Ipomoea

Photographs by Sabina Rüber

Ipomoea Dacapo Light Blue

Dacapo Light Blue

Ipomoea Dacapo Light Blue

Dacapo Light Blue

Ipomoea purpurea Venice Blue

Venice Blue

Ipomoea or morning glory is a huge genus found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world, with over 500 different species. In temperate climates, we have adopted a handful of these attractive climbing species to grow as annuals, particularly forms of Ipomoea purpurea and Ipomoea tricolor, which originate from Mexico and central America. Both have heart-shaped leaves and wide, saucer-shaped flowers a bit like the flowers of our common bindweed (which is in the same family, Convolvulaceae), and grow quickly through the growing season if they have enough warmth, twining around canes or over an arch as they grow. The reason for its common name, morning glory, becomes apparent when you watch the plant flower: its large flowers unfurl slowly in the morning sun, closing up as the day draws to a close.

Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ is one of the most widely available morning glories, but I think there are more unusual varieties to get excited about. It’s an exotic-looking plant, after all, so why not go all out and choose a variety that plays on this. Two varieties derived from I. purpurea spring to mind: ‘Venice Blue’ has huge white flowers splashed and striped with purple-blue, while ‘Dacapo Light Blue’ has powder-blue flowers with a distinctive purple-blue line down the centre of each petal. 

In a warm, sunny summer, these twining climbers will put on masses of growth and flower profusely, draping themselves over any climbing frame you provide. Growing them from seed is easy, although they will need plenty of heat to germinate, and because they are tender, can’t be planted out until early summer. Sow them inside in the warmth in mid-spring in individual small pots, and grow them on in a greenhouse, potting them on into larger pots as they get bigger, taking care not to disturb their roots too much, as they are pernickety about being moved. Beware of leaving the greenhouse door open at night  – single digit temperatures will leave them looking sick and wilted, and they may not recover. When the forecast is looking consistently warm, you can plant them out, making sure they have the support they need, fixing trellis or wires to a wall or fence. Beware of giving them an over-rich soil as they will produce too much foliage at the expense of the flowers.

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