Hummingbird migration season is upon us. Because of this, we have so many ruby throated and black chinned hummers in our yard that my wife is filling our two feeders everyday. While the hummers seem to appreciate the sugar syrup that she makes for them, they always head first to the only thing that is still really blooming in my garden; cypress vine.
Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) is a member of the morning glory family and as such grows very well in our hot Texas summers. It is a tropical plant that is native to Mexico and Central America. It is a lovely vining plant that can grow 20 feet or more in a single season. Cypress Vine has loose, feathery foliage that is covered with hundreds of tiny, tubular flowers. The star shaped flowers can range in color from deep red to almost white and they are irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds. Other common names for this plant include Hummingbird Flower, Star Glory, and Cardinal Plant.
Cypress vine is very easy to grow. Start seeds when the soil has warmed up to around 70 degrees. It prefers full sun but can tolerate light shade. Cypress Vine likes to be kept in moist, rich, well drained soils but it will grow in just about any type of soil and will tolerate some dry periods. Cypress Vine is a quick grower and can produce blooms in as little as 45 days. You can fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer right before the first bloom to enhance its flowering. Cypress vine readily reseeds itself so once established you will be able to enjoy this plant year after year.
Because of its vining habit, Cypress Vine needs support. I planted mine against the western fence of my potager. This fence has an arbor over the gate and I wanted it to spread over both of these structures. All of the growth you see in these pictures came from two vines.
Unmanaged, Cypress vine will grow in and over anything that is in its way. Since mine is on a fence, I trained it to grow up and out toward the arbor. This kept most of the runners in check. Some runners did grow down into my daylilies but I simply pulled them off. The plant did not seem to mind one bit. Cypress vine is also an aggressive self seeding annual. All of those lovely flowers produce tons of little black seeds. So, if you plant Cypress Vine, be prepared to have lots of it in years two and three.
Cypress Vine is a very lovely and very hearty plant that thrives in our climate. It is easy to grow and looks great on a fence, trellis or arbor. This self seeding annual is relatively disease and pest free and will provide you with a flush of blooms from May through late fall. If you can tolerate its aggressive growth habit it will reward you with a beautiful late summer garden full of butterflies and hummingbirds.
*This article was published in the September issue of “Hort Update” (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/2010/sep/)