Blooming right now: Four O’Clock or Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa)

With regular rain my 4 o’clock plants bloom happily all summer long. This year they haven’t even looked alive until we had rain a few weeks ago. Now they are very much alive and blooming beautifully.

4 o'clock in bloom

In my area, this plant grows as a perennial forming large tubers that look like big sweet potatoes. It also self seeds quite easily and some areas is said to bee a noxious weed and invasive. In areas were it is a perennial I can see how it might get be. When we bought our house there were many 4 o’clocks around the deck in the shade. Last year I decided there were just too many and they weren’t were I wanted them because they were taking up a large precious shaded area where i wanted to plant other things that needed shade. So I proceeded to dig them up and out of there. I am amazed at the size of their tuberous roots.

4 o'clock

Even though I dug most of them out, there are still a few root systems I missed and those are coming up now after the nice rain we had. Other have popped up from seed that was lying dormant, but they are easy to pull up or transplant to another area if you want.

4 o’clock bloom in several colors: hot pink, light pink, yellow, white and red. Here is a link to buying seeds from Renee’s Garden showing some beautiful blooms with pink and white mixed. Somewhere I read that they don’t always bloom true to the plant the seed came from. I have nothing to back that up and I haven’t seeded any to test that statement.

There are several things I like about the 4 o’clock plant. They are drought tolerant, although they wilt quite severely, they pop back to life with a little water and start flowering again AND the deer don’t eat them. Their flowers are so sweetly scented that I just want to stand there and drink them in (like a citrus high for me). The deer don’t eat them. They also handle sun and shade here -that is a huge plus!

They open their flowers in the later afternoon and close up in the morning. I have a few near the deck and a few walkways where it is nice to walk past them and smell their fragrance. I am going to concentrate on saving some of their seeds this fall to scatter out front. Seed collecting is an ongoing task with this plant if they are flowering regularly. The spent flower doesn’t hold the seed forever. The flower dries and forms a round black seed, about the size of a small pea and drops to the ground soon after forming. Since mine are flowering heavily right now I will be checking them every morning for seeds. If I collect the seeds each morning I can scatter them out front, the ones I miss I can transplant next spring when they come up. Scattering the seeds is just easier I think.

This what the seeds look like

A few details:

Annuals  or Perennials depending on where you live

Height:    36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

Spacing: 15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

Hardiness: for perennials Zone 7 – 11

All other zones – annual
Sun Exposure: Full Sun

Danger: Seed is poisonous if ingested
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color: Pink, Red, Bright Yellow, White/Near White,

Bloom Time:  Mid Summer

Foliage: Herbaceous

Other information:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

The fragrance of this plant reminds me of a bush we had growing outside our studio in Kenya. That bush was called Morning Noon and Night (or Yesterday, today and tomorrow – Brunfelsia pauciflora). The bush had purple flowers that faded to lavender and then to white. I remember the fragrance was captivating.

I my climate, the 4 o’clock reseeds itself quite easily.

Here are a few links to sites with more information on the 4 o’clock:

Sincerely, Emily

P.S. I didn’t get this posted in time! The freeze we had a few days ago really nipped at my 4 o’clocks… so technically this was blooming a week ago. There are a few they were somewhat protected that are still growing. The ones in the photos that had tons of blooms didn’t even get a chance to go to seed. Oh well, I sure enjoyed them while they were there.

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2 Responses to Blooming right now: Four O’Clock or Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa)

  1. Joanna says:

    I love reading about your plants! i go away and look them up to see if they grow here and try and think if I could fit them into my small garden. I read something that suggested the tubers might be edible, and that the plant will grow from those as well as from the seed. i wonder if the colour would come true from the tuber rather than seed? i have a dark red oxalis that I keep as a houseplant with traingular leaves, each on a single stem, that has pale pink flowers and orange tubers. i lift them from time to time and repot the tubers and give them away. it will grow outdoors, but doesn’t get as big.

    • Hi Joanna, I am glad you are enjoying the photos and info on the plants I am posting. This one definitely grows from tubers. When I dug them up because they were in an area I didn’t want them, the tubers were the size of a large sweet potato. I have saved some seeds to plants and watch in the spring so I can see if the color stays true to seeds. I know the dark red oxalis you mentioned. What a fun plant to give as a gift and help keep yours a good size and healthy too.

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