CUTTINGS

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The Independent Online
Pat Roberts writes from Tring, Hertfordshire, with a problem about morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor): "The ones I have planted this year germinated beautifully, but subsequently only made thin, straggly growth. I have them all in sunny positions - some against a hot, dry wall facing due south. Others are in a border growing up a willow wigwam together with purple-podded peas (for eating). They are also in full sun. The ones in the border are doing very slightly better than the ones against the wall but, even so, I fear my original fantasy of the two intertwined will not be realised as the peas will have been devoured before the morning glories flower. But I love the flowers and would like to be able to succeed."

The problem with morning glories is not getting them to germinate, but persuading them to hang on to life once they have done so. The usual advice is to soak the seed before you sow it. I don't usually bother and find that, sown one to a 3in pot, they come up pretty easily.

But, being natives of subtropical regions of central America, they hate cold and draughts. Hardening them off gently and gradually is the key, before introducing themto their planting positions outside. This is easier to do if you don't sow too early. Once they start to grow, they grow quickly. You can grow them permanently in pots, but you will need to move them on from the 3in pots to ones twice the size.

Being subtropical by nature, morning glories like it wet as well as hot. This, I suspect, is why Mrs Roberts' plants are doing slightly better on the wigwam than they are on the wall. The footings of walls are notoriously dry places.

Any dramatic drop in temperature, any chill wind, will make the foliage go white and then growth stops completely. This year has not been an ideal one for heat-lovers such as morning glory. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway, because mine have failed too.

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