One of the most talked about flower on my Instagram and Facebook page is Mirabilis jalapa or the old-fashioned four o’clock flower.
Four o’clocks were one of the first flowers I grew when we bought our first home. I had mentioned to a coworker that I wanted to find a flower that grew quickly from seed and the next day, she brought me a handful of four o’clock seeds. Thirty-five years later, they are still in my gardens.
One of the unique traits of this flower is it blooms in the late afternoon or evening, hence the name. I have these flowers in a full sun garden and some in a bed that gets afternoon shade. During the summer heat of the day, the blooms remain closed up tight.
But, when it cools off in the evening, the blooms open up and release a very pleasant fragrance enticing all kinds of nighttime pollinators.
Another unique feature about this plant is the way cross pollination can occur. This year, I have plants with pink, white, and yellow flowers. Some plants have two colors on the same plant
or both colors on one flower.
Saving the seeds are easy because they are big and very easy to see.
What I don’t collect, will fall to the ground and sprout next spring. These flowers are pretty tough and will even grow in concrete. Just keep in mind, they might be a different color when they bloom next year.
Four o’clocks are not bothered by too many pests, but do seem to attract Japanese beetles (like so many plants do.)
Years ago, I remember reading a gardening book written by Ruth Stout. I don’t recall which book it was, but I remember her making an observation that Japanese beetles loved the foliage of four o’clocks. She somehow made a hypothysis that the foliage was also poisonous to the beetle and would kill it after they consumed it.
This theory has been a controversy ever since. For me, in my garden, the beetles go for the roses first. After reading about this , I began planting four o’clocks around my roses, not only to try this theory, but to hide the base of a somewhat gangly rose variety I had. I figure I’m going to grow them anyway, might as well put them to the test. I don’t really have any concrete proof that the foliage kills the beetles, but I have observed that after I see them on my four o’clocks, I don’t see them anymore. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe their lifecycle was complete, or maybe we are on to something. Regardless, they will always be in my garden.
What are your thoughts or observations about this?