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A Where to Plant 4 O Clocks

A Where to Plant 4 O Clocks

Where to Plant 4 O Clocks

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Four o clocks are bushy annuals with colorful flowers and a sweet lemon or orange fragrance. They grow equally well in part shade as well as full sun. They begin flowering in midsummer when sown directly as seed, but will flower earlier if grown as transplants. The individual flowers open in late afternoon, usually between 4 pm and 8 pm (hence the common name). I won’t set my watch by them, though. They often will stay open until the following morning, then close and die. This makes them great flowers to enjoy after work or first thing in the morning. Flowers may remain open all day on cloudy days. A single plant may contain different colored flowers depending on the mix.

Plant

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Although they can take some shade, 4 o clocks flower best in full sun on well-drained soil. Some people may get a rash from rubbing the leaves, so wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt when working the plant. The seeds also can be toxic if ingested. Most varieties have multiple colored flowers on the same plant. These include, white, pink, yellow, red, and bicolor blooms. ‘Limelight’ is a newer variety with fuchsia colored flowers and lime green leaves that offer a bright color even when not in bloom. Plant 4 o clocks in a container or near a window where you can enjoy the fragrance in the evening. You can also have some fun creating a flower clock. Plant morning glories, daylilies, 4 o clocks, and moonflowers in one bed. When in bloom, the flowers will open in that order starting in the morning until evening.The common name of four o’clocks was given to Mirabilis jalapa because the flowers of this plant do not open until late in the day. This old-fashioned garden ornamental in the four-o’clock family (Nyctaginaceae) is a tender perennial hardy in Zones 7-10, generally grown as an annual throughout most of the US. Native to tropical South America in the Andes – and also sometimes called Marvel of Peru – it is the most commonly grown ornamental species of Mirabilis. Discovered by Europeans in 1540, the root was used by indigenous peoples for medicinal purposes, as a hallucinogen, and as a purported aphrodisiac, while the flowers produce an edible red dye for coloring food.

The flowers wilt by the following morning and those faded flowers are not self-shedding, remaining on the plant – so some people may not like the appearance. Numerous large, dark, leathery, 5-ribbed, spherical “seeds” (actually a fruit that is a nut-like achene) with a wrinkled surface are produced in the fall. These are poisonous if ingested. They can also self-seed under the right conditions and have become naturalized in some parts of the southern U.S.Grow four o’clocks in full sun in almost any type of soil but they do best in a humus-rich, well-drained spot. Plants can be started from seed sown outdoors after the danger of frost has passed or indoors up to 8 weeks ahead of time. Soaking the seeds in water overnight will speed up germination. Sow the seeds no more than ¼ inch deep as light aids germination. They should germinate in 1-3 weeks. Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle, if needed, into individual. Thin seedling or place transplants 12-24 inches apart. (Source: hort.extension.wisc.edu)

 

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