What is Morning Glory?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Morning Glory is a very non-specific name, which refers more to a behavior and similarity of certain plants than to a single species or genus. These flowering vines have an interesting and peculiar habit. When they bloom, flowers open in the morning, and their life cycle ends by the day’s end. Usually flowers grow and bloom at a fast rate, and at different times, which means there are always beautiful flowers to look upon during the spring and summer. Yet exactly what these flowers will look like is hard to describe, since at least 500 species are called morning glories and they don’t even share the same genus.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Most blooms on a morning glory have similar shapes. When closed or beginning to open, they often have what is called a funnel shape. The open flower is usually shaped like a saucer, and common colors are white, purple, blue, red and yellow. Size of the average flower varies by genus and species, and some are as large as eight inches (20.32 cm) in diameter, while others may be about half this measurement. Most of the vines have leaves that are heart shaped, and vines can grow very long and be encouraged to grow on trellises.

Once planted and given full sun, many species of morning glory will reseed, and they have a tendency to be aggressive. Some variants are considered nuisances because they can take over other plants in a garden. They’re also known for their tendencies to kill other plants if they become out of control, which makes weeding morning glories essential when they sprout up in unintended places. In contrast though, gardeners may love certain types of the morning glory because they don’t require much watering, and soil quality doesn’t typically have to be great to grow them.

The varied types of morning glory plants exist throughout the world, and there are species native to many parts of the world. The plants prosper well in most temperate climates, and they’ve been used in the areas where they were for a variety of purposes. One interesting use of the morning glory was by native South American societies, who employed the sulfur present in some of the native species of morning glories to cure rubber. There have also been several cultures that used the plants or the seeds as medicine.

There are species of the plant that are either poisonous or that have hallucinogenic properties. Some are both. Gardeners may want to look for species that do not exhibit these qualities if they have pets or kids that might be likely to ingest the plants.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@Pippinwhite -- Have you ever tried moonflowers? They're kin to the morning glory, and they bloom in the late afternoon. They have huge, white blooms that smell wonderful. They also are a climbing vine. I have them running up my mailbox pole.

I like morning glories, too. One thing I learned to do before planting them was to soak them in water overnight. Helps soften the seed casing so they germinate faster. I also nipped the casings with a pair of nail clippers, just in case the water didn't soften the casings enough. I've found doing both really helps, and I usually see the plants come up in 10 days or so. I let them grow up my ugly chain link fence.


I love morning glories! They are usually easy to grow, and they're heat tolerant. There's nothing more cheerful than going outside to work and seeing the vines full of bright blooms! I like to have a collection of colors for the variety.

Another relative of the morning glory is the four o'clock. They bloom in the late afternoon. They look a lot like morning glories, but bloom later. You can plant them together and have blooms all day. They are just beautiful. I don't have enough planted in my yard for the morning glories to choke anything out, so I encourage them to grow. Maybe they'll choke out the mimosa sprouts...

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