'Morning Glories' for Beginners Questions??

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, everyone,

I have been having a good time poking around the MG Forum and getting ideas for my garden next summer. And I have read a couple of very good DGers blog/journals about starting MGs and also 'Beginners Guide to Morning Glories' which is very helpful, too:


And of course, I have IDed a few MGs I would like to grow in the garden and in pots and have even started a few seeds--

Now I have a couple of follow-up questions, so, please, if someone could give me their thoughts, I would appreciate it...

1. What kind of seed starting medium is best? I have used Miracle Grow Potting Mix (with fertilizer), but maybe there is something better?

2. Once seedlings are up, is it important to dose them with a weak solution of fertilizer, or is this not necessary (especially in view of the fertilizer in the Miracle Grow mix)?

3. I have read that some of the Japanese specialty MG growers use various vitamins and nutrient potions on their MGs. I have b'oth Superthrive' and 'Messenger' in my gardening cupboard. Would either of these be a good treatment for my MG seedlings?

4. I have my MG seedings planted 2 seedlings per 3 inch peat pot 3 inches, under flourescent lights. They are about 2 inches tall. Should I be transplanting these or snipping one seedling off to foster proper growth in the pots?

If you have any follow-ups to my queries, I would appreciate it and thank you for your responses.

(Zone 7a)

Hi Tabasco, different folks are gonna have different responses to your questions. So, after I post what I know works for me in my limited experience, hopefully they'll chime in, too. Are you growing any MGs other than commonly grown ones like Ipomoea nil and I. purpurea cultivars? I'll answer with regard to nils and purpureas, and you can let us know if you're growing different MGs.

1. I don't know what the best seed starting medium would be - there are many to choose from and Miracle Grow works well for many. However, if you're going to start seeds by putting them into a growing medium first, I would do what Atenkley has done: he puts about an inch or two of potting medium (sterile) in the bottom of a cup-size styrofoam (plastic would work also) cup and then tops it off with Perlite (or was it vermiculite?). After sowing his seed - barely covered with more Perlite, he soaks the cup and immediately drains it. The rationale for this is sterility - not until the seed germinates and sends down its first baby root will the seedling touch anything relatively non-sterile.

For more depth on seed starting techniques that address vulnerability of seeds and seedlings to molds, here's a good one by Ron: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=1570875

Personally, I prefer EmmaGrace's baggy method that she tailored especially for commonly grown morning glories: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=3303432 . My seedlings don't go near any soil-type of medium until after they have germinated.

2. As far as I can tell, the consensus on this forum has been that MG seedlings do not need to be fertilized. Here's another great post by Ron on whether or not and how to fertilize MGs - http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/684152/

3. I don't have any experience with these potions - have heard good reports about them, though. I have failed trying to germinate some species of MG, whereas rjuddharrison has much better success, and he writes about using these potions here - http://davesgarden.com/community/blogs/t/rjuddharrison/2857/

4. Some might advise to snip a competing MG seedling in a peat pot, leaving just one. I can see where letting both grow would produce a plant less vigorous than it would otherwise be in the long run. I think that using EmmaGrace's technique as mentioned above in #1 would save you from wasting seed.

So, with regard to which way to proceed, I would base that decision on how valuable to you these seedlings are. If you've gotten to this point with seedlings you can't bear to snip, then one thing I have found that works for me is to float the root ball in warm water (peat won't absorb cold water very quickly). When the root ball has totally absorbed the water, tease the root ball - still in the water - apart vewwwwwy gently, and there will be less damage to the roots by "floating" them apart.

Good luck - we love pics around here, so hope to see you back here with a report.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks, bluespiral, for all the good tips and links.

I suppose after this I will use the baggy ('Deno Method') for seed starting too and that way not waste seed and also cut down on potential pathogens. I didn't realize the pathogens were such an issue with MGs...

The fertilizer discussion was pretty technical but I got the gyst of it--about the same as for most flowers--don't go over board on the nitrogen for fear of too much leaf out and not much bloom-- which is what I am trying to avoid, too.

I will have to get my bifocals out and read about Messenger and Superthrive again since I know they both have very precise instructions for best results. I think they may be just what the doctor ordered for MGs since the Japanese first researched these 'additives' prior to WW 2.

Thanks for all the good links to the websites and threads. Very informative.

I am growing from seed:

Shibouri JMG
Kikiyu Saki JMG
Roman Candles JMG
Star of Yelta
Rainbow Flash
Cameo Elegance
and also
Spanish Flag, Cardinal Climber and Cypress Vines for the hummingbirds...

I have seeds for "Pink Feathered" and "Variegate Purple Feathers" JMGs and a few others once I get a seed starting system down. And I'd like to try a couple of those packets from Onalee's site when I get my confidence up!

In the meantime I am waiting for any other insights from the more experienced here!?

These are my MG seeds under lights...

Thumbnail by tabasco
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

And a close up of 'kikiyu saki' and 'shibouri' and I think 'roman candles'...

Thumbnail by tabasco
(Zone 7a)

Tabasco, with regard to - "I didn't realize the pathogens were such an issue with MGs..."

The role of microorganisms in the process of germination is fascinating - some help and some hinder the process. Another element crucial to germination affected for better and/or for worse by microorganisms is the integrity of the seedcoat. Ron has written some wonderfully informative posts/threads that relate to this. Check out his links under "Seedcoat" in the following link:


The integrity of the seedcoat can vary according to how mature the seed was at harvest, how the seed was stored, how long the seed was stored, and possibly other factors I'm not remembering off the top of my head.

I had a tremendous harvest of some MG seeds last year - Velvet Plum was phenomenal. But, most of my seeds ripened on their stems after frost in jars of water under grow lights into December. Most of these seeds may germinate, but you can see how the sides of the seeds are collapsed to different degrees and how the edges curl inward - as opposed to being plump like seeds that ripened naturally outdoors. So, the method of ripening will affect the seedcoat, as well.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks, bluespiral, for that link to information on MG seed starting, especially the one with Ron's details on how to use the baggy (Deno) method for starting seeds and other details.

Lest I get too preoccupied with elaborate ways to start the seeds, I have to interject here that one experienced JMG gardener emailed me with (confidence building) seed starting instructions to just use the usual good gardener practices for seed starting: place the JMG in good wetted potting mix and cover with a bit of mix. No real need to presoak or use an H2O2 soak or even nick the seed.

I suppose this advice is truer for the more commonly grown JMGs and less so for the rare ones. That is why they are rare, I guess!

Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

I use the simply plant instructions for cheap,common and plentiful seeds. The more expensive ones I do a preliminary soak to see if they swell. The swollen ones can get planted right away because the seed coat is not hardened. The ones that look like nothing happened from the 4-6 hour soaking get a small nick and more soaking until they look swollen and ready to plant. I`m careful not to overdo soaking and keep a eye on them because too much soaking can ruin them.

I use potting soil for the cheap seeds. For the more expensive seeds I use seed starter which is clean and free of harmful organisms so you will not have a problem with worms getting in your seeds.

Another thing is protection from insects or other critters who will eat the cotyledons. It can be now you see it, now you don`t if they get eaten. I start the most rare or expensive seeds inside and then set them out away from problem areas where snails need controlled and provide wire cage protection just in case.


Mesilla Park, NM

I also nick and soak (everything I can), I nick and soak overnight in peroxide and superthrive mixture, just a few drops of each, then sow in warm jiffy soilless mix. Then they go onto heat mats with domes, under lights..

The baggie method doesn't work for me at all, the seeds rot because some take so long to germinate and then the roots get stuck in the coffee filter (but to each his own). It is just too much trouble for me to be looking in baggies everyday and taking one or two seeds out then the roots break..etc.. when I can just sow all my seeds at one time and that job is done.

Out of 200 + seeds that I sowed three days ago, I've got about 97% germination.

Key factors I'm sure are Humidity and light. I don't use warm water to soak initially because overnight the water will get cool, you can leave them on the mats too, but I don't like for them to burst at night with too much heat, so I just avoid that.

Then, when the moisten the soilless mix, I do use hot water for that so that it can get that fine powder wet (I also add perlite and vermiculite to my mix) so that I can make it stretch a little.

Not everyone will like this method, but it works for me.. You seem to have a good grip on what you are doing and the advice you've been given is great.


Baton Rouge area, LA(Zone 8b)

Yes, being warm is essential for the seeds to sprout as well. Morning glories like things much warmer than we find comfortable too. So I can`t help but notice how much slower things are going with this winter batch compared to the April batch. I don`t have the right equipment to give them the intense warmth and light they need but what I have going will take off once March gets here.


(Zone 7a)

Yup, we've had experts advise how easy it is to stand on your porch and throw seed to the 4 winds like birdseed - no germination or cultivation problems at all. I too have stuck seeds in the ground or in a pot and had a great bounty of MG flowers.

But not all of us are that lucky all of the time - Mother Nature does have quite a bag of tricks to keep us challenged - so advising newbies of a basic technique that addresses some of Mother Nature's tricks for commonly grown MGs seems like a good idea.

To me, my seeds were extremely precious - only had 3 seeds of some kinds to start with. And not only was I working with about 60 different species & cultivars, but half again that many turned out to have different phenotypes, some of which were spectacular. So, not only did Emma's technique maximize success of germination for me, but it also simplified the otherwise more complicated but still arduous process of keeping all these different phenotypes identifiable into harvest.

As for the science that gives us a glimpse of understanding for that dance between Mother Nature's tricks and our flowers - that's certainly not for everyone - but you never know.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Interesting observations from everyone. By the way, is there a Japanese Morning Glory seed specialist who sells to the public? I googled and couldn't find a source. (The e-bay list seems to be the most available source.)

My sister in law is in Japan for a month right now and I thought I would ask her to look up a JMG source while there--but maybe she can't even bring in a few seeds to the U.S. in her pocketbook...customs, and all...

Thanks for the good info. t.

Mesilla Park, NM

Your poor thing Blue! you went to all that trouble. Well, you keep doing what works for you.


(Zone 7a)

LOL! not ready to leave selective breeding to the 4 winds yet

Mesilla Park, NM

Reminds me of that margarine and butter commercial..lol

"You Can't fool Mother Nature" remember that one..lol

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL, well don't throw away your test tubes yet! I'm sure 'big things' will come from all the energy here on the MG forum. There are so many different techniques to getting something to grow and to think I had no clue about all of this before joining DG.

Very fascinating---it looks to me after google-ing around a bit that the Japanese are really into doing obscure research on MGs.

And also that the Japanese treat morning glories almost like bonsai in terms of presentation of the plant in the pot. Do you know if any DGers are especially interested in the way the vine is trellised or how to prune the vines for the proper effect. Or if there is a good website (or even a book I could get at the Horticultural Library) that discusses this aspect of growing JMGs?

And if anyone knows of a resource for JMGs in Japan that my SIL could look up, I would appreciate it. Or would she just go into any garden center and buy packets of MG seed and be assured of getting some that were fairly 'rare' here in the states?

So many questions--sorry 'bout that! But they look like fascinating plants with a story to tell, too. Thanks so much. t.

(Zone 7a)

Directions on how to find the ultimate sage's opinion: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/p.php?pid=3959705

Japanese method for growing in a pot: http://protist.i.hosei.ac.jp/Asagao/Yoneda_DB/E/Introduction/htmls/36.html - When each section of vine comes to the top-most or side-most limit of whatever growing space you are giving it, cut it back at that spot. Make the cut just above where leaf meets stem, as close as you can to that spot, because tissue beyond that spot tends to die and pathogens tend to gravitate to it. Use a very sharp tool like scizzors, sequeteur (spelling?), exacto-knife (DH uses these in his carving)

Japanese pictorial, day-by-day guide to training a potted MG to give the effect of Japanese bonsai: http://www005.upp.so-net.ne.jp/asagao/h19-katei/h19-katei.html (I seem to recall that Atenkley came up with this one)

great thread answering questions about how to pinch: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/698560/

practical trellising by the pot: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/714435/

Beckygardener started a great thread on all kinds of trellising: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/801848/

have fun -

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks again, bluespiral, for your excellent sourcing of info! That link about pinching/cutting was exactly what I was looking for.

I am going to call my sister in law in Tokyo and ask her about the morning glories...maybe she will know the answer to that one if no one here does...?

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