Four-O'Clock Flowers Around
the World Cancer Memorial
Four-o'clock plants (Mirabilis jalapa) are very easy to plant and grow throughout America and around the world. Planting should be done when all chances of frost have passed in your area. Four-o'clocks thrive in partially sunny locations, but will do well in sunny locations. Loosen the soil in the bed where you will plant the seeds. The seeds should be pressed into the soil with a small covering of soil no more than a half an inch. Space the seeds approximately one to two feet apart. Gently water. The seeds will sprout in 7 - 14 days depending on the temperature. The warmer the temperature, the faster the germination. A mild, water-soluble fertilizer applied once a month would be beneficial to the plants. The plants will grow to a height of three feet in most climates and produce an abundance of scented flowers. The flowers bloom in the late afternoon, hence the name - Four-o'clocks. Four-o'clocks come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, pink, magenta, and combinations of those colors. They will continue blooming until the first frost.
Harvesting Four-o'clock Seeds
Four-o'clocks produce an abundance of black seeds about the size of a pea. The seeds are formed when the flower dries up and falls off the stem leaving the seed. The seeds can be harvested by picking them from the bush by hand, or allowing them to fall onto the ground and picking them off the ground. Place the seeds on a paper towel to thoroughly dry which takes approximately five (5) days. The seeds can now be stored in paper bank envelopes or in paper bags. The paper allows air circulation around the seeds. Do NOT place the seeds in any type of plastic container or plastic envelope as this will result in the seeds mildewing and rotting. Once the seeds are dried, they can be shared with your family and friends.
Cold Climates Planting
Four-o'clocks are considered as a perennial in the South and as an annual in the North. This means those living in colder climates should harvest and save seeds from their four-o'clocks to be planted the next year. There's been some reports of four-o'clocks surviving winters after being heavily mulched with leaves, grass clippings, newspaper and other materials. It is good to be on the safe side and save seeds. Four-o'clocks produce cone-shaped tubers which can be dug up and stored in a dry location for planting the following year. It is important not to store tubers in plastic or a closed container because the tubers will rot. It is ideal to store tubers in-between layers of newspaper in a cardboard box.
Container Growing Four-o'clocks
Four-o'clocks are easily grown in small containers for apartments. A one (1) to five (5) gallon container obtained from your local garden center or nursery is ideal for growing four-o'clocks. Fill the container with a qualify potting mix, such as Hyponex. Water the container, then press the seeds into the soil. Place 4 - 7 seeds in a gallon container. A saucer under the container is helpful. The seeds should germinate within 7 - 14 days depending on the temperature. Place the container on a porch or balcony so the plants are receiving some direct or indirect sun light. A light solution of water soluble fertilizer once a month will be beneficial to the plants. Container plants need more attention and watering. A suggestion is to use mulch on the top of the container to reduce the evaporation of water from the pots. Plants not receiving enough sun will become long and spindly. Four-o'clocks can have the main stalk "pinched back" to have the plant become more bushy. Four-o'clocks have been grown indoors in Alaska and cold climates, such Minnesota and Wisconsin. An elderly lady in Minnesota had a single four-o'clock growing in a quart flower pot in her kitchen window.
Persons can obtain more information on growing and caring for four-o'clock plants by contacting their local County Agent or Cooperative Extension Service. Information can also be obtained at your local garden center and nursery.
Copyright 2009 New Orleans, Louisiana