Moonflowers, also known as Ipomoea alba, bloom during the night, hence their name. They are a type of morning glory flower, and are perennials. Moonflowers are pink or white (with sweet fragrances) and have winding vines. Moonflowers open rapidly in the night, staying that way until being hit by the morning sunlight hours later.
The flowers generally are 4 to 6 inches in length. Moonflowers usually grow to a height of approximately 15 feet. The leaves are either three-lobed or whole, and are usually dark green. They are often shaped like hearts or ovals. The stems are generally between 2 and 8 inches.
Moonflowers originate in both subtropical and tropical areas of the Western Hemisphere, starting in Florida and Mexico and going all the way south to Argentina, in South America.
Moonflowers had an application in ancient times, in Mesoamerican (of Mexico and Central America) culture. Moonflowers were used to transform latex that was derived from both the guayule plant and Castilla elastica trees in order to make rubber balls that could bounce. Moonflowers consisted of sulfur, which was capable of chemically vulcanizing rubber.
Moonflowers are usually grown for ornamental, decorative purposes. In regions that are too cold for thriving during the wintertime, moonflowers can be cultivated as annuals. Because moonflowers are from the tropics, they work best with photoperiods of short summer days. However, they can also be grown in northern regions. When moonflowers are cultivated up north, they often do not bloom until early fall. Moonflowers should be grown in soil that is well-drained and fertile, and kept away from dry and cold winds.
If moonflower seeds are swallowed or ingested, they can be extremely toxic. As a result, it is advised that you keep small children and pets away from the seeds at all times.
Some problems that could occur with moonflowers include rust, white blistering, stem rot, fungal leaf spots, wilt and charcoal rot.
In addition to moonflower and Ipomoea alba, these tropical perennials are also occasionally called moon vines or belle-de-nuit (which is French for "beauty of the night" due to the flower's night-blooming nature).