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How to Grow the Four O'Clock Plant (Mirabilis Jalapa)

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Precy loves to write about many topics, including how to grow some of the most wonderful plants in the world.

Marvel of Peru or Four O'Clock (Mirabilis Jalapa)

Marvel of Peru or Four O'Clock (Mirabilis Jalapa)

The 'Marvel of Peru'

Mirabilis jalapa is known as four o'clock and 'Marvel of Peru.' Cultivated by the Aztecs not only for ornamental but for medicinal purposes as well, this native to the tropical areas of South America is a beautiful addition in the garden. It comes in different shades of color ranging from white, yellow, light to deep pink, and it comes in mixed colors or stripes.

Often grown as an annual, Mirabilis jalapa grows up to 1 meter with fragrant blooms. These sun-loving plants are perfect on front yards or in containers by the porch, which gives the opportunity to enjoy the flowers—as they only bloom in the late afternoon and through the night, closing and refusing to open again when the morning arrives.

A pink four o'clock flower starting to open at dusk.

A pink four o'clock flower starting to open at dusk.

Other Names for Mirabilis Jalapa

The plant is also known for in these names in these countries.

NameCountry

Prinsesa ng gabi

Philippines

Bunga pukul empat

Indonesia

Maravilla

Mexico

Purple jasmine

Hongkong

Hendirikka

Sri Lanka

Chandrakantha

India

Banyen

Thailand

Marvel of Peru and four o'clock are just two common names of Mirabilis jalapa. There are other names it is known for in different countries. In the Philippines, it is called prinsesa ng gabi, which translates to princess of the night, as the flowers bloom at night.

Growing Four O'Clock From Seeds

Growing four o'clock from seeds is easy. Start the seeds after the last frost date or in the spring season in a well-draining soil. It isn't picky when it comes to soil, but keep it moist for an abundance of scented blossoms.

Mine was planted already in the summer season, as that was when I purchased the seeds. This plant isn't only good being planted directly on the ground where it gets sunlight, but it does well in pots and containers too.

Sown from seeds, young sprouts emerge from the soil within a week with a roundish pair of baby leaves. The next pair of leaves are oval in shape that are pointy at the tip. These green leaves grow in pairs with veins visible on either side.

The Flowers of the Four O'Clock

The flowers of four o'clock start as green buds, often in a number of 4 or more at the tip that reaches up to 2 inches long as it grows. As the buds continue to grow, the young petals turn from pure green to yellowish or pinkish. And as the blooming nears, the color of the unopened petals peek through at the tip, giving you a hint of what color the flowers will be.

Four o'clock flowers start to bloom late in the afternoon and remain open throughout the night, attracting moths as pollinators. These will only be open for the entire night and will be closed the following morning. The trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom from summer to fall are sweetly fragrant.

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Fruits and Seeds

As the flower dries out the following day and eventually falls off, a green fruit remains, protected by the sepals with the tip visible (referring to the photo below).

Mirabilis jalapa seeds are wrinkled and black with some having a shade of brown. As the seed fully matures, they fall off the mother plant when not collected.

Additional Growing Information

The leaves of this upright and herbaceous perennial flowering plant appear in pairs across one another on the stem where the nodes are. The leaves are ovoid in shape, are light green to green in color, and can reach up to 4 inches long.

Mirabilis jalapa also branches out by the nodes with a pair of leaves and an inflorescence of young green buds at the tip. Some of these buds develop ahead of the rest of the buds, and they bloom first as the rest follow.

If you're planning to add four o'clock in your garden, this plant can tolerate dry soil because of its thick, tuberous, and elongated taproots that are about 12 inches long or more. Also mirabilis jalapa self-sows, which is why some view them as being invasive. New seedlings will pop up in your garden, providing lovely flowers to look forward to. So take the time to tend and check on them and collect matured seeds.

Other Uses for Mirabilis Jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa was found by the Europeans in the year 1540.

The flowers can be used to create dye as food coloring such as in jellies and cakes. The roots of the plant were used as hallucinogens and are thought to have purgative properties as well. The leaves have also been used to reduce inflammation by extracting the juice from boiling or mashing the leaves to treat wounds.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

RTalloni on September 19, 2018:

You have reminded me of why I loved having 4 o'clocks. I definitely need to add them again. Thanks for a new look at these delightful flowers!

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