Gardeners have a choice in accepting or rejecting the lawmakers in the botanical world: the taxonomists that change our plant names. This easily grown annual climber used to be known as Mina lobata, it was then changed to Quamoclit lobata which took a little getting used to. However, it has now changed again and its newly sanctioned name is now Ipomoea lobata. It is in the morning glory family, but because the flowers don’t look anything like the typical saucer flowers of a morning glory, gardeners have largely rejected the authorities and mostly stayed with the original name of Mina lobata.
Ipomoea lobata is a tender climber from Mexico, the plants are daintier than regular Ipomoea varieties. Although it is most often planted as a quick growing annual plant, it will behave as a perennial in warmer climates. It is commonly called Spanish Flag because the blossoms array themselves along one side of the floral branch like flags blowing in the wind.
In summer racemes of flowers on dark, wiry stems appear, they branch out at a sharp angle from the main stem and contain roughly nine, upward-facing tubular flowers. Its 8cm (3in) long leaves have three prominent lobes and are often purple tinged as they emerge and again in the autumn. The tightly formed upper buds are flame-crimson in colour, but as they enlarge and age they transition to infused shades or orange and cream which brings the flowers to life.
Whatever you choose to call this plant, do not let its exotic appearance put you off trying to grow it. It has a rugged personality and does well in cooler regions, it performs well in shade and will even grow and still flower well against a north-facing wall.
Easy to grow and fast-growing, the plants climb by twining around a support, use it over archways or pergolas or to cover trellises and fences in the garden. It will begin flowering in summer and will continue until the first frost.
The plants seem to tremble, even on the stillest day, and are always full of flower. It will look spectacular for months and is one of the best climbers you can grow.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Ipomoea lobata has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
The secret of growing all plants that come from South America or from Mexico is warmth.
Start plants indoors, 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in your area. Mid-April at the earliest. The young plants are frost tender. Transplant seedling outdoors after the low temperatures exceed 10°C (50°F). Leaving it this late will ensure good germination and growth with temperatures reaching between 22 to 25°C (70 to 75°F).
Place one large seed in individual small pots of seed compost. Water the pots well after sowing and then wait until the seedlings appear. Watering sparingly afterwards.
This will keep the compost warm. Fleece if a frost or cool night is forecast. The seedlings will appear in about two weeks and quickly grow into young plants. These should not be planted outside until the first half of June, after the cool nights of May have long gone.
This climber loves neutral to slightly acidic, nutrient rich, well drained soil in full sun. This vine needs a trellis or other structure on which to grow, or provide stout strings to support the vines. They are wonderful twining through other climbers such as roses and clematis on trellis, fences and arch ways.
Do not overfeed these annuals with nitrogen. Leaf is produced at the expense of flower. Plants grow best in a rich, humus soil that is well-drained. Mix plenty of compost and manure into the planting site. Do not over feed nitrogen rich fertiliser, or you will end up with lots of leaves and vines, but few flowers. If you do feel the need to use fertiliser, begin the season with a high nitrogen formula at the beginning of the season. Switch to a high phosphorous formula prior to the blooming period. The flowers of this fast climber, will bloom all year round, in tropical regions.
The plants will grow happily in a container, where they will last for a long time. It will not survive outside in a northern European garden without a protective environment. With this in mind, if you wish to keep the same plant year after year consider growing it is a large container as it does not like having its roots disturbed by continued lifting and re-potting.
Use this climber over archways or pergolas or to cover trellises and fences in the garden.
Native to Central and South America, Ipomoea lobata is a member of the Morning Glory family, Convolvulaceae.
Ipomoea lobata, previously called Mina lobata was first described and named in 1824 to honour Francisco Xavier Mina, a Spaniard who led a force into Mexico on the side of Mexican independence but was captured and executed in 1817.
Botanically described in 1824, it was introduced into European cultivation in 1841 but soon lost, probably because seeds did not mature in the northern climes. In 1887, it came to the United States, this time due to the efforts of a German seed house. After a short run of popularity, it again disappeared but resurfaced in the late 20th century.
From the very beginning Spanish flag’s affinity to morning glories, Ipomoea, has been recognised and several names have been proposed with consensus finally settling on Ipomoea lobata. But, because the flowers don’t look anything like those of a morning glory, gardeners have largely rejected the authorities and mostly stayed with the original name of Mina lobata.
It is most commonly known as Spanish flag, so named because the blossoms array themselves along one side of the floral branch like flags blowing in the wind. It is also known as Firecracker vine and Exotic love vine.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Family Convolvulaceae Genus Ipomoea Species lobata Common Name Formerly Mina lobata, Quamoclit lobata Other Common Names Firecracker vine, Exotic love vine Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Flowers July to October Natural Flower Time Shades of red, orange and deep yellow shades Foliage Deep green, fern-like foliage Height If supported vines can reach 3m (12ft) Spread To 1.80m (5ft) Soil Well-drained/light, Dry, Sandy Notes Shrubby Climber. Often grown as an Annual