Moonflowers–You Can Grow That!

Moonflowers (ipomoea alba) have been one of my must grow vines for years. An annual in my zone 6 Connecticut region, moonflowers are a vine of delayed gratification. In a good year, they send out masses of 5- to 6-inch sweetly-scented white flowers during late August or early September through the first frost. But up to flowering time, moonflower vines, and their heart-shaped medium-green leaves stretch outward, or upward, 10 feet and longer. Moonflowers are a You Can Grow That!  vine that will draw you into your garden during late evening or early morning to drink in the plants’ simple beauty and the flowers’ intoxicating scent.

Ipomea-alba white moonflower-2 9-09

Moonflowers love heat, so to reap their rewards in colder climates one must start them from seed. I start moonflowers about two weeks before it is safe to plant tender annuals outside. It’s a simple task. Soak seeds overnight, sink water-swelled and softened seeds into a 4-inch pot, and water and wait as usual. I like to insert a foot-long bamboo pole into each pot when planting to give the emerging vines something to twist around. Harden them off as you would any other tender transplant before planting them in full sun where they can grow upward.

In past years, I planted moonflowers so the vines would grow up and smother the posts on my front porch. But this area only receives full sun during the height of summer plus it leaves vines open to deer browsing, and browse they will. It is quite disheartening to nurture this lovely vine from seed, hoping to enjoy the late-summer flowers, only to have deer get to them before they can reach their potential.

Moonflowers are true heat-loving vines, unless planted in a warm, protected-from-deer area, they will struggle to blossom before late summer chill zaps their strength. I had great success potting three or four vines in a large container in a pot placed in a sunny location surrounded by lots of warmth-holding hardscape. I provided the vines with six-foot tall bamboo stakes for support and they completely covered the stakes then draped downward once they reached the top of each stake. The photo below shows the vines when they had just started flowering.

Moonflower vines

This year I planted my moonflower vines in decorative blue pots placed next to two of the legs of a pergola we installed last autumn. The vines are growing up bamboo stakes, then up garden twine stretched from the top of the stakes to the top of the pergola. See the heart-shaped leaves of the moonflower vines peaking out over the top of the pergola?

Outdoor Room 7 Cropped Thumb

The vines don’t provide shade, but bring a dainty softness to the corners of the pergola as they spread across the top gracefully grasping, twisting and falling where they choose. Flower buds have begun to form and I anticipate sitting under the pergola on a balmy summer evening to enjoy my first moonflower blossom within the next ten days. Moonlight reflects beautifully off the broad pure-white blossoms. The vines bring an air of the tropics to northern gardens.

Moonflower Vine Tendriling On Pergola 8 2012 Thumb

Moonflower vine growth really takes off once buds begin to show. During the next month, when many of my other blooms are waning or passed, moonflowers will take center stage.

You Can Grow That! is a blog meme, on the fourth of each month, started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening, to remind everyone that gardening is good for people. Gardening enriches our senses, our food, and our health. Gardening fosters friendship and increases ones appreciation of nature. Read more You Can Grow That! posts by visiting Whole Life Gardening.


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18 comments for “Moonflowers–You Can Grow That!

  1. August 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Joene, I love the photo of your new pergola, it looks so charming, especially with the dense green backdrop of foliage. I can almost smell the sweet fragrance just looking at the picture of the flower.

    • August 5, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Thanks, Debbie. I’m hoping the pergola will be even more inviting once the moonflowers begin blooming.

  2. August 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    There’s something so pure and peaceful about those big, open-faced, white flowers….

  3. August 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    My daughter loves the name and the idea that it blooms at night! It’s on our list for next year.

    • August 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Elsa, moonflowers are a great garden project for youngsters. Good luck.

  4. August 5, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Lovely photo’s, it’s a shame our weather will not permit us to grow moonflowers but it is great to see these beautiful delicate white flowers!

    • August 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Laila, I’m glad you can enjoy my moonflowers, even if only in photos.

  5. August 6, 2012 at 8:41 am

    A beautiful vine, and I love how it frames the side of that pergola. What a great structure! I wonder if you could plant a spring blooming vine like climbing nasturtium and the moonflower together or would that get too congested? I like this vine, but would want something blooming earlier in the season too.

    • August 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Laurrie, I have many potted plants and nearby garden beds that provide ample spring and summer color, so I’m not concerned about waiting for moonflowers to bloom. One of my favorite parts of growing blooming plants is that I can enjoy each in ‘their’ time. Moonflower leaves and vines are beautiful even when not flowering.

  6. August 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I am trying moon flowers for the first time this year, growing them on the fence where I normally grow their close cousins, morning glories. I planted the moon flower seedlings from a local nursery after my morning glories failed twice — first we had 8″ of rain right after I had planted seeds and they failed to germinate. Then I bought morning glory seedlings and they were completely devoured by slugs before I even got them into the garden. So far, the moon flower vines haven’t grown very tall (perhaps because it’s been dry); it will be interesting to see how they do.

    • August 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Jean, I hope you are able to enjoy some moonflower blossoms before you leave your Maine garden. They tend to bloom late, but they’re worth the wait.

  7. Sally
    August 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I live in So. Oregon. My Moon Flower is 10 ft tall and bushy, but the leaves turn brownish and yellow. Some web sites say not to fertilize the plant. One said coffee grounds are good. I water the pot once a day. If I don’t the leaves droop. The plant faces east and gets a good 6 hrs of sun/da. It isn’t blooming yet, but that’s ok. Any suggestions on the leaf problem? This is the 2nd yr I’ve grown Moon Flowers and didn’t have the leaf problem last year.

    • August 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Sally, if all the leaves show the same problem I’d suspect a fungal or bacterial problem. If it’s just a few leaves it might be an attribute of the plant and this year’s weather. Some of the lower leaves of my moonflower turn yellow. I just break them off.

      I’m not familiar with issues that might plague your part of the country. You might want to check with your local agricultural extension office and/or a master gardener group in your region.

      Don’t you just love the flowers once they open?

  8. Sally
    August 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you, I’ll check that out.

  9. Martha
    September 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I have exciting news, I have 4 moonflower buds on my plants inside the house! One of them is in full bud and I measured it and it is 6 inches long! I was wondering how long would it be before it blooms?

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