San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Morning Glories Make Beautiful Climbers

Morning glories (Ipomoea spp.), or churristate as the locals call them, are native species of the neotropics that have been spread around the world to be admired in gardens everywhere. A close relative, the sweet potato or camote (I. batatas), is one of the most important staple crops in the world.

They love warm weather and grow well from the coastal regions to mid-range elevations of the country. Since I like to bike, it’s always pleasant to find morning glory or sweet potato flowers smiling at me along fences and on the roadside. I mention this because these roadside patches can be your best source of cuttings for your home garden.

While leading nurseries generally stock them, with seeds of different varieties, cuttings do very well – and they’re free! You can start 30-centimeter stem cuttings in glass jars filled with pure water, which you should change regularly to prevent mosquitoes from laying larvae in the water.

You can even suspend these jars in attractive macramé holders in sunny windows. It’s a great project for the youngsters at home. In no time at all, you will have a cascade of leaves and then morning glory flowers. Of course, you want to transplant your rooted cuttings to large 30-centimeter containers filled with prepared potting soil.When they are hardy, transplant them outside near something to climb.

Seeds need special attention. You’ll need to soak them two days in hot water before sowing in flats with prepared potting soil to ensure good germination. After they germinate and have reached 5-10 centimeters tall, transplant them to large 30-centimeter containers.

This first generation of seed plants can now be used to clone dozens of new

shoots for the next generation.

Morning glories are climbers and need a trellis, fence or wall to cover. Full sun or partial shade areas are best for them. Rich, fertile soil fortified with aged compost keeps morning glories growing fast and healthy. For the most part, they are hardy plants, but occasionally bugs attack the foliage. Handpicking, soap solution sprays or a hot chile and garlic mix can help control these problems.

Morning glory fans collect many species and varieties. I. indica and I. trifida are the favorites, as well as I. alba, moonflower or evening glory, a pure white flower that blooms at dusk. As I said earlier, exploring around the countryside you will find a big selection of wild morning glories that would brighten up any garden. Just remember to get some cuttings to plant at home.


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