Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Four O'clock Flower

My recent post on wildflowers had one prominent variety
missing from the list. The Four O'clock flower or Mirabilis
Jalapa. Growing next to railway tracks and roadsides, they
come in several hues. The most common ones are- dark pink,
white, yellow, and pink with white lines.

The flowers are so named because they open in the afternoon
when the temperature drops. They close the next morning except
on dull and cloudy days. The plant is multi-branched and the
blooms are tubular. The long tube is suited to long-tongued
nectar-feeding, night-flying pollinators.

Mirabilis jalapa is also known as Marvel of Peru. This native
of South America has now become naturalized in tropical and
temperate climes.

The plant does well in full sun or partial shade. Propagation
is easy. Through seeds and its tuberous root. The seeds resemble
pepper seeds. I've succeeded in growing it from stem as I couldn't
yank out the root. The stem just above the root gave away and I
planted that portion. That was in January. Now tiny white tubes
have sprouted. Can't wait to see whether those pink lines will
also be there! As of now, the pink variety has self-seeded. There
are quite a few plants in unlikely places rooting:) for new

The above photographs are of the ones in my pots. The blooms in the
last photo were picked from the roadside and promptly put in a vase
in my kitchen. I remember reading that "Mirabilis" means wonderful
in Latin. An addition that's surely welcome in any garden.


Stephanie said...

Hello Kanak, I like the colour of this wonderful flower. I imagine these flowers to be quite attractive for the train passengers as the vehicle move on the track. Have a good rest and a great day tomorrow!

Antigonum Cajan said...

Mirabilis siciliana is not only a
beautiful plant/flower self seeding,
but the fragance of its flowers
comparable to: Gardenia, Frangipani,
Orange/Lemon, so far, since I have
not felt others yet...
I have this color and another variety much lighter ...both smell great.....

They are in my top ten, out of over
the hundred collection.

Anonymous said...

I've always heard about Four o'clocks but have never grown any. They are very beautiful and colorful. I always enjoy visiting with you and seeing your pretty photography Kanak.

Randy Emmitt said...

My family grew these many years ago, once these were common rural flowers. Now you seldom find them in gardens. I do recall a large tree having a 10 ft(3 meter) diameter bed of 4 O Clocks and watching the hummingbird moths come to them at dusk.

tina said...

Out of all the flowers in my garden, I love the scent of 4 o'clocks the most. I grow only the yellow and I think they are confused (or in another time zone) as mine open way after dark and sometimes 4 in the morning! Isn't that too funny?

Titania said...

Mirabilis are great, once you have established them you have them for ever. Many times I thought I had lost mine but no they are going like "clockwork".

Kanak Hagjer said...

True, Stephanie. Those vivid blooms come to mind as I write this. Blogging has made me observe wildflowers better! I never realised Mirabilis were in so many shades!

Antigonum, mine must be very only mildly fragrant because I'm yet to get any smell! Or maybe my neighbour's frangipani blooms are much stronger?! Thanks for stopping by.

Guess what, Mildred...I read that it's a southern tradition to grow four o'clocks near the front door for its fragrance. One of my aunts told me that there's a belief it brings bad luck!! Whatever it may be, I can't imagine myself not nurturing four o'clocks!

Randy, now that you've mentioned the hummingbird moths, I think I'll create a little patch for them. Although I take many butterfly/moth photos, I'm yet to shoot an insect hovering near these blooms. Thanks for sharing this!

That's weird, Tina. Must be a confused lot:)But the yellow ones must be so beautiful....

Trudi, just what I wanted to know! So now I have them for ever! What a comforting thought. I hope I'll soon be able to share Mirabilis in other colours!

Karen said...

I have always admired these in other people's gardens but have never grown them myself. Yours are spectacular!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

I have heard of four o'clock's but have never grown any. These are so pretty. Great colors.

Susie said...

I like this color the best. When we lived in GA we had yellow and white. We called them our 9 o'clocks because that's when ours opened! Obviously they couldn't tell time! lol

Anonymous said...

Inspired by you in blogging, photography and taking interest around oneself

Kanak Hagjer said...

Thanks Karen, sowed some more seeds today. Now I want those amazing hummingbird moths to visit!!

Lona, happy to read your comment because when I actually got down to posting it the thought at the back of my mind was...would other bloggers even want to read this?! Not as common as I thought!!

Susie, yours must've been more confused than Tina's?! Pink is an all-time favourite, isn't it, though I still can't wait to add the other colours.

Anonymous....thank you so much. A comment that'll be treasured.

Anonymous said...


Well we have these flowers growing in our area ( Wildly in real terms) its still too small to bloom, may be by next month ,

we have these in double shade mixed pattern i love them
will post the pictures as it blooms

easygardener said...

CityGarden sent me some seeds of Four o'clock's from Greece and the seedlings are about 3 inches high. I'm looking forward to the flowers. The colours are lovely.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Gauri, would love to see them...any bloom from the Kullu valley will be beautiful!

EG, oh wow, all the way from Greece! You must be so excited now that the seedlings are doing well!

keegan said...

Ours are growing in Canada and are a mix of goldy-yellow and pinky-red - glorious solids and combinations and some that leave you scratching your head at how they did it! They are bright and cheery but perfumed? Not a thing from our plants - and we have many. Didn't realise they stayed open overnight because some close by evening.