September 12, 2013


Confusion reigns between the closely related species commonly sold as Cardinal Creeper, Cardinal Climber, Cypress Vine and Cardinal Vine, but here, Ipomoea sloteri, ( yes, even I got it wrong until a reader pointed it out!) Ipomoea quamoqlit, blooms regardless of the name. The key in identifying this species? The pentagon shaped flowers and the ferny, thread-like foliage.

Annual vines are the stars of of the September Garden, be they the common Morning Glories (Ipomoea and Convolvulus species including plants such as those omnipresent Sweet Potato Vines), the Nasturtium selections and lesser-grown species such as Cardinal Vine or yellow Canary Creeper, or even the more unusual, lesser known Nasturtium relatives such as the collectible truly twining Tropaeolum species like T. smithii. All of these plants share a trait - of these quick-growing vines will, at first, seem rather slow growing, and may appear unexciting until late summer when they really take off. This habit, often seen displayed in truly annual vines, should be one of the primary reasons for growing them - for late summer is precisely the time when one needs to see lush growth on an annual, and bright, cheerful colors more commonly seen in spring or early summer annuals. These vines have large seeds, they are terrific for children to plant and grow as their first foray into the gardening worlds, as they are so rewarding - seemingly growing many inches each day, often completely covering the structure on which they are grown in late summer, just as the sunflowers are blossoming, and the pumpkins are ripening.

Canary Creeper, an annual vine, and a relative of the common garden annual nasturtium, comes
from Peru and Ecuador. It's not as common in gardens as we may think, but worth trying
as the seeds are offered by most seed catalogs - the problem is that few people bother trying it.

The structure one uses is where many gardeners become creative, for one doesn't need a trellis for these twining vines, most anything will work. In the wild, all of these species grow up and over small, branchy shrubs - often tumbling up and over a shrub - after all, they are vines, and that's how vines grow. But we can take advantage of this habit - by allowing these aggressive growers to cover creative objects - this year I planted Canary Creeper in our lost parrot's large cage, since we didn't have a use for it. I placed a large pot inside the cage, which was already on the deck ( sadly, awaiting Kojo's return from his vacation in Rio), and after a slow start, the vines have completely covered the cage. Now, in September, the vines are beginning to blossom. Their tiny, fringed bright yellow flowers are transforming the planting into a golden cloud.

Click below to read more:

Tropaeolum peregrinum, the annual Canary Creeper, covers on an old bird cage illuminating the late summer garden.

This fringed Tropaeolum argentinum looks very much like the canary Creeper, but it is a rare relative. It is also seed raised, but from seed I obtained from a collector in the UK. Not something one will ever find in a commercial catalog.

The fire-red Tropaeolum smithii, (along with a few spider webs!), twines its way through a shrub near the foundation of the greenhouse. I need to look carefully for it seeds seeds, which form in tender, transparent, fleshy sack-like structures, which must be picked fresh, and then allowed to dry in a small plate in the greenhouse.
 If I wait for them to ripen on the vine, they will drop off, never to be found.
I've posted in the past about these rare, and more unusual tropaeolum species, but each year I look for more to collect and grow - for some reason, the genus attracts me.

Japanese Morning Glories, known as Asagao in Japan, are highly collectible in Japan where there are clubs,
many books and mutated forms available. These seeds I brought back from a trip to Tokyo,
show somewhat more common forms, but in Japan, collectors cherish elaborately fringed forms.
A violet Japanese Morning Glory growing in a window box. Typically, these varieties are clipped and trimmed,
not unlike bonsai, and grown in small pots, where there restricted growth forces them to produce larger flowers.


  1. Wow! These are incredible photos. Thanks for sharing this post.

  2. I'm thinking, based on your picture and a post by Margaret Roach (awaytogarden.com/cardinal-climber-and-its-cousins-annual-vines-that-are-hummingbird-favorites), that what you have in that first photo is Ipomoea quamoclit. Star shapes not pentagons, super thready leaves not just v deeply loped.

    Mine took off in late August and The humming birds love it.But today I wonder if I should have built a 12 foot obelisk thing instead of the 8 footer I di. Next year...

  3. Great article Matt. The Cardinal Vine attracts hummingbirds here in middle TN. Your garden variety is truly spectacular.

  4. Wow, thanks john for noticing the difference. I grow both I. quamoclit and I. sloteri, but never thought that they were distinct species ( along with crosses between I. hederifolio ( the Cypress Vine), these plants apparently are all commonly confused - as cardinal creeper, cardinal vine and cypress vine. The difference, as John pointed out in his comment above, is not only the foliage shape, but the blossom size and shape as well. On a packet of annual seeds, one can sometimes barely see the difference. I will say that I prefer the I. quamoclit ( nice name, hugh?) foliage - all ferny and thread like.

    1. No problem, the least I could do considering what I have learned here...

  5. Thanks for your lovely article just when I was on the verge of condemning all vines to be consumed by hell fires . Seriously, I've been battling a grapevine that wants to smother a tree at the back of my property.

  6. All great vines, and great photos, as always. The stars in my September garden are the anemones! A few of the vines you mention would make a nice contrast and addition.


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