Four o’ Clocks: Friend or Foe?

The Mirabilis jalapa (four o’ clock or marvel of peru) is the most common grown annual and comes in a variety of colors. Every year I swear that I will completely eradicate these from my garden, but they seed so prolifically that it is impossible. In the end, it’s my fault they are still here after all these years, because I’m too weak to rip them all out before they go to seed. Afterall, you have to admit they have some fine qualities such as blooming at night, fragrant, drought resistant and their simple beauty. I really like the combination of pink and yellow on this one plant and if you look close you will a splattering of pink speckles on the yellow flowers. According to Wikipedia, this is called the “color-changing phenomenon”. As the plant ages the yellow flowers will gradually change to pink. Because they bloom at night they are pollinated by sphynx moths. Another great quality is they seem to bloom no matter where I plant them. Full sun, part sun, great soil, poor soil etc… The seedlings are easy to remove from areas you don’t want them to be. Once that seedling matures they are somewhat tougher to remove because of their tuberous roots which will die back in the winter only to regrow in the spring. So I guess the best advice I give you is make sure you want them before you plant them, because you will have them forever.


20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mary Ann Archibald on August 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    They’re so pretty! At least if they’re invasive they’re still looking good. Happy gardening.


  2. Posted by tina on August 1, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I got a few of these years ago at a PPS meeting. Had no idea what they were but they sure were pretty! They have self seeded ALOT but are fairly contained in a foundation bed-of all places what was I thinking? Now I want them moved. Sigh. On the good note, I sprinkle the seeds in out of the way places and I have noticed some starting to come up. These smell HEAVENLY and are my favorite garden scent. I say FRIEND.


  3. Posted by Dave on August 1, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    They would be good if you have a large expanse of area where you want to see something bloom. Maybe mix with some zinnias!


  4. Posted by Nancy J. Bond on August 1, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I’d definitely say friend. Any plant that looks so pretty and has such other good qualities is a friend of mine. πŸ™‚


  5. Posted by beckie on August 1, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    This is a plant I have never grown, nor do I think I’ve ever seen it. So stanger to me(rather than friend or foe). Thanks for the advice that it is very prolific though. I’ve already got to many of those kind-false sunflower, vinca major and vinco minor.


  6. Posted by ChrisND on August 1, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    The answer is Yes…In the appropriate spot I would like these. I like catching the sphynx moths in action. Ours come to the evening primrose…maybe four o’ clock will work with those.


  7. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 1, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    And that’s why I don’t have the heart to get rid of them Mary Ann, because they are so pretty. Happy Gardening to you too! πŸ™‚

    They are extremely to grow Tina, which makes them great for areas that are hard to get anything to grow in. And the fragrance is divine and I love that they bloom at night attracting those sphinx moths to the garden. They would be a great night garden plant. πŸ™‚

    Great idea Dave. They are wonderful for areas like that where you want some blooms and maybe you can corral them.

    They do make it easy to befriend them Nancy. I say we have 4 votes for friend so far.

    I can’t believe you’ve never seen these before Beckie. They are an old fashioned annual, my grandmother grew them and her mother did too. If you have too many foes already then you don’t want these then. πŸ™‚


  8. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 1, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Just missed you Chris. πŸ™‚ If you like seeing the sphinx moth in action then these are your plant for sure. And their flowers are very sweet smelling and pretty. Great combo with other night bloomers. They come in other colors as well.


  9. Posted by OhioMom on August 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I love them, reminds me of my own childhood πŸ™‚


  10. Posted by Kathleen on August 1, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I’d say friend too!!! I love four o’clocks!


  11. Posted by Shibaguyz on August 1, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    I remember these from when I was a little kid. We were always trying to keep them from choking out the other flowers we had planted. Guess I had forgotten how pretty they really are.

    If they are foe then who cares if they are that pretty. We have a butterfly bush in our garden and everyone is “tsk-ing” because it is supposed to be an invasive weed as well. Oh well… to both our vote is FRIEND.


  12. Posted by Roses and Lilacs on August 1, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I remember these from childhood too. I don’t remember how my Dad kept them in check.

    I love fragrant plants especially ones loved by butterflies, moths and birds. A vote for friend. I should make a little out of the way place for some. Maybe they can duke it out with the cleome and the mallow:)


  13. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 1, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    They are a sentimental flower Mom. I've kept them because they were one of the first things i grew from seed in my garden when I moved here.

    Thanks Kathleen, I think the majority rules with the vote for Friend at this point! lol I'm glad you enjoyed them.

    Shibaguyz I agree with you completely. I couldn't imagine my garden without my butterfly bush. Look at how much wildlife I would be giving up. They are pretty and I love that they open in the evening, it's such a nice treat when everything else is looking alittle tired and spent. πŸ™‚

    I think R&L that that would be a fantastic location. They would give that Cleome a run for the money. πŸ˜‰ That can be pretty aggressive as well, but I love Cleome.


  14. Posted by Susie on August 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    P.G. I had this plant in my garden in GA. I never did have the pink ones though, only the yellow and white. I think it has so many good qualities it is worth growing. I must admit though I don’t have them here in MS. My Mother-In-Law does and I’m sure she’d be glad to share.


  15. Posted by Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage on August 1, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I’m such a softy that I wouldn’t rip them out either. I just read your comment on my latest post… you really should get certified. I went ahead and got the cool metal sign to put up at the entrance of our garden and that cost me about $15, but the rest is SO easy! Just do it!



  16. Posted by lacey on August 1, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Lol, I’ve never even heard of these before, but judging from other people’s opinions they must be a fun plant. Hard to move, but it sounds like their other qualities make up for it? I don’t know … but I probably won’t be planting any anytime soon!


  17. Posted by Lori on August 2, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I ‘discovered’ Four o’Clocks about a decade ago. Every year they are one of my precious gems. I live in zone 4, where the tuber freezes solid and the seeds do not withstand winter either. I never see them at garden centers, sold as annuals, and I have not had luck starting them early and then transplanting. So, I buy all the seeds I can find, plant them in protected locations, and worship the blooms when they come. It is August 1st and I have my first blooms now…and about mid September we will probably get our first frost, and covered or not, I will lose them. 😦 One person’s weeds are another’s gems.


  18. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 2, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I bet the white ones were pretty Susie. I've only had this type. I planted it from seeds years & years ago and it comes back faithfully every year. You have to give it credit for being determined.

    That's my problem, a plant is a plant in my books. I can't bear to get rid of one, even when I have to divide I try to find neighbors that want my extras. Thanks Cindy. I will definitely have to look into the certification. Sounds pretty cool.

    They are fun Lacey with their multicolored blooms that change color and their wonderful scent. They are a great annual, don't get me wrong. Their still in my garden. πŸ™‚

    There you go Lori, see every zone might experience different things. I do enjoy their pretty blooms and the fragrance is very nice too.


  19. Posted by Virginia on April 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Does anyone know how to kill these darn four o’clock’s out? Within three years they have over-taken several rose bushes and my lantana plants. I have been digging up the tubers which some are at least a foot or more in diameter. Please, someone help me!!!!

    Their pretty hard to get rid of, you have to pull them up root and all and don’t let them go to seed. Hope that helps. It’s easier to remove them when their young, the more established they are the deeper the tubers reach and spread. Sorry. 😦


    • Posted by Racquel on April 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      Their pretty hard to get rid of, you have to pull them up root and all and don’t let them go to seed. Hope that helps.


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