Ipomoea albivenia is a vigorous perennial deciduous climber up to 10 m long, belonging to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae).
The attractive funnel-shaped flowers are large (up to 8 cm wide) and crinkly white with pale yellow or pink in the throat. The flowers are sweetly scented and open during the night, closing by mid day. Flowers appear from January-March and are followed by woody fruit capsules which burst open to release seeds covered in fluffy “cotton wool”.
The wild cotton tubers have historically been eaten in times of famine, and are also used in traditional medicine to purify the blood.
Ipomoea albivenia with its showy flowers and fluffy seeds makes a wonderful garden specimen growing on a trellis or fence. Plant in well drained soil with compost added. The plant prefers a hot dry sunny position and care must be taken not to overwater, particularly in the winter months. Wild Cotton is easily grown from seed which germinates better if given access to rain water.
It is very important to ensure good drainage and not to overwater this plant as the tuberous rootstock is susceptible to rot under prolonged moist conditions. The species is also sensitive to mild frost and is best planted against a warm north or west facing wall or in frost-free areas.