Four o’clock, which goes by
several names, including Marvel of Peru and the botanical name Mirabilis jalapa,
is a no-fail garden flower. Most gardeners treat the bushy plants as annuals,
though they develop fleshy tubers in the south and come back year after year.
They grow to a manageable 2 to 3 feet in height, and sport flowers in a
fascinating variety of colors, including marbled bi-colors. The common name
“four o’clock” came about because the flowers habitually open in the late
afternoon, remaining open into the night. They are sweetly scented, and a
favorite of hummingbirds.
2. Plant. Sow Four o’clock seeds directly in the garden in spring or early summer, about 4-6 inches apart; cover seeds lightly with soil and press gently.
3. Grow. Water the soil to keep it moist for a week or two, until seeds germinate. Once seedlings are a few inches tall, thin them by removing extra plants so the remaining ones are at least 1 foot apart. Pull weeds that sprout nearby, and apply organic mulch, such as bark chips, to control weeds and conserve soil moisture. Water during period of summer drought..
Four o’clocks begin flowering in mid- to late summer, and continue into fall.
Enjoy the multicolored blooms, the fragrance, and the hummingbirds that the
tubular flowers may attract in the evening.
AT A GLANCE
Planting time: After danger of frost
Planting depth: 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep
Spacing in row: Sow 4 to 6 inches apart; thin to 12 to 18 inches apart
Time to flower: 70 to 80 days from seed