Mina Lobata: A Firecracker Of A Vine
The firecracker vine, Mina lobata or ipomoea lobata, creates sprays of brilliantly-colored flowers. Our guide shows you how to grow it!
The firecracker vine Mina lobata, also called Ipomoea lobata, is a real stunner. This charismatic vine can easily reach 4-6 feet tall. From July through the end of the summer, it erupts into brilliant sprays of flowers.
Closely related to Ipomoea tricolor, this plant gains distinction for its flowers. A winner of the RHS’s Award of Garden Merit, the racemes or sprays spark with blooms that shift from red to white. They’re extremely showy when they’re in flower, and you’ll love the variety of shades it produces.
Let’s talk about this beautiful vine and everything you’ll need to grow it!
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Quick Care Guide
|Scientific Name||Mina lobata, Ipomoea lobata|
|Common Name(s)||Firecracker vine, spanish flag, fire vine|
|Height & Spread||6-10 feet tall, can be trained to grow sideways|
|Soil||Well-draining, sandy/loamy or possibly chalky soil|
|Water||Moist but not wet, mulch to prevent evaporation|
|Pests & Diseases||Spider mites & whiteflies. Also rust, white blister, & leaf spots.|
All About The Fire Vine
Native to Mexico and parts of Brazil, the fire vine is a close relative of the Mexican morning glory. But while it’s very closely related, it grows in an entirely different way.
Rather than heart-shaped leaves, these leaves are tri-lobed with a distinct point. And the sprays, or racemes, of their blossoms are formed on a reddish stem. From that stem form teardrop-shaped flowers. Colors are graded along the stem, ranging from red to white with all hues between represented. The reds and golds are the origin of the common name Spanish flag, as it’s similar in color.
It doesn’t grow to the extreme heights which its relative does. This plant grows to reach about ten feet tall. It’s still sizeable, and makes for lovely foliage and summer flowers along fences. It will grow up trellises just as easily, making it possible to container-grow this plant.
While it’s a tender perennial, firecracker vine is often grown as an annual. It doesn’t tolerate cooler temperatures well at all, and often dies back in the late autumn.
Growing Spanish Flag
Minor preparation will give you lush foliage and stunning sprays of flowers. Let’s talk about the right conditions for growing your Spanish flag vine in!
Light & Temperature
Warm weather doesn’t phase this vine. It grows best in zones 9-11, where it rarely experiences true cold. In fact, if the temperature dips down below 40°F (4°C), the plant can experience some cold damage.
Similarly, it’s a sun-worshipper. Full sun is perfect for Ipomoea lobata, with at least 6-8 hours of direct light per day. It can grow in partial shade conditions, but doesn’t perform as well there. Provide tons of sunlight, and you’ll have a festive show of flowers.
Water & Humidity
Moist, but not wet conditions are perfect for your Spanish flag vines. Keeping the soil damp but not soggy is your best bet. Mulching can help reduce moisture evaporation from the soil. I like to check the soil beneath the mulch every couple days to ensure it’s still damp enough for my vines.
Subtropical vines like this can tolerate a surprising amount of humidity. This is one of the reasons this plant’s so popular in southern coastal regions! Sticky air shouldn’t be a major problem as long as you have good airflow around your plants.
Try to avoid overhead watering for this, as with other plants. A good soaker irrigation system is your best bet for watering fire vine.
Sandy or loamy soil types are perfect for this plant. It will tolerate chalky soil as well. Try to avoid hard-packed clay soil, as the roots may have difficulty forming in that type of soil.
Not particularly choosy, the firecracker vine can tolerate a wide range of pH levels. Slightly-acidic through slightly-alkaline soils are fine for your plant. Try to avoid extremes in soil pH and you’ll do well.
Limit your fertilization of the fire vine to when you’re planting. Work a balanced organic fertilizer, preferably slow-release, into the soil before planting. Too much nitrogen will cause lots of foliage growth and little flowering.
Do a soil test before fertilizing if you’re unsure what your soil might need. While the vine does need some fertility in the soil, you may already have enough there. Overfertilizing this plant provides no real benefits.
As it’s a fast grower, your Mina lobata is best started from seed. This method achieves the healthiest plants. Lightly scratch the surface of your seeds and soak them in water for 24 hours before planting. Plant no deeper than 4 times the seed size in starter pots. Keep the soil moist. You can then transplant out the plants once they’ve gained a few inches of height and have been hardened off.
Growing this plant from cuttings is generally unreliable. Most cuttings fail before they develop roots.
Pruning & Training
Pruning is seldom necessary for the firecracker vine. Limit your pruning to trimming off diseased or damaged leaves.
Container-grown Mina lobata can be trained up a tripod or trellis. Choose options which are not smooth, as the vines can grab on readily to a rough surface. Once the vine has found the tripod or trellis, it’ll grow upward on its own. If necessary, use plant ties to secure young vine starts to your trellis.
Weaving the vine in and out of a fence is possible, but be gentle to avoid damaging the leaves and stems.
Very few problems affect this rapid-growing vine. A couple pests and a few diseases can rarely appear. But in general, it’s pretty problem-free!
Let’s talk about the few things that might appear so you’re ready to handle them.
If you grow your vine in an area that is too cold, it will die back. However, if the roots are protected the plant should survive in areas that don’t have terribly cold winters. Growing in clay soil can hamper root development, so remember to amend soils as needed.
Fertilizing with too much nitrogen will cause tons of foliage growth, and a lack of flowers. Overwatering can cause growth problems as well. Remember to mulch to help your soil retain moisture.
The only pests which seem inclined to strike are sucking pests. These annoyances will latch onto the leaves and stems of your plant and drink the plant’s juices.
Where red spider mites are common, they may appear. Either neem oil or a pyrethrin spray will wipe them out. Other forms of spider mite may consider your Ipomoea lobata to be an occasional target. But generally, the red spider mite is the only one that seeks out this vining plant.
Whiteflies are also an occasional annoyance. While neem oil works as a preventative for these, it won’t necessarily kill adults. Use pyrethrin-based sprays to get these out of the garden.
Your Mina lobata will experience similar diseases to its relative, Ipomoea tricolor. Let’s go over those in brief!
White blister is a disease which causes whitish spotting on leaves. Caused by an oomycete, it creates blister-like spore clusters underneath. There’s no treatment for this currently other than to clip and remove infected leaves. Do not compost the diseased material.
Rust fungus caused by an assortment of fungal agents can occur. These can also be treated with copper fungicide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is mina lobata poisonous?
A: Like the morning glory, ipomoea lobata’s seeds are poisonous. Keep your pets and children away from the seeds of this plant. The leaves may also cause nausea and vomiting.
Q: Is mina lobata a perennial?
A: While it’s technically a perennial, the firecracker vine is only perennial in zones 10 and 11. Those zones rarely reach lows of 40 degrees or less. In all other regions, it’s grown as an annual.