Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a perennial vine featuring large, heart-shaped, dark green leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers bloom in mid-summer and last till fall. These blooms are iridescent white and grow 6 inches long and 3 to 6 inches wide.
A moonflower’s flowers stay open all night, exuding their sweet fragrance, before closing the following day. Moonflowers are planted in spring after frost danger is over. Under optimal conditions, they reach 10 to 20 feet long in one season.
The moonflower, however, has hallucinogenic seeds and is toxic to humans and pets. Gardeners should be cautious when growing this species in homes with small children or pets.
|Scientific Name||Ipomoea alba|
|Common Name||Moonflower, moon vine, tropical white morning glory|
|Origin||South and North America, the Caribbean|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Temperature Tolerance||Warm and humid climate|
|Soil Requirements||Well-draining and moist with a 6.0–7.5 PH|
Common Indoor Moonflower Varieties
The common name for this variety is bush moonflower or bush morning glory. It’s a member of the aster family that grows by forming a bushy clump instead of growing as a vine. It also has long, thin leaves instead of the standard heart-shaped leaves.
Ipomoea alba ‘Afternoon Delight’
The afternoon delight derives its name from the uniqueness of its flowers opening earlier in the day. It’s characterized by pale lavender flowers that allow you to enjoy the transition from dusk to dawn.
This variety is also known as beach moonflower or sea moonflower. It has thicker leaves and white blossoms that open at night. The variety often grows in coastal environments such as mangrove swamps.
How to Care for a Moonflower Plant
Moonflowers thrive in full sun to partial shade. Choose a planting location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
If you’re growing moonflowers indoors, place them near a south-facing window. You could also use supplemental grow lights to ensure they receive adequate lighting.
Soil Mix and Composition
Moonflowers prefer well-draining soil that’s fertile and rich in organic matter. Prepare the soil by adding compost or aged manure before planting. The pH level should have a slight acidity to neutrality of around 6.0-7.0.
Choose a container at least a foot in diameter and a foot deep for optimal growth. Due to their cascading ability, these vining plants are ideal for window boxes or hanging baskets.
Transplanting and Repotting
Fill a pot with potting soil and remove the plant from the previous container while massaging the moonflower’s bottom, spreading its roots outward. Place the moonflower in the pot’s center, adjusting the soil level to position the root ball 1 inch below the pot’s top.
Fill the pot with soil, tamping it around the root ball. Ensure you bury the moonflower at the same depth as it was previously growing. Fill the pot with water from a watering can, wait for excess moisture to drain, and repeat the process twice or thrice.
Temperature and Humidity
Native to tropical climates, these plants prefer a high humidity level but will tolerate dry air provided they are well-watered. To maintain humidity, mist the plant frequently or use a humidifier.
You could also grow them in high-humidity environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms. The ideal temperature range is 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal growth.
Moonflowers are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or a water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
Follow the package instructions for the appropriate dosage. Be cautious not to over-fertilize, as excessive nitrogen can produce abundant foliage but fewer flowers.
Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Water the moonflower plant, ensuring the water reaches the root zone. You may need to adopt more frequent watering during hot and dry periods.
But, you should avoid water logging as it may cause root rot. Consider mulching around the plant base to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
Pruning and Training
Moonflowers are vigorous climbers that need support to grow vertically. Install a trellis, arbor, or other sturdy structure near the plant to provide support. Help guide the vines by attaching them to the support structure as they grow and adjusting them to prevent damage or overcrowding.
Pruning is crucial for maintaining shape, removing dead or damaged parts, and promoting branching. Pinch back the growing tips to encourage bushier growth and more flower production. It’s best to prune moonflowers during the dormant season or early spring before new growth begins.
How to Propagate Moonflower Plants
It’s challenging to propagate moon flowers through stem cuttings. The plant self-seeds, so it’s easy to obtain new plants by transplanting the volunteers that sprout from seeds dropped in the garden.
- Collect seeds: Let the moonflower plant produce seed pods by allowing the flowers to fade and form seed capsules. Once the pods turn brown and dry, harvest them.
- Prepare the seeds: Open the seed pods and collect the mature seeds. Remove any debris or chaff.
- Scarification (optional): Moonflower seeds have a hard outer shell, and scarifying them improves germination. Consider sanding the seed coat or soaking the seeds in warm water overnight.
- Germination: Sow the scarified or untreated seeds about ¼ inch deep in a seed-starting or well-draining potting mix. Keep the soil moist and maintain a warm temperature of around 70-80°F (21-27°C). Germination usually takes 1-2 weeks.
- Transplanting: Once the seedlings have developed a few sets of leaves, transplant them into individual pots.
Pest and Disease Management
- Aphids: These small insects feed on sap, causing stunted growth and distorted leaves. Use insecticidal soap or a strong stream of water to dislodge aphids from the plant. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators that can help control aphid populations.
- Spider mites: They appear as tiny red or brown dots on the undersides of leaves. They suck plant juices, causing yellowing and webbing. Spray the plant with a strong stream of water or use insecticidal soap to control spider mites. Increasing humidity around the plant can also help deter them.
- Whiteflies: These small, white insects congregate on the undersides of leaves and cause yellowing, wilting, and stunted growth. Use yellow sticky traps to catch adult whiteflies, and apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to control the nymphs and adults.
- Caterpillars: Some caterpillars, such as the tobacco hornworm, feed on moonflower leaves. Handpick them off the plant or use organic insecticides labeled for caterpillar control.
- Powdery mildew: It’s a fungal disease that appears as a white, fine coating on leaves, stems, and flowers. Improve air circulation around the plant and avoid overhead watering to reduce humidity. Apply fungicides containing neem oil or sulfur to control powdery mildew.
- Leaf spot: Leaf spot diseases cause circular or irregular brown spots on the leaves. Remove affected leaves and improve air circulation to prevent the spread of the disease. Avoid overhead watering and apply fungicides if necessary.
- Root rot: Overwatering or poor draining soil leads to root rot, causing the plant’s roots to be mushy and discolored. Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering. If root rot occurs, it may be challenging to save the plant, and it’s best to propagate from healthy cuttings.
- Botrytis blight: It’s a fungal disease that causes grayish-brown spots on flowers and may lead to flower and bud decay. Remove affected flowers and improve air circulation to prevent the spread of the disease. Applying fungicides helps control botrytis blight.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Yellowing or Wilting Leaves
It could be due to overwatering. Hence, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again, and ensure the pot has good drainage. Inadequate watering can also lead to wilting and yellowing leaves. Check the soil regularly and water when the top inch feels dry.
Improper drainage or overwatering leads to root rot. Ensure the soil drains well and avoid overwatering. If root rot is extensive, it may be challenging to save the plant.
Moonflowers become leggy if they don’t receive enough sunlight. Ensure they’re in a location with adequate direct sunlight. You should also install a trellis or other support system to prevent them from growing leggy.