A Gardening Journal

Cypress Vine

ipomoea-quamoclit-640

 

Cypress vine is so easy children can grow it—but that doesn't mean it isn't extraordinary.  What sensational flowers!  It was pure luck that this year one of the vines found that growing through a nearby gold arborvitae was more fun than the intended host, a spindly rose.  But the electric-red flowers are only more vivid.

 

Cypress vine's foliage is almost impossibly delicate, light-weight, and subtle, and lets the vine use almost anything as a scaffolding.  It's a hot-weather annual, after all, so just needs support June through frost.  Here a stem of the yellow-striped giant reed, Arundo donax 'Golden Chain', is just as solid a support as the rods of reinforcing bar above.

 

arundo-donax-golden-chain-ipomoea-quamoclit-640

 

What an equal-opportunity beauty!

 

 

Here's how to grow this delicate but intrepid vine:

 

Latin Name

Ipomoea quamaclit

Common Name

Cypress Vine

Family

Convolvulaceae, the Morning Glory family.

What kind of plant is it?

Annual vine.

Hardiness

Zones 9 - 11

Habit

Twining and opportunistic, the new tendrils of the vine are so light-weight that just about anything heavier than spider webs can serve as scaffolding.

Rate of Growth

Very fast.

Size in ten years

With a long enough growing season, to twenty feet.

Texture

Delicate and delightful.  The ferny foliage  and thin stems give the vine a stealthy ability to explore outward and upward without detection—until, of course, the small but bright red trumpets of the flowers appear.  Even then, the flowers can be more obvious than the stems and foliage.  With enough heat and a long enough growing season, growth is more and more substantive:  In Texas, the vine is recommended as an easy cover for chain-link fences, and even as a solution for quick privacy.

Grown for

its foliage: The leaves seem to be just veins, without "in-fill", and have a delicate fish-spine look.  It's remarkable that they contain enough chlorophyllic cells to fuel the vine's very quick growth.

 

the flowers: Red as red can be, the small flowers don't suffer any lack of visibility on account of their size.  The central dot of creamy white pistil and stamens couldn't be more brilliantly highlighted.

 

its eagerness:  Even in a short-season Northern climate, cypress vine can grow eight to ten feet tall by August.  Plants are very precocious bloomers, too, often starting into bloom before they're two feet tall. 

Flowering season

Summer to frost:  June through October here in Rhode Island.

Culture

Full sun and light, well-draining soil, the same conditions you'd provide for dahlias.

How to handle it

Cypress vine grows from seed, and very easily.  Sow them a month before the last frost date and you'll have foot-tall plants to set out.  Unless you sow the seeds in peat-pots, in which case you can just plant the entire pot, transplant gently from starter pots into the ground for minimal disturbance of the roots.

 

Cypress vine grows fastest when it has something right at "hand" to twine upon.  First figure out what support you'll be providing—vertical strings or wires, a trellis, wire or mesh fence, or nearby perennials or shrubs—and only then plant the cypress vine that will grow through it. 

 

In hotter and long-season climates, where cypress vine grows so readily that the greater challenge than encouraging growth is controlling it, you can grow the vine even in hanging baskets.  If you like to pinch and fuss almost daily, cypress vine will make amazing topiary, too, and can fill out a wire form in weeks.


Dead-heading isn't needed and, given the profusion of flowers, would be almost impossible anyway.  In climates so mild that the seeds don't get Winter-killed—Zones 10 and 11—cypress vine can be a serious weed.

Downsides

Self-seeding, but only in tropical climates.

Variants

There's a white-flowered form, so you can also enjoy cypress vine in pink-friendly gardens, where the red-flowered form would be a scary clash. 

 

I. quamoclit has been crossed with I. hederifolia (meaning "ivy-leaved" morning glory) to produce I. x multifida, whose leaves, indeed, have both the perimeter filiments of I. quamoclit and the ivy-leaf center of I. hederifolia.  Fortunately, the red flowers are the same.  

Availability

Seeds: On-line.  Young plants: At retailers.

Propagation

By seed.  

Native habitat

Ipomoea quamoclit is native to the tropical New World, both North and South America.

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required