It’s always time for four o’clocks

There are those who love four o’clocks… and there are those who haven’t yet grown them.

What a great way to cheer up a summer garden. Photo by Mac and Annie Cantu, McKinney.

They’re handsome annuals or tender perennials you’ll see in old heirloom gardens, along fencerows in eastern parts of the state and in occasional well-tended landscapes of people who know how handsome they are.

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My friend Mac Cantu and I somehow started talking about them at church a couple of weeks ago. He showed me photos on his phone.

Here are a few of the colors from the Cantu garden. Four o’clocks bloom from late afternoon through the night and into the next morning. Hummingbirds and moths love them.

I asked if he’d lend them to me for e-gardens. To our good fortune, he was willing, adding that his wife Annie’s mom had sent them seeds from New Orleans to get them started and that they’ve been collecting and replanting ever since.

Yellow four o’clocks are especially appealing. Nice work, Cantus!

Mac and Annie have done a beautiful job featuring four o’clocks in their gardens. Their landscape is lovely, the perfect complement to the bloomers.

What you need to know about four o’clocks…
Common name: Four o’clock, because that’s roughly the time of day that their flowers open.
Scientific name: Mirabilis jalapa
Native home: Peru
Often used as annuals, but root-hardy perennial in most of Texas.
Reseeds freely which may be fine unless you’re looking for specific colors.
Mature height, width: 30-42 inches
Sun to part sun
Drought-tolerant, but blooms best if not allowed to wilt repeatedly.

Excellent write-up by my friend Dr. William Welch of Texas A&M on the plant. It gives an interesting historical perspective.

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Note: If you’re interested in trying unusual four o’clocks, Google for sources and look especially for small companies that feature heirloom varieties of reseeding types. Here are a couple I found.

Circa Plants

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Renee’s Garden (They say they’re temporarily out of stock. They may be waiting for the 2022 seeds.)

Mixture ‘Broken Colors’ as shown on website of Renee’s Garden.

And the “big kids” have them, too:

Burpee Seeds

Park Seed

Posted by Neil Sperry
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