in a container but, I was wondering how do you keep yours from continuing to row upwards? Do you prune as in pinching or cutting the growing vines? Thank you in advance :)

    • September 10, 2012 at 7:13 am

      Sheila, I let the vines flop as they grow beyond the teepee trellis and redirect those growing in an unwanted direction. In doing so the vines create a mass of greenery and blossoms. I hope you are enjoying your potted moonflowers.

  7. Martha
    January 20, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I have a question, I am trying to grow moonflowers inside so I can transplant them in the spring. I have plastic on two pots because the seeds have not sprouted yet and I heard that if you put plastic on them it is like a greenhouse, I also have 2 seedlings that have come up, one just came up the other day. I also have 3 soaking, one of the questions is can I plant moonflower vines and moonflower bush in the same place? The ones coming up now are the bush variety and the others I just planted lately are the vine variety. I was wondering if I should put plastic on the pot that has the two seedlings in it, it also has the vine variety in it. I planted them before I saw the second seedling. Also how much light do they need when the seed is planted but not up yet? I have a fluorescent lamp on them and they seem to be doing ok, it is a desk lamp so I have tried to put some light on all of them. How fast does a moonflower vine seed sprout?

    • January 21, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Martha, You don’t note your planting zone so I will do the best I can to answer your questions. Moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba) will rapidly grow once it sprouts. These seeds sprout best when soaked in water for 24 hours prior to planting. Alternately, you can lay the seeds on a paper towel, fold the towel over, place it in a plastic bag, and wet the paper towel. In a few days the viable seeds will sprout. Carefully plant the sprouted seeds so as not to break off the emerging root. If you are having trouble keeping the soil moist in your already seeded pots, covering them with plastic will help. Just don’t have the soil soggy as this will encourage rot. Unsoaked seeds can take a week or so to sprout … it all depends on their viability, the moisture of the soil, whether they’ve been pre-soaked, and warmth. The seeds do not need light until they srout, but suplemental light does help keep the seedling area warmer, which encourages sprouting.

      I generally plant moonflower vines (Ipomoea alba) just two weeks before it is safe to set them outside. They grow so quickly that, for me, it is difficult to find room for them indoors. They will wind around any object they come into contact with, including each other. Once sprouted, moonflower vines need full sun (at least 6 hours/day). You can supplement with florescent lights inside until the vines become so tall to make this difficult. If your vines get too large to handle inside, just start over again closer to the time when outdoor temperatures remain above 50 degrees. Moonflower vines do not like cold.

      Moonflower bush is likely Datura inoxia, a totally different plant that I have no experience growing. You can find more information on Dature inoxia here: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/c188/datura-inoxia.aspx

      I would plant the vine (Ipomoea alba) and the bush (Datura inoxia) in different locations, and in different seedling pots. The moonflower bush (Datura inoxia) is a tropical plant that does well in pots in colder climates. Give moonflower vines (Ipomoea alba) ample room – likely 10 feet or more – to spread. They will circle around string, bamboo posts, etc. I’ve grown them in a large pot with teepee style bamboo posts to hold the vines. The vines grew up the six foot posts then entwined back down and around each other. The effect is wonderful, particularly during late summer blooming. I’ve also trained moonflower vines to grow up and atop a pergola.

      I hope this information helps answer your questions. Thanks for asking.

  8. Martha
    January 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I appreciate all the good information you have given me, by the way I live in zone 6,so maybe that will help you out, I am soaking 5 more moonflower vine seeds, none of the others have sprouted yet. I have the flourescent light on the seedlings right now, they are from the bush variety of moonflower. I went through and moved the vine into one pot and the bush into another pot but did not bother the seedlings. The first one that sprouted first is loving the light, it is standing up tall and straight, and the second one that just popped up the other day aint doing too bad either. I am anxious to see what the vine variety looks like when it sprouts. I should have a lot of them (hopefully) I wish I could post pictures here, I took a paper towel and put the 5 moonvine seeds on it , wet it and folded it and put into a ziplock baggie, zipped it close and laid it in a bowl, lets see what happens.

  9. Martha
    January 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks joene, I have some good news, one of my moonvines is getting ready to sprout! Talk about quick, I just moved them to their own pot the other day! Whoever said these things sprout quick knew what they were talking about. And my first Datura seedling is getting another leaf and it is growing fast too.

  10. Martha
    January 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    The moonvine seed is completely sprouted, and there are 4 more that are sprouting too! These things are fast!

  11. Martha
    January 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    will the moonflower vine bloom indoors? If so how big does it have to get? I was thinking of letting them twine around each other and have one big happy mess, the only problem would be taking it out of the pot when it comes time.

    • January 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      Martha, moonflower vines, Ipomoea alba, does not bloom outdoors in my zone 6 garden until late August or early September, and that’s after growing outside since late May/early June and reaching heights of 10 to 12 feet. I seriously doubt any indoor location can provide enough sunlight to satisfy the needs of Ipomoea alba.

  12. May 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I STARTED MY MOONFLOWER SEEDS INSIDE A PAPER TOWEL WET. IT TOOK 2 weeks for them to sprout. THEN I PLANT THEM IN BLUEBERRY CONTAINERS. THEY HAVE HOLES . PUT THEM ON MY SUNNY GARDEN WINDOW IN MY KITCHEN. PAINTED SOME CONTAINERS. NOW I WENT TO PLANT SOME, AND OF COURSE THEY ARE ALL TANGLED UP. I FORGOT ABOUT THAT. I NEVER PLANTED THEM IN POTS BEFORE LIKE I DO MORNING GLORIES.

    I HAVE TO SAY, LAST YEAR I NEVER GOT SEED PODS. I DONT KNOW WHY. ALSO I HAD ALOT OF AFFIDS( white flying bugs) THEY KILLED ALL MY FLOWERS. THATS WHY I WANT TO PUT THEM IN CONTAINERS THIS YEAR. ALSO, I DONT GET THE FRAGRANCE YOU TALK ABOUT.
    HOW MANY MOONFLOWER PLANTS SHOULD I PUT IN A MEDIUM SIZE CONTAINER? AND IS THERE A MATERIAL OF A POT THATS BETTER, CLAY, PLASTIC, ETC. THANKS AND LOVE YOUR WEBSITE. IM GOING TO PLANT BOTH MOONFLOWERS AND MORNING GLORY IN THE SAME POT SO I’LL HAVE MORNING FLOWERS AND NIGHT FLOWERS. COOL HA.

    NO, NO, I DID NOT POST THIS BEFORE, IF ALITTLE BIT OF THIS COMMENT WAS DONE, I NEVER RECEIVED AN ANSWER.
    PLEASE POST.

    • June 6, 2014 at 6:05 am

      Carol, I’ve had great success planting 4-6 individual moonflower plants in pots 18″ in diameter and about 18″ tall. They will develop extensive root systems, necessary to support their heavy foliage and late season bloom. Since you’ve planted both morning glories and moonflowers in the same pot, I suggest you feed these vines weekly with a diluted solution of an organic fertilizer … perhaps a fish emulsion. I hope you can provide lots of support for the vines. A teepee structure made from bamboo stakes worked for me. Moonflower vines can grow up to 10 feet in a summer. When they reach the top of their support they will drape back down. Enjoy!

  13. Tanya
    July 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Hi.
    I bought moonflowers this year on a whim and planted them in a small pot at the beginning of June. After a month and a half of no sprouts I dumped them into a medium sized pot thinking that I did something wrong somewhere. I live on the second floor and the stairs are outside so Iput a solar light in the pot and placed it on my steps. We got some very heavy rains and string winds(from a tornado that never touched down thank god cause where it formed was right by my dad’s house) and about a week later I noticed some pretty sprouts. I’m hoping it’s the moonflowers and not some seed that landed in the pot cause of the area I live is mostly farming land. How do I tell for sure that they are moonflowers? and how do I safely transfer them into the bigger pot that I bought for them? I’ve no clue what zone I’m in, mainly because I’m new to gardening for myself as opposed to helping weed at my dad’s or brother’s. I’m in Northeastern Pennsylvania. What should I do when the temperatures get colder if they are indeed moonflowers? Will they die and come back next year? Or do I move them inside to a window that gets a lot of sun? Also if I move them inside will they harm my animals? Cats and dogs? Hope you can help as I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to flowers. I wanted something beautiful to look at whn I sit on my porch at night and now I’ve no clue what to do. There;s about 8 of hthem,

    • July 23, 2014 at 7:47 am

      Tanya, Moonflowers have heart shaped leaves. Compare the leaves on your vines with those in one of my photos. Moonflowers do not like to be transplanted but sometimes one must to get them into the correct spot. They should do fine if you move the entire soil ball of the smaller pot into a larger one or into the ground. Keeping the soil ball intact minimizes root disturbance. Moonflowers like lots of water – daily soakings in potted plants. Moonflowers, when happy, don’t begin to flower until late summer. In northern climates, where you are, they have a short blooming season but the size, beauty, and scent of their blossoms are worth the wait. Moonflowers do not like cold. They are tender annuals that are one of the first plants killed by frost. I do not suggest moving them inside. They tend to vine to more than 10 feet and they need absolute full sun and lots of warmth to survive. Enjoy your moonflower vines through early summer and their flowers in late summer, then let them go as cold weather moves in.

  14. Tanya
    July 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    ok just looked up what zone I’m in. Why is it all confusing? Depending on which of the zoning maps I look at I’m somewhere between either a 5b, 6a or 6b. Don’t know why none of the maps seem to correspond seeing as they’re alll from the same d**n source. Idjits. Hopefully that helps with trying to firgure out a response.

  15. Bill Phelps
    July 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I was given a start of a moon flower about 18′ long. I put it in the ground next to a trellis. Is there anything special I need to know about this flower.

    Thank You

    Bill

    • July 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Bill
      Not knowing what planting zone you are in all I can suggest is give the vines ample support as they and will easily grow beyond 10′, water them daily, protect from deer, and give them full sun. Good luck.

      • Bill
        July 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

        Southern Ohio and thank you!

  16. July 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I HAVE APHIDS, ON MY MOONFLOWERS. WHAT DO I DO? PLUS I PLANT ED THEM BOTH IN THE GROUND AND POTS
    WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT THIS AS WELL?I LIVE IN RI.

    • August 12, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Carol, Aphids can be controlled by spraying them off the vines with water from a hose. Use a spray setting that washes the aphids off without damaging the vines. Do this regularly to keep the aphids in check. As long as the pots you planted the moonflowers in are large enough to accommodate their roots, and you’ve given any moonflower vine a place to climb, they should be fine. Make sure to water the potted vines daily.

  17. July 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Can I transplant now different shrubs, black eyed susans? I live in RI
    I have issues with my health so I have to do things when I feel good. You no!!

    • August 12, 2014 at 7:07 am

      Carol, August is not a good time to transplant. It’s much better to wait until the cooler, and often wetter, late summer/early autumn.

  18. Stephanie
    August 11, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I planted moonflowers for the first time this year. I started seeds in pots inside. Did well and then I put them outside too soon. Frustrated, I took a bunch of seeds and just pushed them in the ground with my finger. Well, I’ve got moonflower vines all over. Took a while but I’ve also got tons of buds. Just not blooming though. Not sure if they are going to. Thinking they wouldn’t grow at all, the place I planted them may be getting too much light? We have a flood light at each corner of the front of the house. The moonflowers are planted between the two flood lights. They aren’t being “directly” hit by the light, but it definitely isn’t pitch dark where they are. Do you think they are going to grow or do I need to try to change something? I’ve been waiting on this all year since I saw the seed package at the store….help!!

    • August 12, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Stephanie, If you have buds then you will have blooms, unless an early cold snap hits (guessing you live in zone where moonflowers are considered annuals). In my zone 6 area, moonflowers may bloom anytime from mid-August to first nip of frost. They are the first plants to show cold damage, as they absolutely do not like cold temperatures. The light may affect them, but I wouldn’t worry about it now. Just keep the vines well watered and watch and wait for their buds to open.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: