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Plant Profile: Cardinal Vine (Ipomoea multifida)

cardinal-vineIf you like dainty red flowers on a lacy, fern-like vine, you will love cardinal vine. But watch out; if you plant it in a spot that it likes you may be swept up in its lush growth and loose contact with the outside world until frost. The 2” tubular red flowers are attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, as well as to people, so the vine is an asset as the center of fauna activity in a wildlife garden. Like its relative, the morning glory, the flowers open in the morning and close at night, a feature quite interesting to children. My cardinal vine is part of an area especially planted to attract birds all year round and grows over a witch hazel tree behind sunflowers, black eyed Susans, cone flowers and a variety of grasses. The vine is a vigorous grower if given decent conditions, and climbs up to 20’. Because it is lacey and delicate it does not hurt most structures, shrubs or trees that it may use for support. It is easy to grow from seed but seeds should be soaked for 24 hours before planting. Once established, it needs little care and tends to reseed so you will not have to buy new plants in future years. Be patient, however, seedlings emerge from the soil late; early June in my zone 7 garden in central North Carolina.

Type: Annual vine.

Bloom: Tubular, red, 2” flower with white or yellow eye; mid summer to frost.

Size: To 20’.

Light: Full sun for best potential; afternoon shade OK in South.

Soil: Average well drained soil.

Fertilizer: Apply a general purpose fertilizer in spring. Avoid over fertilizing or you will have lush foliage at the expense of flowers.

Hardiness: Zones 3-10.

Care: Water during periods of drought.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance.

Propagation: Self seed readily; seedlings emerge in late spring. Easily started from purchased or collected seed, but soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting.

Companion plants: Cardinal Vine is best appreciated as a specimen vine.

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