HOW TO GROW AND SAVE THE SEED OF FOUR O'CLOCKS
Latin name Mirabilis jalapa is a frost tender, herbaceous perennial often grown as an annual in the north. The dainty flowers will close during the heat of the day and open around 4 p.m., hence the name! The blooms attract beneficial insects, moths and hummingbirds. Plant this fragrant night bloomer alongside moonflowers for a stunning evening display.
Native to the dry, tropical regions of Central and South America, it was cultivated by the ancient Aztecs as a medicinal and ornamental plant. The flowers have been used to render a crimson-colored food dye. Be aware that the seeds are considered poisonous. Members of the Kayapo tribe in Brazil pulverize dried flowers into a powder, which they sniff to treat headaches.
- Seeds germinate in 7-10 days.
- Start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date or direct seed after all chance of frost has passed.
- Soak seeds overnight in warm water before sowing.
- Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep. Ideal germination temperature is 70-78 F.
- Mirabilis produces a large taproot, which makes it a drought-tolerant plant. However, it will bloom more profusely when given more water.
- Plants prefer full sun to part shade and well-drained soil.
- Space plants 18-24 inches apart.
- Mirabilis is considered a pest-free plant that is also deer resistant.
- The blooms are attractive to a wide range of beneficial insects as well!
- Mirabilis readily reseed in the garden, but you can save seeds for next year's planting as well.
- Perennial in frost-free zones, plants produce tubers similar to dahlias, which can be lifted and saved over winter in the north.
- Flowers are perfect and self pollinating but are cross pollinated by insects.
- To save seed, simply pick the large, black seed pods from the spent flower heads and allow to dry out of direct sunlight for 7 days.
- Store in a cool, dry, dark location.