It's Time to Plant Four O'Clocks

Mirabilis jalapa

Four o'clocks burst into sweetly scented bloom each afternoon like clockwork. The funnel-shaped flowers of the Marvel of Peru (where 4 o'clock plants originated) appear in late spring in a variety of hues.

Kaleidoscope Four O'Clock Seeds

Four O'Clock Seed, Yellow & White Marbles

Four O'Clocks, Marbles Mix

Photo of My Hot Pink Four O'clock Flowers

I have seen pictures of 4 o'clocks in white, yellow, orange and bi-colors which, I believe, are known as broken colors.

Seeds for the hot pink variety depicted above were given to me by a gardening buddy many years ago. I had a devil of a time getting those big, black seeds to germinate, but once I got a few plants going I had no further worries.

The plants return every spring like clockwork.

I love this color so much that I never bothered to expand my M. jalapa palette.

The blooms open late each afternoon when the heat begins to break and close early each morning. I guess, in Peru where these beauties are from, summer turns down its sizzle at approximately 4:00 p.m.

Here in Florida, it happens a bit later than that.

When the flower show begins in your yard will depend on your proximity to the equator.

You may not be able to set your watch by the activity of four o'clock flowers, but you can take their opening as a sign that it's time to wander out onto the patio with a cool drink and enjoy their fragrance and beauty while you watch the sun set.

"Four O'Clock, High Tea Mix 1 Pkt. (40 seeds)"

I don't know about the other colors but the pink seems to glow at dusk.

The scent of the blooms is light and sweet. It is most noticeable when the plants are massed and you are fairly close to them.

I've planted them right outside the window next to the big, comfy chair I like to read in just for this reason. I can enjoy them from indoors with the window open or from outside on the screen porch.

Four O'clock Plants

These delightful flowers appear, nearly continuously from late spring til frost, on somewhat brittle stems clothed in abundant bright green leaves.

Mirabilis jalapa plants will quickly reach their mature height of 30 inches or so once the weather warms and regular moisture begins to come their way.

Individual plants are not so attractive. It is best to mass them.

The image at the top of this page is of several plants growing closely together so that they look like a bush.

To get this full look: space the seeds or tubers 6 inches apart.

Last year, I planted a hedge of them in front of my kitchen window. For some reason, those plants have not returned.

It was beautiful, so I'm going to fortify the soil with organic compost and try again. I have enough seedlings springing up outside my living room window to supply me with sufficient planting material.

Four O'clock Germination
and Propagation

The blooms are followed by large, round, very hard and poisonous seeds.

They are easy to find and handle but, in my opinion, difficult to germinate.

Luckily, the plants form underground tubers from which they will reemerge each spring in areas where the ground does not freeze.

In cold zones, the tubers can be lifted and stored like dahlia tubers. Replant them after the last spring frost.

The plants are fast growers, especially if you grow them from the tubers. The larger the tuber gets, the bushier the plant that grows from it will be.

The Marvel of Peru is very easy to grow. It likes sun but will tolerate quite a bit of shade. It wants a light, free-draining soil but does not demand that it be nutritious.

Mirabilis jalapa will tolerate hot summers or cool. Plants grow more lushly when water is abundant but will tolerate drought once they have become established.

Feed them whatever you are feeding your other annuals. I barely feed mine at all and they bloom all summer.

Four O'clocks are carefree round the clock.

Other Sun Worshipers Right This Way:

Mexican Petunia's Blooms are Similar to Four O'Clock Flowers

Portulaca grandiflora, the Moss Rose

Miniature Roses Make Great Container Plants

Who Needs a Florist? Grow Your Own Carnations

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