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Why am I having so much trouble with Moonflowers?

Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

I am about to go crazy. For the past 5 years I have tried to grow Moonflower Vines from seed, and every year the same thing happens. They sprout with no trouble after a knick and soak. The problem comes once I've put them in the dirt. They sprout, but they never make it past pushing through the soil. The first set of false leaves rots in the seed casing, and I can't pull the seed casing off without damaging the leaves because it is super stuck to the leaves. I start them in my greenhouse about 6 weeks from the last frost date,and I use a premium potting soil mix that is fresh from the bag.

I can grow heirloom tomatoes from seed with no problem, and I've even grown a few perennials from seed. I have also grown a relative of the moonflower-morning glory seeds- with no problem Why are these darned Moon flowers give me so much trouble? Can anyone help? I'm pulling my hair out. Thanks!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

You might have better luck with bottom heat. They should just pop up. I have them under lights too.

Florissant, MO

I've never grown Moonflower vines but I have experienced the cotyledons getting stuck in the seed shell with other seeds I've germinated. I've found that if you try to pull the shell off when it's dry you'll almost always damage the cotyledons. However, if you mist the seed shell several times, until it's really wet, it will usually pull right off.

Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks everyone for responding. I'm thinking heat might be the answer. I have tried misting the shell to get it off, but it just doesn't seem to work. Since I seem to be a sucker for punishment, I just ordered more moonflower seeds and will try with heat this time. My grandmother had them in her garden, and the hummingbirds would come visit the flowers at night. The fragrance is absolutely divine. I shall overcome this problem, or at least die trying. :)

McMinnville, TN(Zone 6b)

You may not be soaking them long enough before planting. I have grown them by soaking for around 12 - 24 hours , until they swell. I did not break the seed coat, just soaked in water. Be sure and not let the mix dry out after planting or the seed coat will dry out and they will not germinate. Good luck. They are worth the effort.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Quote from sow_sow :
........cotyledons getting stuck in the seed shell with other seeds I've germinated. I've found that if you try to pull the shell off when it's dry you'll almost always damage the cotyledons.

That most likely is your problem. I grew them until I noticed my season is not long enough for the blooms. Here is how I sowed them.:
Yes the seed coat is very hard. I knick first then soak over night in hand hot water befor planting. Soaking without nicking does no good since the water needs to reach the actual seed inside the seed coat. At this point, you can remove the seed coat.

You then have a choice---place in moist paper towel, or sow in seeding mix. I planted in a 3" foam coffee cup.

McMinnville, TN(Zone 6b)

Soaked mine , without knicking. Seeds imbibed the water. Germination was excellent. Near 100 percent.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I soaked mine in 1/2 peroxide, 1/2 water and forgot about them for 3 days...oops. They actually sprouted in the water mix, LOL. I sowed them on Wednesday and they are now erupting thru the soil. I just watered them yesterday and had a dome on the tray, so it does look quite moist. I take the dome off, once most are up in the tray

Thumbnail by joannabanana Thumbnail by joannabanana
(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I've been lurking... I did a 12 hour soak in hand hot water/peroxide (10:1), then put them in a damp paper towel in a baggy on a heat mat. Germination started in a few days, I planted the sprouts, and I've been waiting for leaves ever since! So today, after reading this thread, I spritzed the seed casings and gently teased them off the stems. Only one broke. The rest look sooooo much happier, and the leaves are already unfurling and turning green.

So thank you, all you DGers, for all this wonderful info. I feel so smart now! At least until the next boo-boo...


Florissant, MO

Good for you Pam! Yes, you do have to be very careful but usually that seed casing will slip off if you've got it wet enough. I'm sure your seedlings are much happier now :-)

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

Ive learned something here today... Yay..Ill try them again...Thanks...

Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

Quote from joannabanana :
I ...just watered them yesterday and had a dome on the tray, so it does look quite moist. I take the dome off, once most are up in the tray

I wonder if I should put the dome on mine, but they are already in my greenhouse. I'm right on the border of zone 7/8, and during the day it can easily reach 90+ degrees during the day. Any thoughts?

Okay, I started more moonflowers, this time I soaked them in a solution of 1 cup water and 1tsp of 3%hydrogen peroxide. Within 2 days they sprouted tails, and yesterday I put them in pots with potting soil. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

Just wanted to post an update and thank you all for your help and suggestions. Sucess so far! They're even getting a new little set of leaves. Here's how they look:

Thumbnail by GreeneLady
Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Does anyone feel a bit like a gynecologist with a problem pregnancy? I think about that when Im trying to tease off a stuck seed coat. Or maybe a veterinarian having to turn a calf?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I'm glad they worked out this time. They look AWESOME! I would put them into a 1 gallon pot very soon, with slow release fertilizer. I find bamboo sticks are great to let it grow up on. I usually put 3 and tie the top to form a tee-pee. The sticks slide out easy if you transplant and want to wrap it up a trellis without the sticks.

Don't be too hasty putting it outside. These guys hate cold nights and will stop growing or die


Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks Jo! I think you are right about having to transplant them soon. I didn't realize how quickly the roots grow. A week ago before I put them in the current 4 inch pots,they were completely root bound in the 2" starter cells. Bottom heat makes a big difference, and the hydrogen peroxide probably helped stop any mold or mildew from forming under the casing. Thanks for the tip about not putting them out too quickly....will follow your advice to a T! Hopefully I'll be able to post pictures later this summer. :)

How are yours doing, by the way? Your sprouts looked great in your early pictures!

Steadycam3- I did feel a bit scientific trying to get the seed coat off. Especially with the magnifier in front of my face and the tweezers delicately poised above the tender seedling....If I was wearing scrubs I woulda been ready for surgery. :)

Ellijay, GA(Zone 7a)

Fertilizer? I've read and respect a lot of joanna's comments but doesn't that hasten any blooms? I realize it's at a very early growing stage. Thinking about my moonflower experience here in Georgia. Last year was phenomenal. It was my first attempt. I did not start them until April 25 th where I had them in six small annual containers (nicked and soaked) sitting on a railroad tie (garden border) in the warmest location around my home. Must be the bottom heat as I've tried more this spring to no avail in a different area.

Here's a pic in late August...three least 15- 20 flowers for 3-4 weeks daily. The small seedlings, about two inches high were planted at the base of a porch step in clay soil and gravel. They loved it. Now I'm absolutely hooked with plans for massive showings.

Thanks for that reminder about bottom heat.

Second pic are some started in Florida for my mother in mid January, along with some morning glories. One flat sitting on gravel, morning sun. Must be that bottom heat again. They took off within days.

Thumbnail by kdfisher Thumbnail by kdfisher
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Oh yes, very different growing conditions here. I have yet to see a bloom on a moonvine for me with one planted outside. This year I will keep it in the greenhouse. We can have hot days, but very few warm nights. Morning Glories do ok, but not the moonvine

Columbus, OH

Quote from steadycam3 :
Does anyone feel a bit like a gynecologist with a problem pregnancy? I think about that when Im trying to tease off a stuck seed coat. Or maybe a veterinarian having to turn a calf?
At least you don't need tall rubber boots and an OB sleeve for the moonflowers, lol.

But seriously, I think bottom heat helps. I use the Deno method to germinate MG's, moonflowers, and related vines. I soak first in a water/hydrogen peroxide solution for 24-ish hours, then move to a moist paper towel--I moisten the paper towels with the soaking water, then put the paper towels in baggies. I throw the tags with the seed names right in the ziplock bag, and place all of the bags in a pile on a heating mat. If I have a lot of baggies, I stand them up loosely in a plastic container and place that on the heating mat. When they sprout, I pot them up in 2" newspaper pots and I use bamboo sticks to hold up the vines till they can be transplanted. Works like a charm :)

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

When I first read and responded to this thread, I was germinating Datura, Moonflower Bush. Now my Ipomea Moonflower Vines -soaked, baggies, sprouted and planted- are just poking up their heads, and this thread popped up again. It's great to review all the info, and quite funny to see that I originally mistook the topic for what I was growing at the time. The advice was good even so, and my little Daturas are quite healthy and happy. I have high hopes for the vines as well, many thanks to you all.


Columbus, OH

I germinate Datura the same way, except I use GA-3. It helps, but I've germinated without it, too.

Oak Island, NC(Zone 8a)

Your Moonflower Bush post wasn't a lost got me thinking about planting one when I found a lady selling small pots of them at a roadside stand. Hers were all double daturas, yellow and white. I took one home, it already has a seed pod forming on it. I will try to sprout them once the pod matures. There is a guy in the next town over that has an enormous one in his yard that I think comes back every summer. I swear that bush gets 15 feet tall. One day I'll get up the nerve to stop and ask him how he does it.

Glad to hear your baby Daturas are doing well. Please keep us posted!

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