Red morning glories reach for the sky. Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Red morning glory flowers are a favorite food source for many species of butterfly. Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Botanists cannot agree whether the small red morning glory profiled here actually consists of two species (Ipomoea hederifolia, and I. coccinea), or just one. We will take the simpler route and recognize a single wide ranging species, Ipomoea coccinea, the red morning glory.
Red morning glory is a spirited, fast growing, twining, twisting, climbing vine that can make a nuisance of itself under certain conditions. Where it is wanted, it is a beautiful flowering vine that is a spot on butterfly magnet. The alternate leaves are heart shaped at the base, and usually three-lobed. They are typically glabrous, around 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long and about half as wide. The margins are typically entire, but may be coarsely toothed, and the apex ends in an acute point. The flowers are dull red or orange-red. (If I. coccinea is recognized as distinct, it usually has a red corolla with an orange throat, and the leaves are rarely lobed.) Red morning glory flowers are borne in axillary clusters of a half dozen or so. Individual flowers have the typical morning glory shape (salverform), but are quite small with a narrow tube around 1.5 in (3.8 cm) long and an expanded corolla a little less than an inch (2.5 cm) across. The vine can reach 10 or more feet (3 m) in length.
Red morning glory grows in disturbed sites along roads, stream banks, fence rows, old fields, thickets and other waste areas. It can be a bothersome weed in gardens. If both species are recognized, Ipomoea coccinea is believed to be native to eastern North America from New York, west to Kansas, and south to Florida and eastern Texas, whereas Ipomoea hederifolia has been introduced from tropical America and occurs in the U.S. mainly across the South from New Mexico to Florida, with just a few northern outliers. If only I. coccinea is to be recognized, its range includes that of both, and it is considered native to the eastern U.S.
Culture Light: Red morning glory thrives in full sun. Moisture: Red morning glory can be fairly drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-10. Propagation: The seeds germinate profusely. You will have to thin the baby glories.
This young red morning glory plant is moving in on the bean trellis in Steve's garden.
A red morning glory vine (left) crashes in Steve's garden beside another intruder, the a feathery-leaved cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) another pretty but aggressive member of the morning glory family.
Use red morning glory as a climber on a pergola or trellis. It is an annual, but still makes a fine summertime screen that attracts butterflies. Use it to cover a wall or fence. Grow red morning glory alongside cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), which has very similar flowers, but very different foliage.
In my North Florida vegetable garden, red morning glory (and also cypress vine) begin the summer growing season as unwelcome weeds. While my summer plantings of beans, tomatoes, peppers, and so on are germinating and growing, thousands of little red morning glory and cypress vine seedlings are clamoring for space on the trellises and tomato cages. If not for my diligent vigilance, they would, by their sheer numbers, overtake and smother the vegetable plants. All summer long, I ingloriously pull up the little vines. As summer turns to fall, though, we reach an accord, and a few vines of each of the glories are allowed to appropriate the trellises and tomato cages. This, much to the delight of the migrating cloudless sulfurs. The bright red morning glory flowers are a nice punctuation to the summer garden, but of course, the down side is the thousands of seedlings next summer.
The seeds of morning glories are said to be highly toxic if ingested.