Annuals for the Fall Garden: Morning Glory and Mexican Sunflower

morning, glory by Aunt Owwee

Two other plants that I love in my fall garden are annuals. I planted the seeds directly into the ground outdoors, so they got a slow and late start. But they are finally taking off.

One is the morning glory. I planted a few seeds on either sides of my arbor hoping that they would cover it. I planted a few seeds near a tree that I wanted them to climb. And I planted a few seeds near a sign on my sidewalk that says, No Parking on This Side of the Street. The township was unhappy that the morning glory vine might obstruct their sign, so they tore half the vine off. But it didn’t matter. The morning glory vine climbed back up. But now I check the vine every morning to remove any tendrils that want to cover the face of the sign. And the vine is starting to bloom.

The morning glory seeds planted near the sweet gum tree that I wanted to climb had a mind of its own and refused to climb the tree. But no matter. The mound of morning glory vine in front of the tree is producing lots of morning glory flowers. But the pièce de résistance is the arbor. The vine has grown over the arbor in such a lush covering that with its heart shaped leaves and stray tendrils swirling around, it is a sight to behold even without flowers. But when the flowers open it is truly a sight to behold. The flowers seem to be opening slowly but there are tons of buds. Here’s hoping for a late frost.

The young man who helps me rake and mow the lawn is from Guatemala.  I know only a few Spanish words, mostly picked up from cowboy movies I saw when I was a child. He can speak a little English. So it is a bit difficult to carry on in-depth conversations. But as I understood him, he said that morning glories are a weed in Guatemala, a weed in every color including the heavenly blue that I love. Guatemala must be a flower lovers paradise to have such weeds. We here have a wild morning glory. It has a blue flower that I think is pretty though smaller than the hybrids that I plant. The wild morning glory is considered a weed here and many of my friends pull it out of their gardens. I don’t. “One man’s weed is another man’s flower.”

Someone told me that his mother tried to grow morning glories but had no success. The way to start the seed is to scrape or nick the outer part of the seed and then let it sit in some water for a few hours or overnight before planting outdoors. See here. Because they take so long to germinate, or start growing, next year I plan on starting the seeds indoors to get a jump start on their growing so that they will start blooming earlier.  See here.

Mexican sunflower / Girasol mexicano by SamwiseGamgee69

The other annual that I love is Tithonia or Mexican sunflower. Because this fantastically brilliant orange flower is from Mexico it must be grown in full sun. But tithonia will grow in average soil with good drainage. It is one of the most heat- and drought-resistant plants, growing reasonably well in soils of low fertility. And even with all the rain that we got this summer, the tithonia did not seem to have any problem growing and having a spectacular display of flowers. I don’t understand why a flower from Mexico that must get heat is happy to be blooming in a fall garden. But mine is not to question why- just to enjoy the flowers.

You should start this plant indoors or if you do as I did and planted them directly in the ground, plant Tithonia in the garden after all danger of frost has passed. The directions tell you to space the plants 21/2 to 3 feet apart. I did not and they seem happy. Nor did I protect my plants from the high winds of this year’s hurricane but since the plants can grow as high as 8 feet tall, you should stake them — this is particularly important in late summer and fall when they are at their tallest and top-heavy.  See here.

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