The convolvulus is a species native to Asia, North Africa and Europe. It belongs to the Convolvulaceae family and includes over 250 different varieties.
Its scientific name is convolvulus, but it is also called “beautiful by day” because it opens its flowers in the morning and closes them as soon as the darkness falls.
The vulgar name convolvolo derives instead from the Latin convolvere, which means to wrap, from the typical bearing of this plant. In fact, at times, the convolvulus grows expanding on other plants and making their development difficult, until it causes them to dry up.
For this reason, although it produces very attractive flowers, it is often considered an unwelcome weed.
For the delicacy of its buds, the convolvulus symbolizes in the language of the flowers the weakness of spirit, submissiveness and submission.
Convolvulus: The Most Common Characteristics And Species
There are many different species of convolvulus. They produce all the characteristic calyx-shaped flowers, but they differ in the colour of the flowers, the size and the type of leaves. The convolvulus has a compact structure and has a dense mass of leaves and flowers.
The convolvulus is a climbing plant in almost all its varieties, but there are also some species, such as the Convolvulus cneorum or white convolvulus, which develop like shrubs and grow more in width than in height.
In Italy, both spontaneous species and garden varieties grow. Let’s see together the most common and their characteristics.
Convolvulus Arvensis, or Vilucchio
It is an invasive variety, native to Africa, which grows wild in rural areas and can reach a length of more than two meters.
It blooms in spring and summer with an abundance of white or pink flowers.
1. Convolvulus cneorum, or white convolvulus
Perhaps the most widespread, because it adapts very well to the cultivation both in pots and in the garden.
2. Unlike other species of the genus, the white convolvulus is not a climber, but a shrub.
It is a semirustic plant, resistant to drought, which grows well even in poor and stony soils. It has a dense evergreen foliage, with leathery leaves covered with a thin down, silvery green in color.
During the flowering period, in spring-summer, countless white bell-shaped flowers bloom.
3. Convolvulus sabatius, or convolvolvolus mauritanicus
It is a fairly widespread species because it is particularly suitable for rocky gardens and low borders.
A herbaceous, evergreen, rhizomatous, perennial plant, with a creeping habit and a good rustic character.
It blooms between May and July and produces tender blue-purple flowers that close when it is cloudy or in the evening.
4. Convolvulus tricolor
Coming from Africa, also this species is utilized in the rocky gardens and as soil cover, or, due to its appearance, in the hanging pots.
It has a long and abundant flowering and produces characteristic flowers of three colors: yellow in the center, white and then blue in the outer part.
How to cultivate the convolvulus
The convolvulus grows spontaneously in nature and is cultivated both in pots and in the ground, where it is much appreciated for forming low bushes, thanks to its abundant blooms.
The ideal time to plant it in the ground is April May and adapts to any type of soil, not necessarily rich, provided it is well-drained.
If, on the contrary, it is cultivated in pot, the soil must contain two parts of fertile soil and a part of peat, a little sand, of pumice and, if possible, of volcanic lapillus. This will help the plant to grow luxuriantly and healthily.
To get a beautiful and abundant flowering, it is good to plant the convolvulus in a sunny place, with a few hours of shading per day.
Like all climbers, however, it must be protected from the wind and draughts and must not be exposed to the elements.
In nature, the convolvulus is a shrub of the Mediterranean scrub, so it can easily withstand drought.
For this reason it should be watered regularly, but without exaggeration and it is always good to wait for the soil to be completely dry, to avoid rottenness or fungi.
Only if the plants are young, the watering may be more frequent, but always without wetting the leaves.
The convolvulus is to be fertilized with moderation, with a specific fertilizer for flowering plants, in granular form with slow release, or with a natural one, such as the earthworm humus.
It is best to do it only once a year and at the end of the winter, when the vegetative development resumes.
This is because over-fertilization will cause the leaves to grow luxuriantly, to the detriment of flowering.
How to Prune the Convolvulus
The convolvulus is a shrub that grows quickly and this can lead to a messy development.
In autumn, a slight pruning of the outermost branches may be necessary. Be careful that late pruning could irreparably compromise flowering, as the plant prepares flower buds already during the winter.
When pruning, especially the oldest and longest branches should be cut, as well as the newly born ones, if you want to reduce the growth of the plant.
The convolvulus does not tolerate the water stagnations, which can lead to radical rottenness and therefore to the death of the specimen.
Excess water or poor drainage of the soil can also lead to an attack of fungal parasites or rust.
Rust occurs with pustules and yellowish spots on the underside of leaves and stems.
The presence of fungi is manifested by the appearance of spots on the leaves.
Both these diseases, if not treated promptly, can lead to the drying out of the leaves and the death of the plant.
Both rust and fungal diseases can be treated with the use of specific products, natural or copper-based, available in nurseries or stores specializing in gardening.
The convolvulus in Fairy Tales
An old Tuscan legend, also collected by the Grimm brothers, tells of the Madonna who used the convolvulus flower to drink wine when she helped a carter to free his cart. In some rural communities the small flower is still called “Tazzetta della Madonna”.