Climbing plant of the genus Ipomœa, having handsome, funnel-shaped flowers, usually purple or white, sometimes pink or pale blue. — Webster, 1882
All around that door green vines were growing out of the grassy bank, and they were full of flowers. Red and blue and purple and rosy-pink and white and striped flowers all had their throats wide open as if they were singing glory to the morning. They were morning-glory flowers. – On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 2, “The House in the Ground”
In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the riot of morning-glories in bloom around the door of the Plum Creek dugout upon their arrival. For the record, morning glories typically take about 120 days to bloom. According to Charles Ingalls’ preemption papers, the family settled on the claim on May 29, 1874. And there were supposed to be riotious blossoms of morning glories, which germinated, say, on February first? I’m sure there are varieties of morning glory that bloom in fewer than 120 days, but there would have had to have been an awfully early spring in 1874 for them to be blooming in May.
It’s not like Mr. Hanson started the seeds inside and planted them at the door to “dress the place up” in order to sell (er, trade) it. There was no Mr. Hanson. There was no trade. This was a preemption claim, remember, and according to the land records, it had been relinquished two years before Charles Ingalls filed on it. But it makes a lovely story, and Laura paints a lovely picture of morning glories just the same.
There are two kinds of morning-glories, bush and climbing. The morning glory of On the Banks of Plum Creek was Ipomœa purpurea – a climbing plant that grows rapidly and is covered in a profusion of trumpet-shaped flowers during the summer months. As the name implies, flowers open each morning; these close and wilt during the heat of the day but are in full bloom again the following morning, to be seen in all their glory. Flowers can be blue, purple, red, white, pink, and multi-colored or striped.
While morning glories can self-seed and become invasive and a nuisance, they remain a popular garden plant because they are easily started from seed. To speed germination, the seeds should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. The softened seedcoat can also be nicked or scratched with a file, and earlier bloom can be obtained by starting the seeds indoors. Germination takes about a week at room temperature. The seeds of the morning glory are encased in a pod (seed pods are dark purple-green in the photograph above), with three seeds found in each pod.
Morning glories are excellent for covering fences or unsightly walls; a trellis, poles, or strings for climbing vines should be provided as soon as the seedlings emerge. They can also be planted in window boxes to trail downward. The plants grow quickly to 10 feet or more and are covered with heart-shaped leaves. Morning glories will grow in any soil in a sunny location, but too much fertilizer causes more leaves and fewer flowers.
An interesting effect can be obtained by mixing morning glories with moonflowers, Ipomœa alba. Moonflowers have large, white, fragrant blossoms which open in the evening and remain open until morning.
morning-glory (BPC 2-3, 5)