The Ground Morning Glory is a charming but rugged plant

Convolvulus sabatius. Picture courtesy Plant Right on flickrConvolvulus sabatius. Picture courtesy Plant Right on flickrThe gorgeous, non-invasive, and water-wise ground morning glory can be grown with ease in most regions of South Africa. It is suitable for cool, temperate, as well as subtropical and coastal gardens. Read more about caring for and using this beautiful groundcover below. 

Mention the name morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) in South Africa, and the first thing that springs to mind is one of the greatest horrors for gardeners, as this twining plant with its beautiful purple flowers can climb up vertically and spread horizontally with great vigour, covering everything in sight, and is so destructive to our native plants that it has been listed as an invasive plant here for a long time.

Click here to see images of Ipomoea purpurea 

Gardeners will be glad to know that the ground morning glory is not at all invasive, even though it belongs to the same family (Convolvulaceae) as the invasive Ipomea purpurea, and even in countries like Australia, that is very strict about invasive plants, the ground morning glory remains a very popular groundcover, as it thrives in the harsh climate there, which is similar to South Africa’s in many ways.

The ground morning glory does not wander or set seed, rather, this scrambling evergreen perennial stays in one place, flooding the ground around it with pools of delicately creased lilac-blue flowers that almost smother the lovely grey-green leaves that are soft to the touch. The flowers are approximately 3cm in diameter, and the plants bloom for a very long time from spring, all through summer and into autumn, and in warmer frost free regions blooming can be all year round.  The flowers close in the evening and when they’re over they roll themselves up into tight little twists before dropping. The flowers attract butterflies, moths, bees and other insects.

This groundcover has a dense and compact form, and each year the clump will grow stronger and bigger, starting off at around 10 to 15cm tall, with a greater spread, and maturing after about two years to a height of about 20cm and a spread of approximately 50 to 60cm or more, depending on climate and rainfall.

Click here to see Google images if the ground morning glory.

Convolvulus sabatius blooming in front of Pittosporum tobira Picture courtesy Leonora (Ellie) Enking see her flickr pageConvolvulus sabatius blooming in front of Pittosporum tobira Picture courtesy Leonora (Ellie) Enking see her flickr pageGround morning glory is native to Algeria and Morocco, in north western Africa, but also has populations in Spain and Italy. It is commonly found growing on calcareous rocks in full sun along the coastline, up to about 300m in elevation.

It was long known as Convolvulus mauritanicus, which was described from North Africa, but is now considered to be a synonym, and is commonly called: “Ground Morning Glory”, “Blue Rock Bindweed”, “African Bindweed”, or “Mauritian Bindweed”.

It has been introduced into many countries, including: Great Britain, Greece, New Zealand, Sicilia, and Western Australia. Both Convolvulus sabatius, and Convolvulus cneorum with its lovely white flowers, were winners of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993, and they have been grown in Britain since 1984.

In the Garden:

The ground morning glory is one of the most versatile and hard-working plants around. It is non-invasive and easy to grow for low maintenance areas, and because it is water-wise, is recommended for xeriscaping. It is exceptional as a ground cover, and its spreading roots make it ideal to retain the soil on steep banks.

It is also a lovely filler plant to cover gaps between other plants, and is most impressive if allowed to scramble over low walls, or to tumble down the sides of steps made with sleepers or rocks. Spilling over the edges of containers and hanging baskets on terraces and balconies, it can put on a spectacular display.

The soft, hairy, evergreen foliage and lavender-blue flowers make a soft, cool statement in the garden, working well with any colour scheme whether bright or pastel, and looking particularly lovely with hotter pinks and yellows. This lovely plant blends effortlessly with a host of companion plants which also enjoy full sun, water in moderation, and well-drained soil. Try it with: Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), Dichondra 'Silver Falls', Seaside Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), Australian Violet (Viola hederacea), Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia), Bacopa copia (Sutera hybrida), Alyssum (Lobularia maritime), and Million Bells (Calibrachoa syn Petunia).

Members can click on highlighted text to read more about the companion plants mentioned above.

Convolvulus sabatius. Picture courtesy Plant Right on flickrConvolvulus sabatius. Picture courtesy Plant Right on flickrCultivation/Propagation:

If grown correctly the ground morning glory can be grown with ease in most regions of South Africa. It is suitable for cool, temperate, and subtropical gardens, and is salt tolerant, making it great for coastal gardens. It also thrives in our winter rainfall regions if it is watered moderately in summer. The plants may struggle in excessively humid regions, where they must be correctly spaced and planted in a spot that has good air flow around the leaves.

The ground morning glory is hardy to light or moderate frost, depending on how exposed the plants are, and has been known to tolerate temperatures as low as -8°C, if it is planted in perfectly draining soil. However, in these cold temperatures, combined with frost, the tops will freeze back, but will usually re-sprout in spring if the roots are mulched in winter.  Many gardeners in very cold regions treat this plant as a summer annual, sowing seed when the spring temperatures are between 18 and 20°C, and transplanting them into the garden in late spring or early summer, when all danger of frost is over.

It does well in full sun but will take light shade, and tolerates a wide range of soil types, including acid, alkaline and neutral, as long as they drain well. The plant will grow in chalk and sandy to loamy soils and even clay that is prepared and drains well. In sandy soils and exposed coastal sites, a generous amount of compost or other organic material added to the planting beds will give the plants a good start and help to conserve moisture.

Applying a fresh layer of compost and mulch, together with and annual feeding in spring with a balanced organic fertiliser is all that is required to keep this lovely plant happy and blooming.

Water young plants regularly until they are well established, but once established, its strong roots make this plant very tolerant of dry conditions. To keep it looking at its best in the garden, try to water moderately during long and hot, dry spells.

Once established this plant needs almost no maintenance, and if it does outgrow its allotted space it can be trimmed back to size at any time.

Convolvulus sabatius is easily propagated by seed sown in spring, or from softwood cuttings.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Convolvulus sabatius is easy to grow with few pests or diseases. It may be susceptible to common garden pests like aphids and spider mites, and diseases like rust, especially in humid regions.

Warning:

The seeds are poisonous if eaten. Always supervise small children in the garden and discourage pets from chewing on pants.