Cultivating the Morning Glory Family of Seeds


The seeds of many annuals will germinate (sprout) readily when sown directly in the ground in spring. Other plants have seeds with hard seed coats or dormancies that must be broken before they will grow. Methods of doing so include:

Nicking and Soaking: Large seeds often benefit from soaking in water overnight or until swollen. Some seeds, such as the mescal bean and large woodrose, will refuse to swell unless the seed coat is nicked or scratched first. With a knife, small file, or hacksaw blade, scrape away a small portion of the seedcoat on the side opposite the hilum or germ eye (the small dent where the seed sprouts). The hole should not be big, just large enough for water to enter during soaking.

When soaking any seed, be sure to plant it as soon as it is swollen, as some seeds will drown if left for long in the water.

Stratification: Some seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate. This process involves placing the seed in damp peat moss or sand, and storing at a low temperature until dormancy is broken.

Chemicals: Chemicals are sometimes used for seeds with hard seedcoats that are not affected by stratification or soaking. In nature, these seeds have their coats softened by the digestive juices of birds and animals that eat them. Acids such as vinegar or sulfuric acid, and alkalis like sodium hypochlorite (Clorox) are used. The seeds must be thoroughly washed after treatment.

Scalding Seeds: Other hard-shelled seeds, particularly in the bean family, are best treated with boiling water. To do this, place the seeds in a teacup, and pour boiling water over them. The water is allowed to cool and the seeds are soaked until they swell. This may be repeated with any seed that does not swell after the first time.

Peat Moss: This is a very good medium in which to sprout seeds. Put some milled sphagnum moss (peat moss) in a plastic bag. Add water and knead thoroughly until the moss is uniformly damp. Fill a shallow pan or aluminum pie tin about 1 inch deep with the damp moss. Cover with plastic wrap, or a sheet of glass. Seeds may be started on the surface of the moss or buried in it; with or without bottom heat.

Bottom Heat: This hastens germination of many seeds. To provide bottom heat, take a strong corrugated cardboard box and turn it upside down with a 40-watt light inside. Cut slits or small holes in the bottom to let the heat through to the flats or seed pans. Be sure that the heat will not cook the seedlings, as different seed pans or flats transmit different amounts of heat.

When sowing seeds a general rule is to cover them with soil two or three times their thickness. Very small seeds, like coleus or tobacco, should be just slightly covered or pressed into the surface. Small seeds may also be mixed with sand to insure even distribution.

The soil for all seeds should be light and porous.

Seedlings should be transplanted after the second pair of true leaves opens. Transplanting is preferably done on a cool cloudy day. The transplant should be shaded for several days.


Argyreia nevosa Bojer.;

Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae)

A large perennial climbing vine with heart-shaped leaves up to 1 foot across, backed with silvery hairs. The flowers are 2 to 3 inches long, rose-colored, on 6 inch stalks. Pods dry to a smooth, dark brown, filbert-sized capsule containing one to four furry brown seeds. The capsule is surrounded by a dry calyx divided into five petal-like sections. Native to Asia; naturalized and cultivated in Hawaii.

Cultivation and Propagation: It may be grown outdoors in southern California and Florida. Elsewhere it should be grown in a large pot or tub outdoors in the summer, brought indoors in winter. It may be propagated by cuttings or seeds, and in the spring by division. The seed may be sprouted by making a small nick in the seedcoat away from the germ eye. Soak the seed until it swells. Plant 0.5 inch deep in loose rich soil. Do not use bottom heat. After the cotyledons appear, water sparingly, letting the soil surface dry out to a depth of 0.5 inch. Over-watering causes stem and root rot. The plant grows slowly until it develops a half-dozen leaves; after this it grows quickly. In its first year this plant grows into a small bush 1 to 2 feet tall. During this time it may be grown in a large pot and kept indoors in winter. The next spring it will grow into a very large vine and should produce flowers and seeds. In this second year it should be planted out, or grown in a tub. In cold-winter areas the roots should be lifted and stored or the tub kept in a cool place until spring.

The methods of increasing the alkaloid content of morning glories (see “Morning Glory”) may be applied to this vine.

Harvesting: The seed pods should be harvested when thoroughly dry. They should be stored in a cool, dry place. Their potency may begin to decrease after 6 to 9 months.

Additional information about Argyreia nervosa may be found here.


Merremia tuberosa;

Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae)

A slender perennial vine with leaves divided into five to seven narrow lobes. The flowers are yellow, followed by a smooth round capsule, surrounded by five petal-like sepals. Native to Asia; naturalized and cultivated in Hawaii.

Cultivation and Propagation: The large woodrose may be grown outdoors in southern California and the South. The seed of the large woodrose must be nicked well before it will grow. Cut a nick in the seedcoat with a hacksaw, or cut the small end of the seed off. Soak for 24 hours or until it swells. Then place the seed in a bowl or cup of damp peat moss, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it over the pilot light of your stove, or anywhere that maintains a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Ordinary bottom heat usually isn’t warm enough. Check every few days until it sprouts in 3 to 10 days. Once sprouted, plant in a 3- to 4 inch pot if grown indoors, or start seed in May if to be grown outdoors. Place the pot in a large sunny window and give the vine something to twine around. I have seen these vines grow 1 foot or more per week. It is very easy to grow after sprouting. It can take little or much watering and much abuse. The vine will flower the second and subsequent years.

Harvesting: The pods may be harvested when they are thoroughly dry. Its storage properties are the same as those of the baby woodrose.

Additional information about Merremia tuberosa may be found here.


Ipomoea sp.;

Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae)

This species is often called I. violacea, but it is my contention that it is properly I. tricolor. It is a perennial twining vine, growing from 10 to 20 feet high, with heart-shaped leaves to 5 inches long. The flowers are funnel-shaped, purplish blue with a white tube. Native to tropical America. Psychoactive varieties are Heavenly Blue, Pearly Gates, Flying Saucers, Wedding Bells, Blue Star, and Summer Skies.

Cultivation and Propagation: Although this species is a perennial it is usually cultivated as an annual in this country. Morning glories thrive in a strong, well-drained soil in a sunny site with plenty of water, but they will do well almost anywhere. The seeds have a hard seedcoat and should be nicked or soaked two hours in warm water before sowing. If the seeds are nicked and soaked, the vines will generally flower 6 weeks after sowing. The seeds should be planted 0.25 to 0.5 inch deep and not less than 6 inches apart. This species tends to run to vine unless the roots are cramped. This may be done by standing the vines in pots and allowing them to become slightly potbound before setting them out. Although morning glories like a lot of water, if the roots are kept damp constantly, the vines will produce few flowers and they will set very little seed. Various methods have been devised to increase the alkaloid content of the seeds by altering the soil chemistry and using hormones. An interesting account of these methods is found in the book Home Grown Highs by Mary Jane Superweed.

Harvesting: The seeds may be gathered as the pods become brown and dry. Immature seeds are more bitter than ripe ones. It has been reported that immature seeds contain more alkaloids, but this has not been confirmed. There are approximately 850 seeds per ounce of the Heavenly Blue variety. The stem and leaves contain some alkaloid. However, because they contain purgative principles, this part of the plant is used only in extraction. If used, pick fresh and dry quickly without heat.

Note: Some suppliers coat their seeds with toxins either as a fungicide or to discourage their use as hallucinogens. The symptoms of ingesting treated seeds are vomiting and diarrhea. Some people experience nausea from ingesting untreated seeds and fear they have taken treated seeds. However, if the company has treated their seeds, they must say so on the package. To test your susceptibility to nausea, chew 50 to 100 seeds or less the first time.

Additional information about Ipomoea may be found here.