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How to Grow Moonflower Vines

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Growing moonflower vines, or any flowers that really puts on a show, is pure joy for gardeners. My first year growing moonflowers, I was in awe at how beautiful and large the white blooms and how quickly the vigorous vines grew up their support system. I quickly decided I wanted to grow them each year! So how do you grow a moonflower vine and how should you care for moonflowers?

What is a moonflower?

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a unique annual fast-growing vine that produces large fragrant white blooms. Part of its uniqueness is due to the time of day in which the bloom opens—at dusk. These large white flowers begin to twirl open in the late afternoon and glisten in the dark under the light of the moon.

Moonflower a the night-blooming cousin of morning glories, which produces blooms at sunrise. The vines are easy to grow and will provide a fragrant show each summer night while the sun is setting.To me, the smell of the moonflowers has a hint of coconut, but perhaps all of our noses are different!

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While you can purchase moonflower seedlings, our annual plant sale always has them, you can easily begin moonflower vines at home after the last frost date using seeds. See the instructions below for how to get moonflower vine seeds started.

Germinating moonflower seeds

Moonflower seeds have a very hard outer coating and will need to undergo a scarification process before you can sow seeds. (Eden Brothers Organic has a good selection of moonflower seeds as does True Leaf Market! So grab yourself a seed packet!)  Stratification refers to softening a hard seed coat so water can enter to promote germination. 

There are a few different methods for preparing your moonflower seeds including cold stratification, which you can see here in MiGardener’s video, or you can use the process of scarification, which is what I recommend for moonflower seeds. 

It’s a simple process that involves nicking the outer seed coat with a knife or similar sharp object, then soaking the seeds overnight in warm water. Don’t be intimidated by this step; the results are totally worth the effort! And this is very similar to what I do with other “tougher” seeds like pumpkin seeds. 

If you don’t use the scarification method, then you may think your seeds are duds and you’ll be waiting a very long time for young plants to pop up. 

When and Where to plant moonflower

Plant moonflower seeds directly in the garden soil or 12-inch deep container in mid-spring after all danger of frost as passed and when temperatures are consistently 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant seeds 1/4-inches deep and 12-inches apart in a place that gets full sun. Vines need to be grown in a sunny and warm spot with well-draining soil. Also consider where you’re planting, since a moon flower vine will need support to attach to. 

As with many plants, moonflowers to grow best in a rich soil mix because these night-blooming flowers can grow incredible vines, and this takes a lot of nutrients. Many vines will continue to grow beyond late summer and into fall if you’re in an area where frost doesn’t arrive until closer to winter. 

Also consider mulching the soil surface around moon flower vines to help keep moisture in. These popular plants do love and need water to keep growing and thriving, so don’t forget to keep them well hydrated.

Caring for Moonflower Vines

Once your plants are in the ground and growing, be sure to not feed moonflowers with any type of fertilizer, neither organic nor synthetic. Feeding these plants too much nitrogen fertilizer (which most fertilizers are full of) can result in an abundance of leaves and very few blooms, and we’re growing them for the blooms, right?

Water the moonflower vines regularly until seeds have germinated and the plants are established. Then apply 1-inch of water a week during times of drought.

Moonflowers are self-seeding, which can be a great thing. Remove spent blooms before the seeds mature to prevent them from becoming overcrowded. 

If you’re interested in saving moonflower seeds, be sure to check what variety you’re growing, since some types aren’t as reliable for seed saving purposes. In general, it’s easy to save seeds from this perennial vine. After the blooms are gone, seed pods will remain full of seeds for the following year.

See my full post on How to Save Moonflower Seeds for step by step instructions on to have seeds for these beautiful blooms every single year. 

How to trellis moonflower vines

Moonflower vines are overachievers and will reach a mature length of 20-feet. The entire plant will twine their way around anything near them, so it’s a great idea to provide a trellis or other support system for them to climb on. I personally love this garden obelisk from Amazon, and it is super cost efficient and beautiful! 

Along a fence, up a porch post, or across an arbor or pergola are also some great ideas for providing support to long moonflower vines. They are such stunning blooms, that wherever you decide to grow your moonflowers, they’ll be beautiful. 

Different varieties of moonflowers

Moonflower varieties are very similar- all develop long vines and fragrant flowers that open at dusk. The bloom colors are white or purple and the petals will be heart or star-shaped, so choose the variety that suits your fancy.

Moonflowers pair well with their morning glory cousins to create a garden that blooms day and night. Star jasmine and flowering tobacco also produce vines with white blooms and will create an after-dark glowing effect in the garden when planted near moonflowers.

Moonflower FAQ’s

  • Do moonflowers come back every year? Most varieties are self-seeding, so while they are typically seen as an annual, the seeds from last year’s plants may germinate on their own.
  • Can moonflowers be grown in pots? Absolutely! Choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep and plant away!
  • Do moonflowers bloom only once? Typically, yes. A moonflower will bloom and then that bud will be spent. There should be other buds along your moonflower vine.
  • What month should moonflowers be planted in? Moonflowers can be planted as soon as all danger of frost has passed, typically in early to mid spring, depending on where you live.

Have some insight on growing and caring for moonflowers? Or have suggestions on other plants and flowers to grow alongside this summertime favorite? Share it with our gardening community by leaving a comment below!

Barry Nevin

Friday 16th of February 2024

Hi Courtney,

This seed starting method is known as scarification, not stratification.Stratification is pretreatment of the seeds in the cold.

Barry

Courtney

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Goodness, Barry. You're exactly right; I should have double-checked that article. Thank you!

Ellen Day

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

I love these flowers! Are they anything like Morning Glories? They grow like crazy!. I want something I can manage. I'm going to be moving into my new home. I have a lot of space to fill. There is one huge round garden at the entrance. I thought I would plant different Roses. Then a little closer to the house is another fairly large round that I have surrounded with rocks. I want to plant nothing but Tulips. I have a pond across from that that I have no Idea what to plant on the back part of it. It's surrounded by trees. I also have a bath tub that I have to get the mud out of and then dig it out of the ground. I want to plant wild flowers in it after I completely sand it and then repaint it. Does this all sound good? Am I on the right track?

Courtney

Saturday 25th of June 2022

Hi Ellen! These are not like morning glories, rather they vine up and die back at the end of the year. They may reseed from the dried pods, but they're certainly not prolific. I only saw two volunteers this year, and I just moved them where I wanted them. For me, they do best in containers, simply because I can put them next to a trellis. For the suggestions near your pond, I'd reach out to your local cooperative extension. In many cases, they'll send out a master gardener volunteer and they'll have a great working knowledge of what grows well in your area. I hope this helps!

Kim Nelson

Wednesday 30th of June 2021

I adore Moon Flowers and will definitely give them a try. My Grandmother always had them growing on her porch.

Courtney

Wednesday 30th of June 2021

You should! They are so lovely and easy to grow, and it'll be a sweet reminder of your grandmother. Thank you for stopping by!