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The Four O’Clock Flower: An Old-Fashioned Favorite

I am a blogger from Southern Oklahoma who loves to write about nature and animals.

Bi-Colored Four O'Clock Flowers

Bi-Colored Four O'Clock Flowers

One of My Favorite Perennial Flowers

The four o'clock flower is one of my all-time favorite flowers to grow in my yard.

One of my neighbors had these beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers growing around a tree in her yard, and I was commenting on how much I liked them. She then took me to the flower bed and proceeded to dig up a few of the plants. I planted those three little transplants and, within a few weeks, they were blooming like crazy. I was hooked!

This article will provide growing and care tips for this lovely flower as well as information about its historical background.

Flower History

The four o’clock flower (Mirabilis jalapa) is native to South America and is also known as the "Marvel of Peru” and the “Beauty of the Night”. It is believed to have been brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. It is an old-fashioned flower and is commonly seen in cottage-type gardens and probably grown by many of our grandmothers as one of their favorite flowers.

They get their name from the fact that their beautiful, sweet-smelling blooms will typically open up in the late afternoon and close again early the next morning. On cloudy days, they may remain open all day and evening. It is not actually the time of day that causes them to open and close, but the change in temperature.

Closed four o'clock flowers during mid-day.

Closed four o'clock flowers during mid-day.


The four o’clock is a leafy, multi-branched plant that blooms all summer long. The blooms are sweet smelling, with a scent similar to honeysuckle. The blooms can be red, magenta, pink, yellow, and white. Some blooms will be bi-colored, and some may actually change color as the plant matures. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, and they're about 2 inches in length and 1 inch across. Their sweetly fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

They grow quickly from tubers, which can measure more than 12 inches in length. This makes them a little difficult to transplant unless you are transplanting young plants.

They are great to use for borders or hedge plants in the summer; however, in cooler climates, they will turn brown and die back in the winter. They normally will grow between 1–3 feet tall and 1–3 feet in width as well.

Caring for Your Four O'Clocks

Four o’clocks thrive in full sun but can tolerate a little shade during the hottest part of the day. They are drought-tolerant plants and grow well in almost any soil.

In my experience, I find that they do best when kept slightly moist. If you find they have stopped blooming, water them well and they should bloom again quickly.

Can You Cut Back Four O'Clocks?

If they begin to get leggy, you can cut them back and new stems will appear quickly.


The four o’clock is considered as a perennial in zones 8–11 and can survive in zones 6 and 7 with good protective winter mulching. In colder climates, you may want to lift the tubers in fall and place them in a cool dry place until you can replant them in spring.

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You can also collect the little black seeds when they fall and replant them in spring. Soaking the seeds overnight first is recommended for best results. I live in zone 7, and the four o’clocks reseed themselves and come back from the tubers as well by only doing a little winter mulching.

The four o'clock seed looks similar to a peppercorn.

The four o'clock seed looks similar to a peppercorn.

Seeds and Usage

The seeds are small, black, and round, similar to black peppercorns. They are highly poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets. The seeds are sometimes dried and powdered and used for dyes and cosmetics.

Edible red dye is extracted from the flowers and used as food coloring in many jams, jellies, and other products. In South America, the root is used as a hallucinogen and for medicinal purposes. Sections of the plant may be used as a diuretic or for treating wounds. The leaves can be used to decrease inflammation and can be consumed if cooked.

Enjoy These Sweet-Smelling, Prolific Bloomers

I have been growing four o’clocks in my yard for the past 15 years now and continue to find more places to put some of these sweet-smelling, prolific bloomers!

If you like easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant, fragrant flowers that bloom from early summer to fall, I think you will love the four o’clock flower!

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.


Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on October 14, 2020:

I would try more sun, at least until they take hold. You are already getting cold up there, I would mulch them heavily, at least this year. I don't know about lily of the valley, I have never tried to grow them myself. Good luck with the Four O'Clocks!

CHRISTINE Johnson on October 11, 2020:

Lived in chicago, zone 5, 1 mile west of Lake Michigan. We had Four O'Clocls self seeding as beautiful bushes part sun, part shade. Now stiil Zone 5, 30 miles west of lake. What do I have to do to get these beauties back to self-seeding annual? Also can't get lily of the valley, abundant in a Chicago gangway to survive?? Any suggestions??

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on December 02, 2015:

Thank you, Patricia! They are late bloomers, but so pretty when they do bloom! :)

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 01, 2015:

The four o'clocks in the photo are so lovely. This title caught my eye as I have part of my fence covered in purple ones right about late bloomers...they are. I am truly enjoying them but know they will be gone too soon.

Thank you for showcasing this lovely flower.

Angels are on the way to you this early morning hour ps

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 24, 2015:

You are quite welcome, Audrey! I think you will love them. They come back every year and multiply like crazy, sometimes too much! I love walking past the and catching their beautiful scent!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 23, 2015:

Thanks for introducing me to these beautiful four o'clocks. I have several spots in my garden where they will do well. I'm such a flower lover!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 12, 2015:

You are very welcome, Thelma! I am glad to hear that you have these beautiful flowers in your garden in the Philippines. I am happy that I could tell you the name of them. Thank you for stopping by!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 12, 2015:

Hello, Huntgoddess! I just bought a flat of impatiens on Mother's Day, red ones. I love those flowers for the shady areas of my yard. From everything I have read the four o'clock plants are toxic and can cause diarrhea and vomiting if they are eaten. I don't know that I would keep them close to the grandbabies.

Huntgoddess from Midwest U.S.A. on May 11, 2015:

Sadly, I do not have a sunny spot this year. I was just realizing I will have to have my containers filled with shade-loving plants.

I do love them, though. Impatiens, fuschia . . .?

I just don't know of any edible ones.

Oh, well, any plant is better than none. Keeping my fingers crossed for next year though.

Maybe I can plant Four O-Clocks on my daughter's balcony though? Are they dangerous for the grandbabies?

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 11, 2015:

Wow! Thank you very much for this useful and very informative hub. At last, I know the name of the beautiful flowers in my garden in the Philippines.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 14, 2015:

Aren't they just wonderful flowers, Patricia! I have 3 trees in a location near the front door. Each tree is surrounded by 4 O'Clocks and we get such a beautiful scent from them. Thank you for stopping in this morning and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 14, 2015:

Adore maintenance and always gorgeous and seem to keep blooming and blooming and blooming.

Thanks for sharing our humble little flower.

Angels are once again on the way ps

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 12, 2015:

You are welcome, Susie! You should try them, they are really easy to grow and smell so sweet! Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 12, 2015:

I have never tried to grow one in a container, but I would bet they would do just fine. You could keep the container near your porch and be able to smell their sweet scent every time you walk by! Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful day!

Huntgoddess from Midwest U.S.A. on March 11, 2015:

I only have a container garden (if I'm lucky!) so everything has to become an annual. How do you think they will do in a container?


Up, Useful, Interesting, Beautiful, Awesome!!

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on March 11, 2015:

Interesting and beautiful flower hub, Sheila. I see they would do well in my zone. Thank you for the tip!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 20, 2015:

Thank you Chitrangada! They are truly one of my favorite flowers. I appreciate your kind comment and of course, the pin! Have a wonderful day!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 20, 2015:

Very nice and informative hub about four o'clock flowers. Its a beautiful flower and I would like to grow them.

Thanks for sharing the full details and lovely pictures. Voted up as beautiful and pinned!

Debra Allen from West By God on February 02, 2015:

I love 4'oclocks! I like the way they can be any color at anytime and change even. I tried to grow them here where I live and they didn't do so well.

RTalloni on February 02, 2015:

Thanks very much for this look at 4 O'Clocks! I wanted to remember them this spring and this hub came to my attention at just the right time. Need to get them started in a particular spot so I can have more next year to put in other places. Gardening is on the back burner for a couple of reasons now, but these beauties pretty much take care of themselves year round so I don't have to wait on them.

moonlake from America on July 19, 2014:

My mother loves Four O’Clock she's always telling me about hers when I call her. Love your first photo. Voted up.

jill of alltrades from Philippines on April 13, 2014:

Thanks for this beautiful hub Sheila! My first time to see a bi-colored flower.

I used to have a patch of four o'clocks in my yard. Unfortunately they died after being submerged in the flood that struck us several years ago. Since then, I have not been able to replace them. This hub reminds me to look for replacements.

Rated up and beautiful!

poetryman6969 on April 05, 2014:

Easy to grow. Hard to kill. They come back the next year on their own. Good choice.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

I hope you can find a place for some, Peggy. I just love their blooms and they smell so good! Thanks for the pin! :)))

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate your stopping by! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

You're right Suzanne, they are pretty much a no care plant. I pull the smaller ones up in spring and move them to another location, or just give them away. :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and you never know when someone will ask you about 4 o'clocks. LOL :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

I don't really think mine started out as bi-colored. They seemed to do it on their own! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

I'm glad you enjoyed my hub Peg! Thank you so very much for you PS! All is well, just very busy. Thank you so much, you just made my day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

You are so welcome Phyllis! I know you will enjoy them! Have a wonderful spring! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

They are great summer flowers. Thank you for stopping by kerlund74! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

I love to see the different crossed I get each year, they are so pretty. I love to smell them as I walk by! I'm sorry you can't have them anymore, but I do understand why. :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

I'm so glad I could bring back some good memories fr you Dolores! Thank you for all your support! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

Thank you bravewarrior! My being back is still kind of "hit and miss", but I am trying! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 09, 2014:

Thank you for your kind comment! Hopefully the snow will be gone for the year soon! :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 25, 2014:

If I had more sunny available spaces in our yard I would love to grow these pretty flowers. I might try and find a spot or two. Thanks for the information. Pinning this!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 22, 2014:

The Four O’Clock Flower - An Old Fashion Favorite is a unique flower to me and is a beautiful one.

Funom Theophilus Makama from Europe on February 21, 2014:

Wow! This is such a new information for me. What an outstanding hub. Thanks for the share

justmesuzanne from Texas on February 20, 2014:

They'll take over if you let them. They produce abundant seeds that barely need to touch the soil to grow. I have them all around my house and yard. They are an absolutely no care plant, except they do need to be cut back in the fall so you don't end up with a bunch of dead 4 O'Clocks standing around the yard all winter.

Voted up, useful and interesting! :)

Huntgoddess from Midwest U.S.A. on February 20, 2014:

I'm sort of on the boundary between zones 4 and 5 :-((

I can remember by grandma talking about them, though.

Nice hub. Lots of information, which is always good in any event. (Hey, you never know when somebody might ask me about 4 o'clocks, right?)

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on February 20, 2014:

There are four 'o'clock plants at my Parents place. They have pink, yellow and white varieties. I was not aware that bi colored variety is available too.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 20, 2014:

You're so right, Sheila. These were favorites of my Grandmother in Georgia who always had a lovely garden path lined with these. I did not know they were edible or used for medicinal purposes.

PS - You have been missed. Hope all is well.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on February 20, 2014:

Sheila, I love Four O'Clocks and do not see them in gardens as often as I used to. They are lovely. Your hub has inspired me to go get some and plant them around the yard. Thanks for this wonderful hub.

kerlund74 from Sweden on February 20, 2014:

Never seen this before, seems like some great flowers for this summer:)

Adrienne Farricelli on February 20, 2014:

I used to have four-o-clocks in my yard, and I loved to see the results of crosses with each other yielding mixes of white/pink, white/orange/pink and pink orange. Now because of business ( I board and train dogs) I can no longer have them though.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 20, 2014:

Hi Sheila - my mother used to grow these in zone 6 on the east side of the house and never mulched or anything. I remember on summer afternoons, walking by them - they just made me happy. They are so pretty! Thanks for reminding me of 4 o'clocks. I have to plant some this year. (shared and tweeted)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 20, 2014:

These are beautiful, Sheila. I live in zone 9. I will definitely have to see about getting some of these gems. Thanks for the info and welcome back!

breakfastpop on February 20, 2014:

This sounds like my kind of flower. Thanks so much for the information. In the midst of all this snow you have given me something to look forward to.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 20, 2014:

I'm so glad I could bring back some good memories for you! I am so ready for spring to arrive! I can't wait to see all my little flowers popping up out of the ground. I hope you get the seeds planted, let me know how they do! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 20, 2014:

Hello Faith Reaper! Awww, your comment is so sweet, thank you! I do love my Four O'Clocks, I have them planted in several places around the house. They seem to do well where ever I plant them. Thank you so much for your very sweet comment and support. It's good to know that I have been missed! Hugs back to you!!! :)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 19, 2014:

Well, I sure have missed you and so glad to see you writing again! Now, why have I not thought of Four-O'Clocks before. I must start planting these in my yard this year!!! Those bi-colored Four-O'Clocks are stunning. Best of all, they come back each spring!

Great article and thank you for sharing all about this gorgeous flower.

Up and more and sharing


Faith Reaper

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 19, 2014:

This brings back memories of my childhood picking 4 o'clock seeds out of my grandmother's colorful garden. I am determined to plant them this year. Cannot wait for the chance!

Jackie on February 19, 2014:

Thanks, I will be sure to do that!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 19, 2014:

Hi Jackie! I'm glad I came along, just in time! I love my Four O'Clocks, be sure and plant them in a sunny spot for the best results! Thank you for your visit and kind comment! :)

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 19, 2014:

Well you must be a godsend. I have looked at Four-OClocks as recently as yesterday wondering should I add them this year and now I see they would come back each spring so I will! They are beautiful no doubt about that. Thanks for such an informative article to solve my dilemma. lol ^+

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