How to Grow and Care for Spanish Flag (Firecracker Vine)

Ipomoea lobata

Shooting up almost as quickly as one of its many nicknames, firecracker vine can grow close to 10 feet in a month, racing up trellises and fences and launching attractive red, banana-shaped flowers that gradually fade to a cream color.

Properly known as Ipomoea lobata, firecracker vine is also known by two former scientific names, Mina lobata and Quamoclit lobata and by a colorful array of other nicknames including Spanish flag and exotic love vine.

Its most recent Latin name, Ipomoea lobata, is particularly distasteful to many gardeners because while indeed being botanically related to Mexican morning glory (I. tricolor), common morning glory (I. purpurea) and others in the Ipomoea genus, firecracker vine’s flowers look nothing like morning glory flowers.

Mina lobata is a fast-growing vine that adds brilliant color to the landscape |

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If not using one of its non-scientific names, many gardeners simply call the plant “mina lobata.”

Let’s learn more about this glamorous dazzler.

A Multicultural Heritage

Mina lobata is native to Central and South America. It made its way to Mexico where visiting Spaniards gave it one of its monikers and took it home to Europe.

A German seed house made the plant available in the United States in the late 19th century, and it has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity here ever since.

A close up horizontal image of red and white Spanish flag flowers growing in light sunshine, pictured on a soft focus background.

Grown as an annual in some climates, in others Spanish flag is actually characterized as a weed – much like its cousin, morning glory – for its speedy and aggressive growth habit.

It typically flowers in late summer and well into autumn, making it an attractive addition to colorful fall landscapes.

In the south, this vine will overwinter quite well, whereas northerners will have to plant afresh each summer.

About Those Flowers

Mina lobata’s flowers emerge a bright red-deep orange color and, as they grow larger, fade to pink, pale orange or yellow, and finally cream.

As they age and change colors, the blossoms remain vertically arranged on one side of the stem as new red blooms are produced at the top of the floral stem.

This results in a stunning cascade of colors that exhibit the flag-like appearance for which the plant is known.

A close up of a branch of firecracker vine with red and white flowers pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

Though generally just one flower on a stem becomes fertile, thrusting out pistil and stamens, the flowers’ nectar attracts hummingbirds and bees.

Not content with run-of-the-mill green foliage? This morning glory family member produces bronze-purple, deeply lobed leaves that mature to a deep green.

These leaves are shed as the season progresses, so you might want to plant low-growing screen plants in front of the base of the vines.

This polychromatic delight also proudly sprouts showy purple stems.

Sun or Shade – Just Keep them Moist

Firecracker vine prefers, and will flower sooner, in full sun but will also do well in a bit of shade. Heat is no problem for this plant.

It appreciates rich, moist, well-drained soil, and will tolerate soils that are mildly acidic to mildly alkaline.

A close up of the red and white flowers of firecracker vine growing in the garden pictured in filtered sunshine on a soft focus background.

After soaking seeds for 24 hours, start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring and transplant when all danger of frost has passed. Or directly sow soaked seeds outdoors when freezing temperatures are a winter memory.

Mina lobata makes an attractive container plant if you give it something to climb on and keep the soil moist.

Where to Buy

You can find seeds for Spanish flag from Seedville via Amazon.

Spanish Flag Seeds

Each package contains 10 seeds and plants should be spaced nine to 12 inches apart.

Just a Little TLC

Provide your vines with a high-nitrogen fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season, and switch to a high-phosphorous mixture before the plant blooms.

Keep an eye out for red spider mites and whiteflies, and treat with an insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth if necessary.

Firecracker vine is also susceptible to white blister, rust, fungal leaf spots, and wilts. Use fungicides to combat these diseases.

A Fence of Many Colors

This fast-growing, tall vine dazzles with its unusual spray of colorful blossoms. Imagine a sun-splashed fence quickly covered in showstopping hues — your neighbors will turn green with envy.

A vertical close up image of the delicate flowers of Spanish flag growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

Some rich dirt, some water, and protection from a handful of pests – not too much to ask for an unusual carmine display well into autumn, is it?

Had you heard of mina lobata and do you consider it a beneficial or a weed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo via Seedville. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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Alison Faulkner
Alison Faulkner (@guest_11408)
6 months ago

I first saw Mina Lobata in a National Trust property where 8 plants had been grown on a wigwam of canes. The effect was a pillar of fire.
I plant mine like this each year.
The seeds are expensive and don’t always germinate but it is really worth a try.

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy (@rosekennedy)
Reply to  Alison Faulkner
6 months ago

Alison Faulkner, I love the sound of this! I’ve seen something similar done with giant sunflowers for a kids fort, but never with a vine that has lovely foliage, too. Just curious, do you soak the seeds before planting? Thanks for sharing this creative idea.

Joost Lobe
Joost Lobe (@guest_11592)
Reply to  Alison Faulkner
5 months ago

I find these among some of the easiest seeds to germinate! Soak one night and put in heated propegator. 9 out of 10 germinate after just a few days. First year that I’ve tried, can’t wait for the flowers! Thanks for the article