Starting seeds too late for them to ripen outdoors

(Zone 7a)

Someone dmailed me asking about sowing MG seeds too late to harvest ripe seeds before autumn frost. As it happens, that is what I'm about to do, as it is usually too late by now in my zone 7 for very many MG seeds to ripen before frost when sown this late. Since I thought this might be helpful for any other procrastinators out there, I'm posting my response here. Hope it's useful -

(The sticky has links to all the following ideas in greater detail.)

1. Grow the MGs in pots so you can bring them in before fall frost to ripen seed.

-- I have grown MGs in containers and saved a few seeds when the MG was grown in just a 1-cup size styrofoam coffee cup and also a qt-size yogurt container. The bigger the pot, the bigger the vine and thus the bigger the seed harvest.

-- Self-watering pots are labor-saving and perhaps produce better quality plants than human-watered pots, but mine will be human-watered.

-- Every time you cut or nip one MG vine, two new shoots appear in the leaf axil, thus doubling the seed harvest, theoretically - so this is a good way to limit the size of your MG vine if you're thinking about trundling these vines indoors later on to ripen seed. In your mind's eye, imagine how big you ultimately want your plant, and then nip anywhere the vine crosses that imaginary line.

2. No way will I have enough room in my Hobbit-sized hovel for all the potted vines I want to grow, so I will be cutting some vines with partially ripened seeds and twining them in a figure-8 pattern on 18" tall sticks which are put into glass jars of water with just a tad of hydrogen peroxide (H202 - local grocery & drug stores sell 3% strength). I change 1/3 of the jars every day and the H202 keeps the water from getting scummy sooner. The jars are under grow lights, because even if you have no leaves, the stems are still photosynthesizing. I got a lot of good seeds this way, but after 6 weeks or so the quality of the saved seed does go down.

3. Did I say I hate growing stuff in pots? Well I do anyway and have quite the Pot Ghetto if I say so myself. But I most love morning glories when they are growing in the ground, unconstrained by a pot, and just going bonkers all over the place and flinging themselves over arbors you can walk beneath or curtains of wild abandonment up the sides of out-buildings. Soooo - my plan is to root tip cuttings of some of the potted morning glories and stick 'em in the ground and "let-'er-rip."

Hope this helps and feel free to ask any questions. Looking forward to others' comments and suggestions.

Barbourville, KY(Zone 7a)

Thank you Karen. The second piece of that helps me enormously :^)

(Zone 7a)

You're welcome :)

ps for us late-sowers: The more mature the pod, the better the stem in water technique works; so, conversely, the greener the pod, the worse the technique works.

Hometown, IL(Zone 5a)

Thanks for the tips! I normally sow right at the beginning of May, but this year I ordered seeds from eBay.
They were assorted Japanese seeds, and I was SO excited to get them.
I planted them, and waited.....waited....waited.....until June.

I was so p.o.'d that I decided to sow Grandpa Otts seeds I had harvested in 2008. I expected nothing to come up.
Boy, was I wrong!! The entire pot is filled with seedlings! I had no idea the seeds could last that long. (I must thank my DH for suggesting I try them. Thanks, doll!)

Anyway, now if they won't set seed outside in time for me to harvest, I'll still be able to get seeds.

Thanks again for the info!


(Zone 7a)

Welcome, Marsha - it's nice to 'see' you here.

A few years ago, KayJones germinated a morning glory seed said to be 49 years old that had been stored indoors in a drawer, so these seeds can have quite a long viability if stored that way.

There are many ways to germinate MG seeds, but if you have very special seeds, here's a technique developed by several members of this forum that might be useful if you are ever able to come by Japanese seeds again. -

A simpler presentation of the baggy germination method is here -

Japanese morning glories can include both Ipomoea nil and Ipomoea purpurea, but the following might give you an idea of their differences -

Ipomoea nil -

Ipomoea purpurea (includes Grandpa Ott) -

Identification of these and other morning glories is usually by their sepals, which is explained in the MG sticky index.

(Zone 7a)

'pologize for this being too wordy, but have headache...hope the following is useful -

I goofed: In the previous post, I implied that Ipomoea purpurea 'Grandpa Ott's' could be a Japanese MG. What we do know about this MG is that it was 'introduced' by Seed Saver's Exchange in 1975 after the SSE's founders got the seed from their grandfather, Grandpa Ott, who got it from his parents who brought it with them from Bavaria when they emigrated to the US*. What I don't know is if this cultivator could have come from Japan at some point in the forgotten distant past.


Marsha, there are approximately 1,000 different species that belong to the family Convolvulaceae - - and there are many differences between them.

A major difference between Ipomoea nil and Ipomoea purpurea is that the latter germinates pretty well at colder temperatures, which is why I. purp. not only can be wintersown** but can also become an invasive self-sower in temperate zones. This is generally not true of Ipomoea nil and might have something to do with why your May sowing of Japanese MGs failed, while Grandpa Ott's tootled along so nicely.


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