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.
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.
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?
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 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.