Tag Archives: vines

Mandevilla: Tropical Beauties Worth Keeping

mandevillaMandevilla plants are popular summer bloomers here in this area.  I have always admired these vigorous climbers with bright, large, trumpet-shaped flowers. Usually, I see pink, red, or white blossoms, but there are other colors on the market.

Mandevilla is a member of the Apocynaceae family, also known as the dogbane family, cousin to Plumeria (frangipani), Nerium (oleander), Vinca (periwinkle), Amsonia (blue star), and Hoya (wax plant). Native to southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies, these are considered tropical plants here in the DC area. Mandevilla was named after Henry Mandeville, a British diplomat and gardener who discovered this plant in Argentina and sent it back to England in the 1800s.

tango twirl mandevilla

Tango Twirl has fully double petals, photo courtesy of Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of hybridizing with mandevillas. There are many lines or series such as Sun Parasol, Sunvilla, Bombshell, and Parfait. There are plants that are more compact than the species, really compact for containers, and plants with variegated foliage, double-petaled flowers, and new flower colors such as apricot. They are all beautiful, but they are not cheap. Although they may cost a little more, they thrive in our hot, humid summers; are deer and rabbit resistant; and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

They do need support and should be planted with a trellis or obelisk or planted near a pergola or a fence. If they are grown in containers, they will need fertilizer in the summer for continuous blooms.  They are actually very versatile. I have seen them in containers at gas stations where they thrive despite the heat and neglect and I have seen them used to decorate arbors, arbors and pergolas.


Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland

Because these are tropical vines, hardy to Zone 10, they will die here in the DC area in the winter. But you can protect them over the winter so they can be brought outside again next year for another season of beauty.

apricot colored flower

Apricot is an unusual, apricot colored flower, photo courtesy of Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

There are basically two ways to do this. One is to grow them like houseplants indoors and the other is to let them go dormant for the winter. In the fall, before the temperatures dip below fifty degrees, bring the plant inside. Remember that night temperatures can dip below fifty even though day temperatures are still warm in the fall.

To grow like a houseplant, trim them back first. It can be a real haircut, up to one half of the foliage, but do it so you are removing leaves and stems for reducing transpiration, not to make it ugly. Then place in a room that has much light as possible while as cool as possible. Water less frequently; do not fertilize. It may not bloom but that is okay, it is just surviving for a few months. Keep watching for pests. In the spring, prune and fertilize. In early June bring the plant outside. Place in shade first and gradually move to full sun.

The dormant method is to bring the plant indoors and trim back to about twelve inches. Put in a cool garage or basement where temperature is above freezing. Make sure it does not dry out completely. Water only to prevent it from drying out. In the spring, bring it in the house to increased light and heat. In early June, bring it outside. Again, shade first and gradually to full sun.

This way, your mandevilla plant should provide color every summer and you will certainly get your money’s worth.

Morning Glories: Easy-to-grow-from-seed Flowering Vines

Heavenly Blue

Morning Glories are so popular, they need little description. I plant them every year on a wooden banister. Their brightly colored faces greet me in the morning. By summer’s end, they have become close friends with the other plants, clasping their thin tendrils around branches of neighboring shrubs and perennials.

Growing morning glories from seed is easy if you bypass that hard seed coat. Either soak the seeds in water overnight before planting or nick the seed coat with a file to allow water to permeate. I start my seeds by soaking in water the night before. The next day, I sow them in small plastic containers with seed starting mix, under lights in my house. I do this in late April and transplant after last frost, typically Mother’s Day here in Northern Virginia. Morning glory seeds can be direct sown after Mother’s Day as well. They do need support so make sure they are planted in a place where the tendrils can clasp on to something.

Morning glories must be grown in full sun for the flowers to open up in the morning. Each flower only lasts one day but the vines produce many flowers. The vines prefer well-drained soil, not too rich or one gets more foliage than flowers. There is no need to deadhead or fertilizer.

Grandpa Ott’s

These annuals produce large seeds, many large seeds so it is easy to find them and save for next year. When the seeds develop in the fall, they are black with a papery brown coat. I cut the stem and drop the cluster of seedheads in a paper bag. Later, in the winter, I separate the seeds. One vine can produce many so this is a perfect plant to grow for seed exchanges.

For a while I have been growing Heavenly Blue from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Heavenly Blue is an heirloom with bright blue flowers and a white throat. This year I got Glacier Star from Renee’s Garden which is light blue with dark blue strips, creating a pinwheel effect. This is an heirloom so if I save the seeds, the resulting plants will look the same as the parents. If you want to save seeds, look for heirlooms or open pollinated, not hybrids.

Usually, morning glories have five fused petals in pink, white, magenta, or purple colors. For something different, check out Botanical Interests’ Chocolate which is salmon brown, or the Flying Saucer which is white with broad light blue streaks and a yellow throat. Or try Japanese morning glories from Baker Creek — the Kikyozaki mixed has pointed petals and the Imperial Japanese mix has a wide variety of markings on the blossoms. Kitchen Garden Seeds has a frilly pink called Split Second and a double purple one called Sunrise Serenade.

Try growing this easy annual vine this year. Morning glories are a great investment — one packet of seeds can reward you with flowers every year..

Mix of blue and pink

Mandevilla: Tropical Beauties Worth Keeping

mandevillaRecently I was given a mandevilla plant, which is a popular summer bloomer in the DC metro area.  I have always admired these vigorous climbers with bright, large, trumpet-shaped flowers. Usually, I see pink, red, or white blossoms, but there are other colors on the market. Continue reading

Successes in my Virginia Garden: July 2016

Cardinal climber among oregano and sage

Cardinal climber among oregano and sage

July is a good time to take stock of the garden and determine what worked and what didn’t. This year I tried growing cardinal climber because I have banisters and rails in several locations on my property. Cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida) is a flowering vine, grown as an annual in Virginia. It is easy to grow indoors in the spring from seed which I obtained from Renee’s Garden. In May, I transplanted them outside and trained them up to the banisters with yarn. They learned quickly and began to wrap themselves around the banisters. Now that it is hot, they bloom every day in full sun. The flowers are bright red and simple but I discovered that they add a pop of color against the other plants. The leaves are very lacy and the vines are light enough to weave into neighboring plants (I like it when two or more plants tumble into each other’s space).  Cardinal climber is a winner in my book.

Vanilla Cream marigold with Cossack Pineapple ground cherry

Vanilla Cream marigold with Cossack Pineapple ground cherry

The other winner flower this year is ‘Vanilla Cream’, part of the Alumia series of French marigolds from Park’s Seed. I started the seed indoors in the spring although it was not necessary, I could have started them outside later. In May I plant them outside in a row in front of a vegetable bed so the lawn service crew wouldn’t get too close to the veggies with the weed wacker. The marigold plants have filled out nicely. Each bushy plant has several blooms at a time. The flowers are unusual for a marigold, they are anemone-shaped and bright yellow. I like the fact that they are a clear solid yellow — they glow like beacons in the garden.

ground cherry

husks pulled back from ground cherry fruit on spoon

Speaking of yellow, this year I grew Cossack Pineapple ground cherries. I bought seed from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and started them indoors under lights in very early spring. I was surprised at how well they germinated. In May, I transplanted several in my tomato patch and although I thought I gave them enough space I did not realize how fast they grew. Mine are a few feet wide and tall and completely cover the ground. Members of the tomato family, the fruit is small like a pea covered in a papery husk. The husks are green on the plant and gradually turn yellow and drop to the ground. I have learned that some of the ones on the ground are empty, maybe something got to them before I did, so I gather the ones on the ground and gently touch the yellow ones on the plant to see if they will drop into my hand. The fruit really does taste like pineapple but without the zing so more like a cross between a pineapple and an apple. They can be eaten raw, used in desserts, or used in savory dishes like salsa.

These are just a few success stories in my garden, more to come!