The Four O’Clock Flower - An Old Fashion Favorite
Four O'Clock Flower
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 3 little transplants and within a few weeks, they were blooming like crazy, I was hooked!
Four O'Clock Flower History
The four o’clock flower or, “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 late afternoons 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.
US Hardiness Zone Map
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. 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.
Closed Four O'Clock Flowers
The four o’clock is a leafy, multi-branched plant which blooms all summer long. The blooms are sweet smelling, with a scent similar to honey-suckle. The blooms can be red, magenta, pink, yellow and white. Some blooms will be bi-colored and some blooms may actually change color as the plant matures. The flowers are trumpet shaped 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 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 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. If they begin to get leggy, you can cut them back and new stems will appear quickly.
Four O'Clock Flower Seed
Seeds and Usage
The seeds are small, black and round, similar to black pepper corns. 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 food coloring. In South America, the root is used as a hallucinogen and for medicinal purposes. Sections of the plant can be used as diuretic or treating wounds. The leaves can be used to decrease inflammation and can be consumed if cooked.
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!