Mirabilis jalapa: Four o’clock flower

Family: Nyctaginaceae
Common name: Four o’clock flower, Marvel of Peru

Most flowers bloom in the morning and droop by evening, but here’s an exception. Four o’clock flower is so-called, because it blooms between 4 pm and 6 pm every day, or slightly earlier on cloudy days. They stay open through the night and droop in the morning. The flowers live only for a day, but the plant blooms so abundantly that it will keep having flowers every day during season. Four o’clock flower plants are tuberous and grow only about 1-1.5 meters in height.

The most common flower in India is a deep pink or magenta variety. But other species exist based on flower colors of white, yellow, pink, red and also a combination of these colors in stripes, spots or flecks. An interesting feature of this plant is its capability to produce different colored flowers on the same plant. Some flowers can also change color through the day, the yellow ones turning to dark pink; or the white ones turning light purple.

Four o’clock flowers have a sweet fragrance very attractive to birds, bees and other pollinating insects. They are long and tubular with 5 petals joined at the base, and slight origami-like folds visible on the petals. The plants need good sunlight to bloom, and is not recommended as an indoor plant. The flowers then form seed pods that are initially green and then turn black, each containing one seed.

Four o’clock flower plants have many uses; the flowers are used in food coloring. Parts of the plant are used as diuretic, purgative and also in treatment of dropsy. Leaves are used to reduce inflammation and in healing wounds.

Propagation is from seeds or root tubers.

2 thoughts on “Mirabilis jalapa: Four o’clock flower

  1. Beautiful information, i hv just found one today. Thank you . Plz give me more details on how i can use it .

    1. Thank you, Shivani. It’s a joy hearing from readers.
      Four o’clock flower has some culinary and medicinal uses, but they are not commonly used for these purposes. They are mostly grown as ornamental plants. Once planted, they will continue to adorn you garden for months, and then grow small plantlets around the parent plant, that you can re-plant.

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