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Four O' Clock Flowers

In the post on how to collect Four O' Clock flower seeds I mentioned how I haven't had much luck getting four O' Clock seeds to germinate for me in my garden. I'm happy to report that after a few years of trying, the garden gods decided to smile upon me. Behold, two Four O' Clock flowers from my garden.

White Four O' Clock Flower picture,Mirabilis jalapa, Marvel of Peru

The first is this yellow Four O' Clock flower. Charming isn't it? The tubular blooms are even opening early in the evening, unlike the plants I saved the seeds from. Star-shaped flowers are probably my favorite. Mirabilis jalapa, the botanical name of Four O' Clocks are also commonly referred to as Marvel of Peru.

Yellow Four O' Clock Picture,Mirabilis jalapa, Marvel of Peru

The second is this white Four O' Clock bloom from the same seeds I saved from the empty lot near my house. Even though I've collected a lot of Four O' Clock seeds, from various colors, over the past couple of years I only managed to germinate seeds for a white and yellow Four O' Clock plants. Begger can't choosers and free plants are free plants, right? Notice how the pollen sacks are yellow in the white bloom, but red in the picture of the yellow Four O' Clock above?

This spring I decided that I would try to dig up a Four O' Clock tuber from the empty lot and plant the tuber in my own garden this year. The day I walked over to where the Four O' Clocks had been growing wild I discovered the empty lot had been turned into a parking lot. I guess I lucked out, or maybe the Four O' Clock plants lucked out because now they can live on in my garden and I can continue to save seeds and share them with garden friends.

So what did I do differently this year in trying to germinate the Four O' Clock seeds? Nothing I can think of, really. Perhaps the seeds sprouted because I let them soak in water longer than usual after I scarified them. Maybe the spring rains kept the soil moist and that helped the seeds germinate. Whatever the reason for my luck with Four O' Clocks I'm couldn't be happier. Thanks to everyone who commented and shared tips on starting Four O Clock seeds in the post on how to collect Four O' Clocks. I really appreciate your tips and desire to help.

Update: It looks like we may get a storm or some rain today judging by the fierce winds. While walking past the Four O' Clocks I noticed that the blooms were all tightly shut. I know some blooms will close up during the rain so as not to waste pollen but I didn't know that  Mirabilis jalapa did this. Pretty cool.

Here's my garden video on collecting Four O' Clock seeds.


  1. Hello Mr. Brownthumb,
    I love your blog! I was just wondering whether ure still answering some Aloe vera questions? If yes, I have just posted a query on that blogpost.

    Many thanks!


  2. Ok, I feel like a goober sometimes. I had no clue as to what these "night bloomers" were in my garden, and have heard of 4 o'clocks before. So I am delighted to see your post and to realize how lucky I am to have them (and hate to say I had just sprinkled them and kicked dirt over them - must be something in the soil & the frequent humidity). I have had white, pink, yellow and possibly cross pollinated versions: yellow with pink, pink and white pop up. Have posted some pics through the season on my garden blog… Thanks for sharing. I feel a bit more intelligent now at least knowing their name.

  3. These pics remind me of our first home and garden which was in Southern Illinois. I planted four o'clocks because someone gave me some seeds. They were the most colorful flowers in my garden, and they never failed to bloom as long as we lived there.

    I'm enjoying your various seed collecting and demo videos, and I'm wondering if I've missed the one where we get to see Mr. Brown Thumb, besides the hand? It would be nice to put a face to the name and the voice.

  4. @Shalmali,

    I approved your comment yesterday but I just got around to replying to it today. Sorry for the delay. Check it out.


    They go by different common names,Marvel of Peru beinging another. But I'm glad you learned something from the post. Yeah, they're suppose to open up around 4 O' Clock, hence the most common name. Go out in the evenings and look at them and when it gets dark you'll be able to see pollinators, like moths, visit the blooms. There's a lot of nice varieties available for them and I've tried them all from seed and didn't have much luck until now. Sounds like you havea nice collection of blooms, I'll have to check your blog out.


    It is kind of hard to capture myself in vids and pictures, because I'm the one usually taking them. Maybe in the future if I can get someone to help me do these mini garden videos. I never thought I'd actually talk in a video, so you never know what the future holds. :0)

  5. I love four-o-clocks! The hummers love them also, I think the last of our hummers may be gone.

  6. Yes the flowers are charming. Congrats on the seeds that have germinated! Soak longer is a good tip for me. I try this one the seeds that didn't germinate for me. Thanks and have a great weekend.

  7. Four O Clocks are beautiful and prolific. I did pink and white blooms this year. The only thing is that they can become invasive in some places.

  8. In South Florida, four o'clocks are under serious consideration for adding to the invasive list. Much as I love them, I can see why; once they get started it takes a lot of effort to keep them from multiplying everywhere.

    Also, have you noticed that the magenta ones have the strongest perfume?


  9. Look for a special shout-out on today's Bay Area Tendrils, MrBT;~D

  10. Hi Mr. BT! Hey, we both know you're a winner in real life, as evidenced by your quality blog and winning personality. Sadly, though, you're a loser in my plant puzzler. I hope you come back and try again!

  11. grenades, huh? LOL! I never thought of that, but you're right - they do look like little grenades! Four-o-clocks were in just about every garden on my block when I was growing up on the north side. I've always loved them.

    It's only been in the last couple of years that I realized they will develop those big tubers and come back every year. When I was little I thought it was just that they reseeded themselves. They have really taken over my sister's garden - I've been helping her dig them out the last couple of years. I've been tempted to bring a couple of tubers home and try them here - they're so nostalgic for me.

  12. Thanks so much for this post. I planted Four-o-clocks from seed this spring and had one - count it, one - plant come up. It [apparently] was yellow. Things have been so crazy [and hot] around here for August and September that I completely missed seeing it bloom. I did find the tired, brown plant post-blooming, so I appreciate seeing your pretty yellow one and imagining that mine looked the same. I may try again next year....

  13. Mirabilis are an exasperation for me. We don't get enough heat to have them grow well in the garden. This year, I was seduced by the lime-gold variegated foliage of one cultivar, and planted a couple in a container, only to have them do splendidly for a few weeks then dwindle away and die. It might have been the potting soil, or the cultivar; I really don't know. But they don't seem to like my attempts to grow them. So I'll enjoy yours. I did get a couple of very handsome seed pods/seeds from them, but haven't done anything with them.

  14. These guys ARE very charming. I particularly like the yellow.

  15. I've never planted these before... I'll have to try them.

  16. I'm new to your blog, I found you through facebook and became a fan! I left a comment there too. Gorgeous flower and amazing photography indeed! I'm looking forward to following your posts. Have a great week!

  17. Can you believe I've never grown four o'clocks?! I winter-sowed them one year and they came up, but we had a freak warm period followed by a freak cold period and they died. I dunno why I never sowed them again because they are GORGEOUS! And I didn't realize they eventually form tubers. So, will you save some grenades me, please?!

  18. @Iowa Gardening Woman, I hope one day to see some hummer in my urban garden. I've read they pass through Chicago, but I have yet to see one in person here.

    @Stephanie, This year I learned that leaving seeds longer than a few hours really helps. I think leaving them for a couple days doesn't do them much harm.

    @Red Icculus, How you doing man? Yeah, I can imagine them being a nuisance in climates that are similar to where they are native and really taking off.

    @Terra Mirabilis, Penny, I hadn't heard they were that bad in Florida. I guess your climate is a blessing and a curse. I have noticed that about the magenta ones, I wonder why that is. Maybe because being a darker color flower it makes it hard to spot in the dark and so the scent helps the night pollinators?

    @Alice, :0)

    @Liz, One of these days I'm going to guess correctly in your contests!

    @Garden Girl, I can't wait to see one of those tubers. I've only read about them and I wonder what they look like.

    @Webb, I hope you get to catch your bloom next year. If you want I can send you more pictures ;0)

    @Jodi, That's funny, how you and I have problems with them and in places like where Terra Mirabilis live they're a problematic weed.

    @Wendy, They really are. The yellow is my favorite too, but I do like the more broken color varieties of Four O' Clocks.

    @Dirty Girl Gardening, If they are not at risk of being invasive in your area, give them a try. They're really cool plants to point out to kids and non-gardeners alike.

    @Priscilla, Thanks for following the blog, I appreciate the feedback. I'll make sure to check yours out.

    @Monica, Sure I have a few extras maybe you'll luck out and the seeds I give you will be a color different than mine. Where I collected them from had a nice variety of color.

  19. Anonymous3:40 PM

    I have been looking for years to find this flower i have grew up with.My parents had the side of house lined with them.Remembering the seeds always stuck in my mind.Would love to have some seeds so i may grow them again.

    Thanks for the memories

  20. Anonymous1:25 PM

    i love the 4 oclocks cuz i can always count on them for shocking color in my garden. i live in east coast central florida. all we do here is pluck the seed from the mother plant, then stick it in the dirt (mostly sand)about a half inch and forget about it. i've never seen one not come up. i have so many and get so many compliments on them that i save a lot of seed to give away to the people walking by my house. the butterflies and bees love them too. depending on daylight savings time...they open between 4 and 5 oclock. i've only had fusia colored ones for years and just got some yellows this year. my yellows have part pink on the flower petals. has anyone else had a mix of colors on the flowers? i love it!

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips on how to plant and germinate four o' clock seeds.

  21. My plants are about 2 feet tall and don't have any flowers :(

    1. It could be that they are not ready to bloom yet, or maybe they would benefit from some fertilizing. When was the last time you fertilized your four o' clock plants?

  22. Anonymous12:29 PM

    My Dad got some four o'clock seeds from plants growing at our local post office and planted them down the side of our garage. There were there for ten years or more, with no maintenance. The summer my Dad died and we moved I collected a bunch of the seeds and packed them away and forgot about them. They spent a few years in some adverse conditions, including at least two summers in a 100+ degree attic! I recently planted them and am pleased to say I got about a 50% germination rate.

    They are red and the fragrance fills the entire lot. I would say the fragrance is as attractive as rose, but of course much stronger.

    1. I think it is awesome that you managed to save and plant four o' clock seeds that your father snatched from your post office. What an awesome story, thanks for sharing it!

  23. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Hello, this is my first visit. Enjoyed reading all about 4 o'clocks. Tried planting the seeds, last year, inside, they came up and I transplanted them outside. Some did well, but finally disappeared, all but a couple. I dug those up and put them in a pot and moved the pot into the sun. It's doing good so far and has 2 blooms, red, which I love. I first saw this plant at the beach, planted in front of the porch of the place we were staying. Yellow and red, planted together. I picked a LOT of the seeds, took them home and just threw all of them in a bed that I already had, and they came up. Planting the yellow and the red ones together, made some of the flowers, the yellow ones, had a red stripe on them. Looked so pretty and smelled soooooo good. At night, when my husband came home from work, the cars headlights lit up the flowers and there were soo many hummingbirds flying around. It was an amazing thing to see and we watched them for a long time. Wish we had gotten it on film. Love hummingbirds and they love the 4 o'clocks. I hope the 'one' I have now, will multiply and spread and attract the hummingbirds. Petunias, another favorite of mine, also attracts the birds but can only have them in the spring and summer. Although, I did have a few plants to come back from seed that the plants dropped in a couple of pots, and they are still blooming. Yellow marigolds did the same, as did the moss rose. They weren't as pretty but they came back. Nature never ceases to amaze me.



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