Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moonflower Vine- a plant for an evening garden

The moonflower vine (Calonyction aculeatum) is one of the wonders of the evening garden. Giant 5 to 6 inch white blooms that resemble morning glories are nestled against large heart shaped deep green leaves. As the sun begins to set in late afternoon the flowers begin to unfurl and release a lovely fragrance. When the sun rises, the blooms gently spiral closed. Considering adding this moonlight marvel to your garden. I’ve been growing it in my gardens since 1999 and enjoy what they add to my evenings in the garden. Macroglossum stellatarum often called Hummingbird Moth have covered my vines in September and October. I don’t usually have to plant it because it does re-seed readily. Sometimes I will collect seedpods and save for next year but often the vine just shows up in my garden.

If starting moonflowers from seed here are some hints for you:

· Prepare the seeds. Use a knife to make a small nick in the moonflower vine seeds. Sandpaper will work to rough up the surface of the seed. Place seeds in a custard cup or other small glass container and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.
· Plant seeds in peat pots. Fill peat pots with soil-less planting medium. Moisten with water. Place 2 or 3 vine seeds on the soil and cover with 1/2 inch of soil-less mix. Water again gently. Planted peat pots should be kept moist and in a warm location until the seedlings are large enough to transplant. Start vines indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last anticipated frost.
· Prepare seedlings for transplant. Moonflower vine seeds germinate in around 3 weeks. Before planting, thin seedlings to one vine per pot. Remove weak or extra seedlings by cutting them with scissors. Do not pull seedlings from the soil. Pulling may damage the tender roots of the remaining seedling. Seedlings that are ready for planting should have formed 2 or 3 leaves.
· Choose outdoor planting location. It prefers a location that receives full sun and the soil should be moist and well drained. Choose a location that provides the vine ample support, such as a trellis, arbor or fence, and away from other plants. The Moonflower vine can grow up to 40 feet in height with tendrils that can, if left untended, engulf nearby plants or trees. I think my vines have grown as much 1-foot a day. So I do have to train the vines to a trellis or fence.
· Transplant the seedling. Loosen the soil in the desired planting area. Dig a hole slightly larger than the peat pot and the same depth. Remove the bottom on the peat pot and place the peat pot and seedling in the planting hole and lightly cover with the original soil. The peat pot will disintegrate in the soil and will provide added nutrients. Gently water the transplanted seedling.
· Collect seeds. Moonflower vine seeds are easy to gather for next year's garden or to share with friends. When the husks that follow the white blooms become black and dry, they can be gathered and stored in a dry place. The seeds are the size of a garbanzo bean and white in color.

I hope you will give this vine a try on an arbor, trellis or fence.

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