Growing Moonflowers

moonflower closeup

Add some night interest to your yard with one of the many varieties of night blooming flowers that are called moonflower or moonflower vine. Botanical names include ipomoea, datura and cereus, among others. This is a guide about growing moonflowers.


Solutions: Growing Moonflowers

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Tip: Toxicity of the Moonflower Vine (Ipomoea Alba)

closeup of flower

The moonflower vine (which will be considered Ipomoea alba throughout this post) is a beautiful plant; a bit mysterious, too. I have read numerous internet accounts of this vine. The most consistent fact in these accounts is the inconsistency in their 'facts'. Even the origin of the moonflower vine is in question. Though it has been introduced to many temperate regions of the world, such as India, where it is highly prized; we can assume by the nature of the plant, its origin is tropical, most likely, the New World tropics.

Note: Earlier, the moonflower vine was classified as Calonyction aculeatum, and is still sold by some seedsmen under this name. However, according to Wikipedia, it has been "properly reassigned" to the genus Ipomoea Quamoclit. Oddly enough, Wikipedia also lists the cardinal vine, aka, the cypress vine, as Ipomoea quamoclit. Until the taxonomists come to terms with the name of the moonflower vine, I will refer to it as, the widely accepted and probably more correct, Ipomoea alba.

Having read so many articles on this vine, I can only assume most are simply copied versions of articles found elsewhere on the net. Incorrect information is re written as fact and passed along, yet again. For example, most of these numerous articles cite the moonflower vine as being toxic or poisonous.

For the sake of brevity, I will not list the four web pages I found citing the moonflower vine as edible, and extractions from same used internally to treat certain disorders. I will, in the interest of those who would like to grow this vine, but hesitate due to fear of safety in doing so, present two facts attesting to the innocuous nature of this plant.

Some of you will remember my little friend, Robbie, the orphaned rabbit. In a post I made earlier, I said Robbie was an 'anyvore', because he would eat anything. Indeed, I mentioned he had been eating the leaves of my moonflower vine. At least two months later, he was still alive and appeared quite healthy.

When the vines began to bloom, I remembered witnessing Robbie eating the leaves. Being confident there was no harm, I selected the largest bloom. I ate the whole bloom. I suffered absolutely no ill effects. Two months later, I am alive and quite well for my age.

What with the four accounts from reputable sources, citing the edibility of this vine, even the young seed, and with my own personal ingestion of it's flower, and with Robbie relishing it's leaves, I think no matter how many articles you read citing it's toxicity, you can grow this beautiful vine without fear or worry. Just be sure you are growing moonflower vine, Ipomoea alba, and not some of the other plants commonly termed 'moonflower', which indeed, are poisonous.

As to the misinformation contained in most articles on this plant, the words of an old friend come to mind: 'Doug, don't you know a piece of paper will lay there and let you write anything on it?'.

    By likekinds [107]

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    Tip: Starting Moonflower Vine Seed

    Starting Moonflower Vine Seed

    Last Fall, I collected seed from the dried seed pods on the vine pictured here. I brought the seed inside and put them in a saucer to dry for three days.

    Then I put the seed in a small plastic container. I put a piece of match book cover in the container to absorb any extra moisture. I put the lid on the container and stored the seed in a kitchen cabinet at room temperature through the Winter.

    This Spring (Apr 29), I planted the seed indoors. I did no soaking nor nicking. The soil was kept evenly moist and at around 70 degrees.

    Within 6 days, I had one seed to emerge from the soil. I checked other cells and found more seed had germinated but not emerged.

    I admit the germ time here is a bit faster than usual, but it does dispell the theory that Moonflower Vine seed should necessarily be soaked or knicked before planting; and by no means should they be given a cold treatment.

      Starting Moonflower Vine SeedStarting Moonflower Vine Seed

      By likekinds [104]

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      Here are questions related to Growing Moonflowers.

      Question: Are Moonflowers Toxic to Animals?

      We live next door to a llama/alpaca farm. Is it safe to plant these along their fence line?

      By Pam M.


      Best Answer

      By Abigail A. [11]04/20/2015

      Moonflowers are extremely toxic to all animals. Do not plant them. I would suggest this website for some pretty and unusual flower seeds.
      Contact them with any questions regarding the flowers' toxicity and benefits to butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals. Also, whether or not the flowers would work well in your geographic location. I've found them to be a great resource.

      Question: How To Sprout Moonflower Seeds

      I received dried moonflower seeds from a plant in Dallas. I put some in pots with potting soil and planted some directly in the ground without nicking and soaking. It's been about 2 weeks now and none have sprouted. I have done an online search and everyone says to nick the seeds. These seeds are so tiny it's about impossible to nick them. I now have a few that have been soaking for about three days and they don't look any different from the day I starting soaking them. Are the seeds in the packets that you buy any bigger? I'm in zone 7, west Texas. What am I doing wrong?

      By Betty


      Most Recent Answer

      By likekinds [104]04/04/2013


      Depending on the weather and other factors, it may be normal that your seed haven't come up yet. I'd give them one more week.

      When you were doing your research online, did you happen to view any pictures of the seed? The seeds are not tiny. They are as large as a good size English pea. You should have no trouble nicking them. I never soak or nick mine. It really isn't necessary. All it does is speed up the germination time by a day or two.

      Below is a picture of a Moonflower Vine seed.

      RE: How To Sprout Moonflower Seeds

      Question: Germinating Moonflower Seeds

      Last year I grew moonflowers, and late in the fall I harvested a couple of dozen seeds from the purple-ish pods. I kept them in a cool dry place all winter.

      After reading online, I took a dozen or so and soaked them in water overnight, then planted them about 1/2 inch deep in seed starting soil mix in jiffy pots. It's been about 3 weeks and none of them have germinated.

      I put the rest in the fridge so they'd have a brief cold season. I then separated them into three groups of four: 1) soaked in water, put in soil, then placed on a seed-starting heat pad; 2) soaked in water in the fridge for two days, then put in soil and on the heating mat, and 3) placed the seeds in soil-filled jiffy pots, then placed in the fridge for another 24 hours. These were not put on the heating pad.

      It's now been a week, and I have yet to see any sign of germination. It seems I tried everything (except for nicking the seeds) and had no luck. Any idea what I did wrong? Is it possible to dig up the seeds, nick them, and put them back in the pots? Or is it possible that somehow these seeds were not viable?

      By Jimbeaux

      Most Recent Answer

      By likekinds [104]03/29/2013

      I can appreciate that you did several trials. Much has been learned by doing this. However in this case, It didn't seem to help.

      I have never refrigerated seed. I have frozen some seed if I knew a cold treatment was required for germination. When a cold treatment is required, it is usually for seed whose natural growing region has quite cold winters.

      With that in mind, remember that the moonflower vine is native to the more tropical regions, Northern Argentina and Mexico, etc. I doubt it's seed would need a cold treatment. Your seed may not be viable and the cold treatment may be the reason.

      I consulted J L Hudson, one of the most reputable seedsman in this country. If a particular seed needs a cold treatment, he will be sure to advise you of accordingly. He does not mention a cold treatment for The Moonflower Vine (Calonyction aculeatum (=Ipomoea alba) in his catalogue. Also, he has stated that he stores all his seed in glass jars at room tempreature.

      If I were you, I would just chalk all this up to experience and start all over with fresh seed. Hudson has them for $2.00 plus the cheapest shipping you'll find anywhere. I bought my last pack at Wal Mart for about the same price.

      Here is an excerpt from Hudson's catalogue....and good luck!

      Calonyction (kal-o-NIK-tee-on)
      Convolvulaceae. Large twining half hardy perennials grown as annuals for their large and showy, fragrant, trumpet-shaped, night-blooming flowers. They are beautiful free-flowering vines, their night-scented blooms make them excellent for covering trellis work by summer porches and bedroom windows. Nick seed or soak overnight in warm water till swollen. Germinates in about 2 weeks. Sow early and plant out in May. Easy.
      Calonyction aculeatum (=Ipomoea alba).

      You can see a picture of Moonflower vine I started indoors, here.


      Question: Moonflower Seeds


      My moonflowers have bloomed now, I am wondering when will I start too see the seeds from them. I just want too get them before it freezes here.

      Hardiness Zone: 5a

      Joyce from Janesville, WI



      Moonflower seeds pods are easy to identify. As the flowers fade you will see large purplish-colored pods. Some gardeners like the looks of them and leave them attached to the vines, while other cut them off. To save moonflower seeds, collect the pods once they turn brown and start to crack open. If you're worried about frost before the pods dry out completely, remove them and finish drying them inside. Inside the pods will be hard, cream-colored seeds. These seeds sometimes take a while to dry, so you may want to store them over winter in paper bags to ensure they get some air circulation. In the spring, nick the seeds slightly and soak them overnight in warm water. This will help speed up the germination process before you plant them. Start the seeds indoors for transplanting or sow them directly into the ground once danger of frost is well past.


      By Ellen Brown

      Most Recent Answer

      By Brenda Cline (Guest Post)01/12/2007

      Moon Flower seeds - Shouldn't be a problem collecting seeds as every flower makes a seed pod. So they are there all season. Plus remember that these seeds [toxin] famous for its mind altering properties. I have grown them, they smell wonderful. I always wash my hands when I have handled the plant.

      Question: How Long Do Moonflower Seeds Take to Germinate?

      I planted moonflower seeds, how long do they take for germination?

      Hardiness Zone: 7a

      By Marie from Murfreesboro, TN

      Most Recent Answer

      By Marie Huskins [4]05/07/2010

      Ok that is what I did , put them right in the ground, I will keep checking them, thanks for the info, I got my seeds at Walmart.

      Question: Growing a Moon Flower Vine

      Can someone tell me where I can locate seeds or the plant in Northeast Dallas area?

      By Barbi S

      Most Recent Answer

      By DCA [4]03/13/2015

      You can call the nurseries in your area for plants and possibly seeds. Also, you can order them online from seed suppliers like Burpee-their site:

      http://www.burpee.com/Flowers/Moonf ... tml?gclid=CKbvvKvmpMQCFVKFfgodynoA_A

      Question: Cutting Back a Moon Flower Bloom

      If you cut back the moon flower bloom to the pot will it grow again in the spring?

      By Albert R


      Below are photos related to this guide.

      Moonflower Vine In Trees

      moonflower vine growing up a treeMoonflower Vine In Trees

      Photo Description
      I was thinking an alternative title for this piece might be: Can You Bottle This Stuff?
      The scent of the moonflower vine bloom would probably be categorized as 'heady'. I believe it's essence would make an interesting perfume. It would have to be 'cleaned up' a bit, though. It is nice and heady, but muddled.

      Heady, muddled, sweet, stankin', whatever my neighbors might think of the scent, they're going to get a hefty whiff of the stuff every evening from a couple weeks from now, til frost. People, I have planted moonflower vines everywhere. Maybe I overdid it? Anyway, in a few weeks, I should have fifty to a hundred moonflower vine blooms open at one time on any given evening.

      I plan to post pictures when the display is at it's peak. The pictures will probably be taken just after sunrise, as the blooms close early morning.

      Photo Location

      Moonflower Vine In TreesMoonflower Vine In Trees

      By likekinds [104]

      My Blooming Moon Flowers

      I planted these last year and they came back. I love them! I wish I would have planted them in my angel garden; I may do that in the fall.

      They're show off flowers for sure :) with huge blooms. It is a shame each blooms for one evening, yet there are always more blooms. At the moment I have 14 buds. I can't wait for every evening to see new blooms. View from the front, down the throat of flower.

      They hold up even with all the heat we're having this summer. I consider them a keeper in my gardens and when the full moon shines on them they are breath taking!

      I took these just before dark last night. I hope you'll enjoy seeing my moon flowers and maybe even plant one for your garden. :) Several flowers blooming.

      By Jackie from Salisbury, MD

      Side view of flower.

      Moonflower vs Moonflower Vine

      Some time back, I posted a short article on how confusing some common flower names can be. The editors titled the article 'Avoiding Confusion with Common Flower Names'. My point was, sometimes one flower may have several common names and if this is the case, using the botanical name would rule out confusion. Here is an excerpt from that article:

      "There are probably ten different flowers for which people use the common name 'Angel Trumpet', including 'Datura', 'Brugmansia' and several lilies including 'Crinum'. When they say 'Angel' or 'Devil Trumpet', I never know which flower they mean. In this case, I think it's best to call Datura by it's botanical name, Datura".

      A lot of times, using the botanical name rules out any confusion. I think it's at these times, you should learn and use the botanical name, particularly if it's easy to pronounce.

      Well, it seems my tip was a good one, after all. Some time after I posted my tip, ThriftyFun posted a guide titled 'Growing Moonflowers'. The article was accompanied by a picture of a white flower. That white flower has the botanical name 'Datura stramonium'. It is probably the most common variety of Datura, as there are many.


      This description of the article was placed along side the picture:

      'Add some night interest and a lovely fragrance to your garden with the beautiful moonflower which opens just before dusk. This is a guide about growing moonflowers'.

      (I hope to make several corrections about flower names, here. My first is: The pictured flower 'Datura stramonium' does not have a "lovely fragrance". The slight scent it does have is rather unpleasant. The flower does not open just at dusk. It may open anytime, day or night).

      A purple and white datura blossom

      The Datura has several common names. It is often called 'Angel Trumpet' or Devil's Trumpet'. Other common names are 'Jimson Weed' and 'Loco Weed'. It was only after rereading this article and researching that I discovered the Datura has yet another common name, that being 'Moonflower'.

      When this article was composed, it had included in it, an article I had previously posted, titled 'Starting Moonflower Vine Seed'. A question posed was 'Are Moonflowers Toxic to Animals'? 'Best Answer': Moonflowers are extremely toxic to all animals.

      I found a very short video on YouTube about 'getting high' with Moonflower seed. The opening and closing pictures were of Moonflower vine seed. All pictures in between were of the seed or seed pod of Moonflower (Datura).

      (If you are thoroughly confused by now, you are not alone. So was the author of that video and the editors at ThriftyFun (Bless their hearts), as well as a lot of other people who write articles about these two plants).

      My second correction is actually a set of corrections:

      A white datura blossom

      Datura, also called Angel Trumpet, Devil's Trumpet, Jimson Weed, and Moonflower does not open just at dusk. It has an unpleasant scent. Though not usually considered deadly, it is poisonous and contains hallucinogenic properties. Cattle have been known to 'go crazy' after ingesting Datura. That's how it came by another common name, Loco Weed.

      On the other hand, Ipomoea alba, the Moonflower Vine also commonly called Angel Trumpet, Devil's Trumpet, etc. does open late evening. It's perfume is so pleasant, it is often planted by doorways. It is in fact related to the sweet potato and morning glory. The young leaves and the seed are eaten and prepared in several ways.

      Ipomoea alba

      I think a lot of the confusion arose when Datura was given the common name, Moonflower.

      In conclusion:

      • Datura (Moonflower) is not a vine. It is poisonous.

      • Ipomoea alba (Moonflower vine) is a vine. It is not poisonous.

      So why would anyone call both these flowers by one common name, mainly Angel Trumpet? Not only is it confusing, it could be dangerous if you ate one of them.

      If you grow either of these two flowers, or two others also commonly called 'Angel Trumpet', the pictures below may be of help. I still say "Sometimes, it's better to call a flower by it's botanical name, especially if that name is easy to pronounce". So, Datura is 'Datura", and Ipomoea alba is Moonflower vine.

      I have also included links to pronunciation of the words Brugmansia, Crinum, and Datura. Say 'Brugmansia' ten times and you will own that word for life.

      Pink crinum flowers.

      HowJSay: Crinum

      HowJSay: Datura

      HowJSay: Brugmansia

      White brugmansia flower. Brugmansia flowers.

      Editor's Note: We have corrected our "Growing Moonflowers" guide to reflect all the different names that are used to describe moonflowers. Night blooming cereus (hylocereus) is also commonly referred to as moonflower.

      By likekinds [104]

      Moonflower Vine Bloom

      Moonflower Vine Bloom

      Photo Description
      Some time back, I submitted my views on how it was usually not necessary to soak or nick Moonflower Vine seed prior to planting. I added that I had a seed to germinate in six days without either.

      The picture shows the vine and it's bloom that resulted from that particular seed. I plan to harvest all the seed from this vine. I will plant then in the Spring. I am hoping that from all those seed, I will get at least one that will germinate in five days without nicking or soaking.

      Photo Location
      My front porch in NC

      By likekinds [104]