Four O’clock Plants

Four O’clock plants (Mirabilis jalapa) were originally found in the Andes Mountains of South America.  The Four o’clock is classified as a perennial, especially in warmer zones where the chances are good that if you allow your plants to go to seed in the fall, they will self-seed in the garden.  If you plant them in pots you will need to collect the seeds and plant again for the next season.  These tuberous-rooted plants produce slightly pointed oval leaves on branching stems. The approximately 2-inch-long blooms are trumpet-shaped with five petals, and they come in several colors, often shades of pink and red.  Some four O’clock plants produce flowers in multiple colors, sometimes with marbling or other markings. This is a fast-growing plant that often sprawls in the garden. They get their common name because of the way they bloom. The flowers open in the late afternoon, typically around 4 p.m. or so, and then remain open until the next morning. They have a lemony-sweet fragrance.  Four O’clocks bloom each year starting around June and stretching all the way to frost in the fall.

Four O’clock plants are:

  • Best planted in the spring.
  • Toxic both to people and pets.
  • Thrive in full sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight most days.
  • They will tolerate partial shade.
  • Water whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of soil becomes dry. Do not let these plants dry out.
  • Avoid over watering.
  • Will grow in a variety of soil types.
  • Mulching around the plants can help to keep the soil sufficiently moist.
  • Thrive in warm temperatures and are often grown as annuals in cooler climates outside of their growing zones.
  • Very pest and disease resistant. Rusts (white and brown rust) and some leaf spot diseases can affect the foliage.

The plants might become somewhat leggy and not bloom as profusely in locations that are too shady. These plants can be sown directly in the garden in the spring once the danger of frost has passed. For best germination, soak the seeds overnight in water. I have not done this. I may try it next time.  Plant seeds about ¼ inch deep, and place them by a light source. Seedlings can be easily uprooted and moved to another location.

You can overwinter which I have never tried. I usually save the seeds and plant again the following year.  After the plant is done blooming in the fall, the tuberous roots can be dug up and stored for winter in a cool (but not freezing), dark location. Replant them the following spring once temperatures are reliably above freezing. If you live within the plant’s growing zones, the tubers can stay in the ground over the winter.

Resources

How to Grow and Care for Four O’Clock Plants

Tips and Information About Growing Four O’clock Plants

It’s time to Plant Four O’Clocks

photo credit

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