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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cardinal climber

Ipomoea quamoclit is the formal name for the vine known as Cardinal Climber or the Cypress vine. It is also known as the Hummingbird vine because it is a particular favorite for those swift flying little birds. The long tubular flowers lend themselves for sticking their long, thin beaks in to sip the nectar.

As the botanical name implies it is a relation of the Morning Glory, Ipomoea nil and is just as vigorous a climber. It has a far less substantial quality than its cousin and other vines. By that I mean it should not be used as the Moonflower or other large-leafed vines to block an unsightly view or to provide shading under an arbor. The fine, lacy leaves of the Cardinal Climber won’t do the job. But it is a very nice plant to grow singly on a lamppost or in a hanging basket where its delicate twining habit can be seen to its advantage.

The seedlings require constant moisture and like the Morning Glory need coaxing to germinate readily. Placing the seeds to soak overnight before planting will insure more rapid and even germination. Plant them in place because they don’t like transplanting. If you insist on growing them in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill use peat pots or make your own bio-degrade-able planting pot using newspaper . That way you can plant the entire thing without disturbing the roots of the fussy little seedlings.

A summer annual in colder regions, some varieties of the Cardinal Climber have become naturalized in warmer places like the tropics making them seem almost like perennials. Cardinal Climber can grow just about anywhere though it requires full sun to bloom well and to grow it its full potential. It can easily reach to a height of 20 feet if provided with adequate support. It will grow horizontally along a fence quite easily.

The flowers of the Cardinal Vine are small, no bigger than one and a half inches long. The tubes flare out into a trumpet shape to form a very pretty five point star. They are mostly red in color but have been known to come in white and pink though rarely. The leaves are very different from the large, heart-shaped leaves of the Morning Glory. These leaves are finely divided, almost fern-like and feathery looking. They give the vine an airy, delicate feel. Leaves are two and a half to four inches long and look similar to those of the Cypress plant hence its other common name.

Seeds for the Cardinal vine are at times available at good quality garden centers though your best bet would be through mail order catalogues such as Seymore Select Seeds, a great place for many exotic, hard-to-find annual and perennial seeds. I suggest you try the pretty little Cardinal Vine especially if you have a liking for Hummingbirds.

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