Moonflower (also sometimes called moonflower, Ipomoea alba, or moon plant) can be a very attractive addition to any home. The thick vines and heart-shaped leaves are appealing in any weather, and the conical white flowers that bloom between the summer and fall seasons can light up even the dullest space with something that looks beautiful and stylish. However, if you are wanting to grow them at home, it helps to know how you can grow them and what they need to grow properly.
Growing a Moonflower Plant
Ideally, you should plant your moonflower seeds in soil that is moist but drained, with a trellis or support that it will be able to climb as it grows. Keep in mind that moonflowers are quite an aggressive self-seeder, and will continue to return year after year unless they are all completely cleared out. This can also make them an invasive species of plant, so try to keep them isolated from any large patches of grass or soil that could quickly get covered by them.
It might help to grow it alongside other morning glory plants: moonflowers are literally “moon flowers” that bloom at night, so this can ‘fill in the gaps’ and make sure something is always blooming.
Buying moonflower plant seeds isn’t hard: you can usually go to most garden stores and find some there, or sign up to online stores with an email address and check there. This has the benefit of being able to contact the support email address of the seller if something goes wrong.
It is best to grow moonflowers in loam that is full of nutrients, especially one that can drain well. However, dry soil with very few nutrients will make it struggle. It can grow in a wide range of acidity levels, so don’t worry too much about that unless you are aiming to get the ideal conditions for maximum growth rate.
Moonflowers may struggle to grow in large patches of soil, to begin with, so it is better to keep them out of your garden to start with. Instead, search for plantable pots that you can use to grow the moonflower plants in before putting them into a garden or large container. Your search doesn’t need to be for anything too large: the plants may be introduced to a garden as soon as the seedlings appear.
You will have to water young moonflowers regularly while it grows, usually around one inch per week in medium-to-hot weather. Early in its life, it can easily die after short dry periods, so make sure that you water it consistently if you can. Once fully established, the periods between watering can become longer, but you still need to keep a close eye on how long it has been.
Moonflowers grow best in full sun but can adapt to partial shade if needed. Indirect sunlight can also help, but they will grow slower. Direct full sun in warm conditions might lead to them requiring more water to survive. The white flowers bloom at the start of summer and retreat in fall, so try to time the growth so that the flowers are ready by the time summer begins.
Soil quality still matters here, but remember that moonflower plants generally bloom in the evening. The white flowers will come out later in the day, so try to place them somewhere in the garden where sunlight will still reach them when evening rolls around. You may have to search your garden for the ideal spot since most gardeners will be used to finding a space intended for the morning or the middle of the day.
Temperature, Humidity, and Climate
The moonflower is a tropical plant type that grows best in the heat, meaning that warmer climates are often better for them. Moonflower plants can be grown in cooler climates, but may take longer to fully grow and won’t be as quick to bloom. Humidity doesn’t affect them that much, either, and they can thrive in areas like Florida, Texas, and Hawaii.
High-phosphorus half-strength fertilizer may be the most reliable option for growing moonflower in the blooming season. Nitrogen-focused fertilizer promotes vine growth but stops the plants from blooming properly, which can make them become even more invasive in your garden.
Propagating your Moonflowers
Moonflowers are easy to spread, but you need to understand how to harvest the seeds first.
- Soak the seeds in warm water for up to eight hours before planting them. This speeds up how fast the plants germinate.
- Plant the original seeds somewhere that they can grow easily. You will want to do this before evening temperatures get too high (above 50 degrees or more).
- Plant the seeds in pots with a fast-draining soil and only a small amount of fertilizer. Ipomoea alba doesn’t like having disturbed roots, so make sure that you use pots that you can plant – trying to remove and re-plant the moonflower vines after they have grown will likely harm it.
- Place the plant pots in a warm indoor area and keep them moist, but don’t drown the seeds. Eventually, the seedlings will begin to sprout into vines.
- When the evening temperatures get to 50 degrees or above, plant the vine seedlings into a larger space – either a garden or a large container.
Are Moonflowers Hallucinogenic?
Originally thought to be hallucinogenic, moonflowers have been studied and it has been proven that they don’t contain lysergic acid after all. This acid is chemically similar to the drug LSD, which sparked concerns that the moonflower plant (or moonflower vines) could cause hallucinations and other drug-like effects. However, this doesn’t mean that moonflower is completely safe.
Are Moonflowers Toxic?
“Moonflower” refers to multiple plants, all of the same plant type. Ipomoea alba is mildly toxic and can cause skin rashes if eaten, but the vine plants are entirely safe to grow in your garden, and the flowers aren’t any more generous than the vine sprouts. Eating the vine or plants won’t kill you, but it still isn’t pleasant, and you should keep animals or children away from moonflower plants just in case.
Datura innoxia, another one of the plants under the “moonflower” name, is extremely toxic. It has been known to cause pulse increases, temperature changes, amnesia, delirium, and even unexplained behavior that the poisoned person can’t fully control or justify.
This makes it incredibly important to know which of the moonflowers you are growing: some moonflower types will only cause an upset stomach, whereas another moonflower might cause memory loss. Search carefully and be sure you are buying the right one beforehand, especially if you live with children or animals that could end up eating orbiting the vines.
If you are ready to seed and grow your new plants, here is some key information about what to expect and a brief description of what you might need to know.
- Names: Ipomoea alba, moonflower.
- Type: Perennial flowering vine.
- Size when mature: 8-10 feet.
- Exposure: full sun.
- Soil: moist and well-drained.
- Soil pH: 6.0-8.0.
- Blooms: Summer-Fall.
- Color: white, rarely purple.
- Hardiness zones: 10-12, can be grown as an annual gardening plant in other areas.
- Native to: Tropical/subtropical South America, Central America, and Florida.