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Moonflower Vine Care & Growth Tips

Are you growing moonflower vine in your garden? Learn all about moonflower vine care, including how to get lots of blooms, whether the plant is an annual or perennial, how to harvest moonflower vine seeds, and more.

How to grow moonflower vine in your garden

Today I am talking about one of my favorite plants to grow in my garden: ipomoea alba, otherwise known as moonflower vine. I absolutely adore this plant because I love anything vining and climbing.

And I grew this plant in containers before I moved to our current house where I had more room. It has done great in both containers and in the ground, so I’ll talk about my experience with both of those approaches!

moonflower vine  growing up a wire trellis
white moonflower vine flowers

What are moonflower vine plants?

The ipomoea (genus) alba (species) plant is generally referred to as a moonflower vine, tropical white morning glories, or moon vine. It was formerly classified as genus Calonyction, species aculeatum, so if you see that, don’t be confused. It’s now an ipomoea alba.

The moonflower vine hails from tropical and subtropical regions of North America and South America. Specifically the areas from Argentina to Mexico; Arizona and Florida in the states; and the West Indies.

large mature moonflower vine growing with other plants in a garden

Is a moonflower vine the same as a morning glory?

Yes! Moonflower vine is a type of night-blooming morning glory. Morning glory is the common name for the genus ipomoea. Which, as you’ll remember, is the genus moonflower vine is in.

Ipomoea is the largest genus in the convolvulaceae family. It has over 600 species, so ipomoea alba, aka the moonflower vine, is just one of many types of morning glory/ipomoea. (Fun fact: it also includes another of my garden favs: sweet potato fine, or ipomoea batatas.)

moonflower vine  growing up a wire trellis

Why do moonflowers bloom only at night?

The moonflower vine gets its common name from the fact that it blooms primarily at night. They have evolved over millions of years to do this because night-flying insects are generally their primary pollinators.

You’ll see the buds developing over a series of days. When they are ready to emerge, the flower will open quickly around dusk and last all night. You can usually catch them fully open in the morning, too. Once the sun rises, the flowers will close up.

The foliage on the plant is a lush medium green with two types of leaves: a whole, heart-shaped leaf, or a three-lobed leaf. The foliage on the plant climbs and vines beautifully and readily. It will grab onto almost anything without training.

large white moonflower bloom

How tall does moonflower vine grow?

If a moonflower vine is planted in the ground, it can get quite large. Up to 15 feet tall or long depending on how it’s growing. It also has quite the spread—mine has completely taken over a 6-foot wide trellis.

Where should I plant my moonflower vine?

You can plant your moonflower vine anywhere that gets plenty of direct sunlight. You just want to make sure you have something for the vine to climb. And this plant grows FAST!

I have used twine tied to two nails in the past, and that worked great. This year, I made a huge DIY wire trellis using concrete remesh. This was a perfect trellis solution for such a prolific vine. I’m planning to get a few more wire panels to grow a couple next year!

moonflower vine  growing up a wire trellis

Can moonflowers be grown in pots?

Absolutely, yes! I grew my moonflower vines in pots until we moved to our current home where I have more space. It will likely not grow to be as large as if you’d planted it in the ground, though.

Despite that, it can still grow to pretty impressive heights. In our old house, we had a second-story deck that I liked growing moonflower vine up. Then I’d string twine across the bottom of the deck to let it climb all over that, too.

In a pot, you’ll want to make sure you give it plenty of water. It will wilt much faster in the heat because the water will evaporate from the potted soil faster.

You might also notice the plant dropping its bottom-most leaves toward the end of the season. I always chalked this up to the plant running out of room in the pot and needed to conserve energy, directing its efforts toward the new growth and killing off the old.

moonflower vine growing up a deck post from a container in a small backyard with other lush plants
Pictured here in my old beautiful townhouse backyard!

How do I get my moonflower to bloom?

I do not do anything special for the moonflower vine. I have grown them in two different homes with different soil compositions, as well as in pots. Because of that, I believe that they are an easy vine to grow! And they have flowered like crazy.

However, you can encouraging blooming on your moonflower vine by making sure it gets enough light. Mine gets direct sun nearly all day long. Give it plenty of water, too—even in the ground, it will wilt with extreme heat.

I also generally give my moonflower vine a Miracle-Gro garden fertilizer once a month in May, June, and July. I’ve never done a side-by-side to see if it really helps, but it certainly hasn’t hurt!

large ipomoea alba growing up a trellis with flowers

For more gardening, check out my post on How to Plant a Garden From Scratch!

Will moonflower grow in shade?

And speaking of giving your plant plenty of light…you might be wondering if moonflower vine will grow in the shade. It will probably be okay, but it prefers at least partial shade—not full shade.

It probably won’t grow to its full potential, though. And since the plant needs plenty of light to encourage flowering, shade generally isn’t the best spot for it.

bud on a moonflower vine

Do moonflower vines come back every year?

It depends. Where I live, moonflower vines are an annual flower. That’s because it gets very cold here in Maryland. They are officially designated as perennials, meaning they come back year after year, in USDA growing zones 10, 11, and 12.

However, I would not be surprised to see the moonflower vine as a perennial in zone 9. It seems that our ever-evolving weather is leading to some plants surviving the winter in areas of our country where they didn’t previously.

moonflower vine  growing up a wire trellis

What do you do with moonflowers in the winter?

If you’re in an area where moonflower vine is grow as an annual, you’ll want to cut it down and pull the plant just before the first frost. You can wait until after the first frost, but I like to do most of my annual garden maintenance before it gets too cold.

Does moonflower vine reseed itself?

Another reason why you might want to pull your entire moonflower vine from the garden at the end of the growing season is that it can reseed itself. Even though it is not a perennial and will probably die off where I live, it’s also possible (and probable) that it will grow seeds that will sprout the next spring.

After the flowers die off and fall, moonflower vines can produce seed pods. The pods will eventually drop their seeds into the ground, and the ones that survive the winter will resprout. (More on harvesting seeds in a bit!)

ipomoea alba foliage and flowers

Should I deadhead moonflowers?

Speaking of dying flowers, you can encourage more flowering by picking off the spent blooms (aka dead heading). However, I’ll say that I rarely deadhead mine. I usually let the flowers fall off by themselves.

And despite not deadheading my plant, it has bloomed prolifically this summer! I usually have 5 to 10 blooms in various stages at any time, which is awesome.

large mature moonflower vine growing with other plants in a garden

Is moonflower vine invasive?

The moonflower vine is not invasive where I live because they die off at the end of the growing season. However, in some warmer areas of the United States (including Hawaii), it can be invasive.

Whenever you plant something in the ground, I recommend looking into your grow zone and researching invasive plants. Usually your local Master Gardener chapter or a local nursery can answer any questions you have!

What insects do moonflowers attract?

Moonflower vines attract night-feeding insects, and they can even be a draw for bats (the best mosquito control!). For moths, I’ve read that sphinx moths and hummingbird clearwing moths enjoy them.

bloom ready to open on a moonflower vine

How toxic are moonflower vines?

According to the ASPCA, ipomoea plants have seeds that can have a hallucinogenic affect if ingested in large quantities. The plants also contain indole alkaloids (Lysergic acid, lysergamide, elymoclavine and chanoclavine), which can be toxic to humans and animals and cause vomiting.

Are moonflowers poisonous to touch?

Despite the fact that it isn’t a great idea to ingest any part of ipomoea plants, moonflowers are not poisonous to the touch. You can safely plant moonflower vines, deadhead flowers, prune the plant, collect seeds, and cut off vines.

However, I always recommend wearing sturdy gardening gloves. Especially because I’ve found that the stems can get a tiny bit prickly as the plant matures.

ipomoea alba moonflower
moonflower vine growing up a deck post from a container in a small backyard with other lush plants

How do you collect moonflower vine seeds?

You can harvest seeds from your moonflower vine to grow next year, too. They are easy to collect, but your plant needs to develop seed pods first. Seed pods are green and shaped like teardrops.

However, you want to wait until the pod browns and gets crispy. If you harvest the seeds before then, they won’t be mature enough. If you wait too long, the husk might crack on its own and drop the seeds.

To avoid this, you can remove the pod once it is completely brown but before it has split. This might take some monitoring over a few days. You can set it indoors and let it finish drying until it cracks open. 

Spread the seeds out on a paper towel in a dry spot and let them dry further for a few days. If they have even a bit of moisture in them, they will mold in storage. Once you are sure they are completely dry, store them in an airtight container for the winter.

Below are a few photos showing this process. The first is how my plant looked after two light frosts. Dying off, but definitely not dead yet. I checked the plant over and found a few seed pods that were ready.

moonflower vine after two light frosts
moonflower vine seed pod not ready for harvesting
moonflower vine seed pod not ready for harvesting

And here is what a pod looks like when it’s ready to harvest! It will turn brown and will be crunchy. It will also start to split. This is the perfect time to pop the seed pods off and harvest the seeds.

Simply take the pod off and then crush it in your hand. Pick out the seeds. I’ve harvested pods with one, two, three, and even four seeds. I laid the seeds out on a paper towel for 24 hours and then stored them in a baggie for the winter.

moonflower vine seed pod ready for harvesting
moonflower vine seed pod ready for harvesting
moonflower vine seed pod ready for harvesting
moonflower vine seeds harvested from pods

Like this? You might like learning how to collect zinnia seeds!

How do you grow moonflower vines from seed?

Once spring is on the horizon, it’s time to start your plants. You can start the seeds indoors 1 to 2 months before planting time. (Remember, planting time is after your last frost date since this one isn’t frost hardy.)

To grow a moonflower vine from seed, knick each seed with a sharp knife to break the outer later. Then soak them overnight in water.

Plant each individually in a rich seed-starting soil. The best option is to use something you can transplant directly in the ground like a biodegradable pot or eggshell. Moonflower vines don’t like their roots handled, and baby plants are especially finicky.

Once the seeds have sprouted, you can begin to add more sunlight to the routine. If you transfer the plants right outside into the sunlight, it can shock the plant. Just setting a seedling tray out in the sun for a bit each day can help!

You can plant the baby moonflower vines in pots or in the ground once there is no danger of frost and the temperatures reach into the 60s or higher Fahrenheit during the day.

starting moonflower vine seeds
starting moonflower vine seeds
large mature moonflower vine growing with other plants in a garden
moonflower vine  growing up a wire trellis

Are moonflower vines hard to grow?

No! As I mentioned, I have grown them for years. And I hardly knew anything about them the first year I grew them—I just guessed, really. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when caring for a moonflower vine:

  • Full sun—at least 6 hours of direct sun is ideal
  • Rich soil—when planting in a pot, I used raised bed soil and compost; when planting in the ground, I amend our rocky red clay soil with leaf compost
  • Water—I water my moonflower vine daily in peak summer heat (if it doesn’t rain); they will wilt and tell you when they are thirsty!
  • Temperature—Not frost or cold hardy, not a perennial outside of more temperate climates
  • Humidity—loves it!
ipomoea alba foliage

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collage of moonflower vines with text overlay that says all about growing moonflower vine
large moonflower vine with text overlay that says all about growing moonflower vine

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