Morning glory — weed or pretty flower?
The morning glory flower comes from the same family as the weed.
The showy Heavenly Blue is one of the popular types of Ipomoea tricolor morning glory flowers.
Flowers greet the sun each morning and close up at night.
What’s in a name?
When it comes to plants, the name can be a deal-maker or deal-breaker. One example is morning glory. For some, the name conjures up nightmares of twisting vines that strangle your flowers; for others, the name brings visions of delightful, wonderful flowers.
The nightmare commonly known as morning glory is correctly called field bindweed. This deep-rooted, noxious weed is unwelcome in any garden. Its Latin name is Convolvulus arvensis, and it comes from the Convolvulaceae family.
The delightful flowers of the common name come from the same family, but their branch is neither noxious nor obnoxious. They are genus Ipomoea, which includes true morning glory vines, sweet potatoes and a host of other ornamental plants.
This genus has more than 500 species that originated in warm, tropical areas. In these areas, these plants can become invasive and are sometimes considered weeds. However, they are tender plants, so the frost keeps them from becoming a problem in our area.
True morning glory is a fast-growing vine that covers itself with abundant flowers that greet the sun each morning as it peaks over the mountain. As the sun sets, each flower closes, never to open again.
Fortunately the robust growth produces many flowers on vines that reach 10 feet or more. Because of the prolific growth, the plant makes a great screen and is one of the most vigorous annual vines available. Plant the seeds to fit your trellis or if planting along a fence, put the plants about 10 inches apart.
Unlike other vines, these climb by twining, so they do not attach themselves to walls or fences. They will happily climb a trellis or twine (wrapping themselves around the structure in a clockwise direction), but if they are unsupported, they never flourish.
Growing morning glory is not difficult. The tricky part is to get the seeds established. The root system is sensitive, so most gardeners start them directly in the soil.
To make the seeds germinate more easily, soak them in warm water for 24 hours before you plant them. Another trick is to nick the seed coat with a small file. This allows the seed to imbibe water more easily so they germinate faster.
They are not too fussy about soil as long as the drainage is good. If you have heavy clay, add coarse organic matter to the soil to improve drainage. They do not need extra fertilizer at planting because excess nitrogen fertilizer produces lots of green vine but few flowers. As the plants start to bloom, a good complete fertilizer will keep them in shape.
Several popular garden species are sold locally, and specialty cultivars are available from catalogs, but some are listed under the generic common name. Plant breeders and the plant mutations have introduced several new types to go with the old fashioned ones still available.
Popular types of Ipomoea tricolor include the showy Heavenly Blue flowers. Additional cultivars that have a blue or variegated flower include Flying Saucers and Blue Star.
If you prefer maroon to violet shade, Scarlet O’Hara, Scarlet Star and Scarlet Climber are good choices. Fortunately there are many other types, including Pearly Gates, a white mutation of Heavenly Blue, and the popular Star of Yelta, also known as President Tyler or Grandpa Ott.
For a different morning glory choice, try Ipomoea alba, or moonflower vines, which feature large, trumpet-shaped flowers that grow up to 6 inches across.
Plant these plants close by as you’ll never tire of watching the spirally folded buds unfurl before your eyes just as dusk falls. As an added bonus, you’ll get to smell the wonderful perfume that permeates the air from this great flower.
Larry A. Sagers is the horticulture specialist, Utah State University Extension at Thanksgiving Point.
Morning Glory Control: How To Kill Morning Glory Weeds
Morning glory weeds in the garden can be viewed as a nemesis due to the rapid spread and ability to take over garden areas. Alternately, you can release that tension and go Zen by admiring the twining vines and lovely soft flowers. Most gardeners want to know how to kill morning glory weeds, but if you have a big back forty or a wild spare lot, the morning glory vine is an excellent no-care plant that will persist and produce lovely spring and summer floral displays.
Morning glory weed control in the cultivated landscape, however, is essential to prevent the plant from taking over.
Morning Glory vs. Bindweeds
Morning glory belongs to a family of unique and tenacious plants called Ipomoea. It is very closely related to the Convolvulus, or bindweed plants, which are perennial. Morning glory vine is an annual but reseeds itself so successfully you really wouldn’t know it.
The bindweed plants grow from rhizomes, or underground storage structures that promote the spread of the weed. They are hardy and tenacious, opportunistic weeds that get into cracks and crevasses and are nearly impossible to remove. Many gardeners classify morning glory bindweeds as one type of plant. On the contrary, their separate taxonomy and growth patterns clearly identify the two as very different plants with similar flowers.
Morning Glory Vine Info
Another difference between morning glory and bindweed is the availability of the annual seeds and lack of access to bindweed seeds. Who would want to grow a weed that can visibly grow in a day, spreads over almost any surface, and doesn’t die unless you apply chemicals?
Morning glory is more accommodating and the seeds are widely available in a host of colors. The slender stems grow rapidly and twist around each other for support. Flowers are funnel shaped, sometimes with a deeper or lighter throat. Garden supply centers carry the plant in pink, rose, purple, lavender, and white. The name morning glory vine stems from the flowers’ habit of opening in the first rays of morning light, and closing when the full heat and sun of the day arrive.
Morning glory weeds in gardens are useful as groundcovers, natural décor for fences and barriers, and beautifiers for that broken shed or barn that you still haven’t removed. Do be cautious where you plant this vine though, as it grows with an uncanny speed and can be very invasive and difficult to remove.
How to Kill Morning Glory
Many gardeners are confused and call morning glory bindweeds. While the plants are separate species, they do have similar stubborn growth habits and are difficult to eradicate just with pulling. Morning glory weed control is a multi-part task. Pre-emergent herbicides will not work on this plant and pulling is labor intensive and tends to just break the vine, which may even re-sprout.
Completely removing the plants can be a maddening, many years long task. The use of thick mulches or weed barrier fabric can help smother the seedlings in spring. Do not allow the vines to flower and set seed to prevent some of the sprouts the following spring.
Systemic and broad leaf herbicides have some effect, but you need to spray early in the season when the plants are young. Painting it on the leaves helps prevent drift and surrounding plant injury. You will need to be vigilant and monitor for new plants and treat them.
Controlling morning glory will take several seasons, and persistent seeds in soil can sprout years later. Morning glory vine can be a glory in the garden, but it can also be a royal pain, so think once and twice before you install this rampant colorful vine.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.