Cypress vine's spectacularly scarlet flowers are adored by butterflies and hummingbirds alike. Click to download a large version of this image.
Cypress-vine is a very attractive twining morning-glory with smooth stems, lacy leaves and scarlet flowers. The leaves are 3-4 in (7.6-10.2 cm) long and feather-like, finely divided pinnately into threadlike segments. The scarlet red (rarely white) flowers are tubular, about 1.5 in (3.8 cm) long, and flare out at the mouth into a five-pointed star. Under ideal conditions the vine can climb to 20 ft (6 m) or more, but it is always a dainty, fragile vine and not at all aggressive.
Cypress-vine is native to Mexico and tropical America but has escaped cultivation and is now established throughout much of the eastern United States from Florida and Texas north to at least Kansas and Ohio. It seems still to be expanding its range. Cypress-vine normally occurs in cultivated fields, roadsides and disturbed areas.
Ipomoea X multifida (say: "ipp-OH-me-uh the hybrid species mol-TIF-a-duh") is a hybrid of garden origin between cypress-vine and the related scarlet morning-glory (Ipomoea coccinea).
Culture Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Needs well-drained soil. Tolerates drought, but grows best and produces the most flowers if well-watered. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 11. Plant this annual vine in spring. Cypress-vine is naturalized as far north as USDA Zone 6 (5?). Propagation: By seeds. Cypress-vine will self-sow from seeds that remain in the ground over winter.
Cypress vine is often seen scrambling up and over fencerows and has naturalized in parts of the United States but so far has yet to disrupte native plant communities (this one is growing up a stop sign).
Use cypress-vine to cover a trellis in a hurry. The lacy leaves and brilliant red flowers make a screen that you'd rather look at than through. Cypress-vine is an excellent source of nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. It will continue to bloom until frost. I allow them to climb on my butter beans in the vegetable garden.
Cypress-vine is the perfect plant for the just-germinating gardener. The seeds are relatively large, easy to handle and take only 4 days to sprout; the cotyledons (seed leaves) are large and distinctive, looking like swept-back airplane wings; the next leaves to appear are the handsome feathery leaves that distinguish the plant; the vine grows quickly, producing beautiful scarlet flowers in less than 30 days. Then the butterflies and hummingbirds come!
Although cypress-vine is not native to North America, it has caused little concern among those who would protect us from exotic pest plants, probably because it does not appear to be replacing any native species or disrupting natural plant communities. It is, in my opinion, a welcome addition to our flora.