565 Ipomoea albaCommon Names: moonflower vine, moon vine Family: Convolvulaceae (morning glory Family)
The moonflower is a vigorous twining vine that is very fast growing in really hot weather. It is a tender tropical perennial but is now seeing popular use as an annual vine in colder areas. This close relative of the morning glory has similar heart shaped leaves that are a rich green and 4-8 (10-20 cm) inches long. They provide a beautiful backdrop for the spectacular moonflowers. This vine also known as the evening glory as its buds open in late afternoon and last only until morning's light transforms them into a limp shriveled mass. Moonflower makes up for the brief lifespans of individual flowers by producing quantities of the big blossoms throughout the summer. These are held on a stem that bears several buds simultaneously, not all of which bloom the same night. The long 4 in (10 cm) buds are also very attractive especially in the hours just before the flower opens.
And what a fabulous flower the moon vine (as it is also called) produces! They are fluted funnels sculpted in purest alabaster white. About the diameter of a saucer measuring 5-6 (12.7-15 cm) inches across. As if the moonflower was not already enchanting enough, it also has a delightful fragrance to complement its beauty and perfume warm summer nights.
Leaves and flower stems are adjacent and on the same side of the stem. The flowers are followed by rough husks that are filled with seed which can be harvested when the covering turns dry and black. The large white seeds resemble dried garbanzo beans and are about the same size.
Native to American tropics. Moonflower, Ipomoea alba, has naturalized in scattered localities throughout Florida.
CulturePlant seed in well drained, fairly rich soil. Keep moist until germination occurs and then water as needed. Mushroom compost or any other composted organic matter enhances vigor. Light: Full to part sun. Moisture: Likes moist but not soggy soil. Moonflower can survive brief dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Moonflower is a tender tropical perennial but its fast growth rate allows it to be enjoyed as an annual in cooler zones. Propagation: By seed or by rooting runners from existing vines. Seeds are best nicked and soaked before starting, although a portion of them will germinate in any case. Soil must be quite warm for germination to succeed, and getting a jump on the season by starting seed early indoors is usually only marginally successful and probably does not extend the season significantly.
Except in its native habitat (Zones 10-12), use as an annual vine in summer. In frost free areas moonflower will grow to great heights and drape the forest canopy in great green curtains (check locally, this vine may be invasive in some areas). Plant on any structure that will give support. Note that a single stake is nowhere near sufficient! A fence, arbor, or gazebo are ideal for showcasing the moonflower and keeping them near the ground where their beauty and fragrance can be enjoyed. Apartment dwellers might want to try moonflower in a container provided their balcony is not too windy. Due to its fast growth rate the moonflower is perfect for screening eyesores.
A swing frame that harbors a moon flower vine is softened and beautified, and those in or near the swing at night must be affected by the heady perfume of the flowers if not the romance of the setting!
Jack Scheper 08/26/99, updated: 8/25/01, 5/19/03