Plant Profile: Four O’clocks

posted in: Plant Profiles, Seeds | 26

4 o’clocks or Marvel of Peru or Mirabilis jalapa is an annual plant where I live in Canada.  The blooms of many colours usually open in the late afternoon, all night and close up the following morning.  The plant likes full sun and grows just under 1 meter in height.  

I’m in Canadian zone 5b which is the equivalent of USDA zone 4b.  In warmer climate zones this plant can be grown as a perennial.  I need to dig the root each year and save it in a cool, dark place so that it can be planted the following spring.

four o'clock seed ...
4 o’clock seeds

Sow seeds outside in spring after the last frost.  Plant 1/4 inch or about 75 mm deep and approximately 2.5 cm or 1 linch apart.  Cover with soil and gently pat down.  Seeds can germinate in about 5 to 10 days.  

4 oclock seedlings
4 o’clock seedlings

Thin when seedlings are about 2.5 cm tall.  Plants like a sunny location but will grow in poor soil.  If you prefer you can start the seeds inside about 4 to 6 weeks before planting outside.

One year I got some established roots from Veseys.  I had read about the tuberous roots but never seen any.  These tubers have been dug and stored in a cool, dry place over the winter and planted again the following year. I’ve had wonderful results doing this each year.


I choose different containers and locations to plant them each year.

deck corner

After growing the plants from tubers I don’t think I will go back to growing from seed again.

growing 4 o'clocks at

They bloomed from the end of July or beginning of August and in a variety of colours.

growing 4 o'clocks at

A wonderful surprise was a multi coloured one.  I was out early in the morning to capture some photos of this beauty.

growing 4 o'clocks at

As the bloom finishes a little pod appears.

Be sure to leave it on the plant till it dries out and opens up.  Inside you will find a little seed just waiting for you to pluck out.  Plants can self seed, but not always.


I had tied a bit of yarn around each plant … the colour of the yarn depicted the colour of the bloom.  Because no matter how much I tell myself I will remember what colour of plant is in what pot, I don’t always remember.

As I gather the seeds I pop them into an egg carton.  The top  and bottom row in the above photo has each section labelled with a colour of the 4 o’clock seeds.


When the seeds were all dry they were stored in paper envelops all ready for giving away at Seedy Saturdays, seed swapping, gifting to friends or planting another year. If you do this you might be interested in a seed packet or label to attach to your seeds. - printable seed label four o'clokcs

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26 Responses

  1. Myrtle

    I used to have 4o’clocks, love them, started from the seeds every spring. I don’t have any now, too many moves.
    The yellow & white flower are my favourites but I like all the colours.

  2. Robin

    Hi Linda, probably thirty years ago my parents brought home some four o’clock seeds from Portugal. The next year we all planted some in our gardens and grew them for the next twenty years. Somewhere in one of our moves I lost my seeds. I think my sister still grows some every year. Yours are beautiful!!

    • Linda aka Crafty Gardener

      They certainly are the flower that keeps on growing. I have the roots that I dig each year and over winter. I also save the seeds for Seedy Saturdays. I frequently. Wish I lived in a climate zone where I could leave them in the ground … perhaps that is as I get older ?

      • Mary

        I live in Kansas USA and I guess it is now considered a warm climate, we now have a mild winter, and these four o’clocks have taken over my flower garden. They get about 4 ft tall and spread seeds everywhere! Be careful what you wish for because I don’t know how to get rid of them.

        • Linda aka Crafty Gardener

          You would need to dig the whole root to remove the plant. It is quite a big tap root, so dig deep. Another way is to remove the flower after it opens and don’t allow the seed to develop. Where I live the cold weather kills off the root so it is really an annual. We can dig the root, store it, and replant the following spring, hence a tender perennial.

  3. Linda

    Hey Linda…
    My late MIL always grew these…sweet little blooms.
    Hope your recovery is coming along…
    Linda :o)

    • Linda aka Crafty Gardener

      They are an old fashion plant. I’m doing really well, getting around much better, surgeon really pleased with my progress, and I’m getting out more ane more. Might check out some thrift stores tomorrow as haven’t been to any since my surgery.

      • Linda

        Have fun! I have had great luck lately!☺️

  4. Margie

    Such pretty flowers! Is there a reason they’re named “Four O’Clocks”?

  5. Photo Cache

    When I was growing up, we had this climbing around our balcony. What a nice memory.

  6. Elaine

    Oh all so pretty . I haven’t been doing my blog very much nor have I been reading blogs much either have been having months of comment problems lots of blogger blogs have oh well . Any who hope your recovering well and glad you can get outside more now it makes a lot difference when recovering from surgeries or illnesses . Nature does the soul and heart good.

  7. Su-sieee! Mac

    Volunteer pink four o’clock flowers have popped up in our yards for the last 8 years, at least. We just let them be. I had no idea they came in other colors or that their roots could be replanted the following year.

  8. Malathi Karpur

    I love four-o -clock flowers and I grow them in containers on my terrace . I have yellow, orange and magenta colored flowers. I also collect seeds from my garden and share them with people in my locality,

    I have posted a few pictures on my blog. I would be delighted if you could visit my post at your convenience

  9. Myrtle

    This email opened today Linda, I don’t have any 4 o’clock flowers here.

  10. Kay

    Not sure what to do. We bought some 4 9clock’s and the were very colorful. We saved some seeds and replanted them. Now all the plants that came up are blooming, and they all are white. What happened to the colors?

  11. Chantal Jacob

    Where can I purchase four o’clock? I live in Ottawa! Need to find them quickly! Seeds will do!!


    • Crafty Gardener

      Garden centers, Veseys catalogue, freecycle groups, local Facebook garden groups, other gardeners, local garden groups, any store that sells seeds, online searches are all great places to find them. Good luck in your search.

  12. Judy

    Can you tell me how deep you planted them..!!!!! The tubers… how much dirt over them.

    • Crafty Gardener

      Just like planting other bulbs like daffs or tulips. If tuber is shooting, I usually make sure shoot is covered with soil to level of ground. Hope that helps. Good luck growing the.

  13. Sonia

    I’m in New Brunswick (zone 5a). I planted seeds a month ago and they’re now ready to be transplanted. I was hoping to plant them in pots, take them inside over winter and take them outside again in the late spring. Will this work?

    • Crafty Gardener

      It is worth a try, but as these plants are annuals they will possibly die out. Dig and see how big the tuber root is, save that, plant inside in early spring and then move outside. I’m in Ontario and save the tubers each year. Right now the 4 o’clocks have lots of blooms. Good luck with your experiment.

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