Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
Looking for something really eye-catching in your garden that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds? Consider growing mina lobata, an annual vine with brightly colored flowers that look like exploding fireworks.
What is Mina Lobata?
Mina lobata (Ipomoea lobata) is a vine that is native to Mexico and Brazil. It is related to morning glories, but unlike its morning glory cousins, its flowers stay open all day.
Mina lobata vines are hardy in zones 10 – 11 where they are grown as perennials. The rest of us grow them as annuals.
The vines grow 6 – 10 feet in a single season. The leaves are deeply lobed and shaped like a fleur-de-lis. That is the origin of the “lobata” portion of their name. Lobata means lobed. The leaves grow 2 – 6 inches in length.
Mina lobata is grown for its spectacular flowers. They are not just colorful, but also unique in their shape. The flowers grow on racemes. A raceme is a flower with individual blossoms growing on a central stalk. What makes mina lobata flowers unique is the fact that the individual flowers grow on only one side of the central stalk.
The racemes grow to 6 inches in length with the tubular flowers growing on one side. The flowers open red and then fade to orange, yellow and cream as they mature. Because the flowers open one at a time, they form a gradient on each raceme.
The multicolor gradient contains colors that are found on the flag of Spain, giving the vines their nickname, Spanish Flag. Other gardeners see the flowers as resembling fireworks and call the vines Firecracker Vines.
Bloom time is mid- to late summer through the fall. The vines die at the first frost in the fall.
How to Grow Mina Lobata
Mina lobata vines should be planted in full sun, which means 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you try to grow your vines in partial shade, they will not flower as well.
The vines should be planted 12 inches apart in well-drained soil that ranges from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. You will need to provide something for them to climb on, such as a trellis. Mina lobata can be grown in containers, but need some kind of support to climb on.
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Makes sure that your vines get a minimum of 1 inch of water per week. Fertilize them with a fertilizer formulated for flowering plants when they begin to set buds. This will encourage more blooms. Avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen which encourage foliage rather than flowers.
Mina lobata vines tend to lose their leaves at the bottoms of the vines throughout the growing season. Plant some low growing plants around the base of your vines to hide the leaf loss.
How to Grow Mina Lobata From Seed
Mina lobata seeds have a hard outer coating. You will need to either carefully nick the coating with a sharp knife being careful not to damage the embryo inside or gently sand the coat with fine grit sandpaper or a nail file making the coat thinner.
Soak the nicked or sanded seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting.
The easiest way to grow mina lobata from seed is to direct sow it in your garden. Wait until at least 2 weeks after your last frost and your soil has warmed to plant your treated seeds. Warm soil is key. If you plant tropical seeds in cold soil, they won’t germinate.
In my zone 6 New Jersey garden, the last frost is in April, but I don’t plant any of my tropical seeds and plants until the end of May because the soil has not warmed until then.
Plant your treated seeds ½ inch deep and 12 inches apart. Germination will occur in 5 – 14 days.
Be sure to place your trellis or whatever you want them to climb on before you sow your seeds. If you wait until after your seeds have germinated and your vines have begun to grow, you may damage the delicate new roots when you install the trellis or other support.
You start your mina lobata seeds indoors if you want to get a jump on the season. Treat your seeds and then sow them indoors 6 weeks before your last frost. Plant them ½ inch deep in peat pots or other biodegradable pots. Use a heat mat to keep the soil at 65°F - 70°F. Germination should occur in 5 – 14 days.
You can plant your seedlings outdoors in your garden 2 weeks after your last frost and the soil has warmed. Warm soil is key. Your seedlings won’t grow in cold soil and may even die. You may have to wait longer than 2 weeks after your last frost for the soil to warm.
Place your trellis or other support before you plant your vines. Plant your seedlings with their biodegradable pots so that you don’t disturb the fragile new roots. Space them 12 inches apart.
© 2021 Caren White