Native to the dry tropical regions of North, Central, and South America, this herbaceous perennial, also known as marvel of Peru, is a member of the family Nyctaginaceae that also includes Bougainvillea and Abronia. The shrub-like plant grows from a large swollen tuber that is up to 12″ long and may weight 40 pounds. The plant is spreading, multibranched and has week, brittle stems that are light or bright green sometimes with a yellow or pink hue. The dark green leaves are lanceolate to ovate, up to 6″ long, and have pointed tips and heart-shaped bases. In summer, terminal or axillary clusters of funnel-shaped, tubular flowers appear. They are 2″ long by 1″ across, have 5 flaring lobes, and may be white, pink, red, magenta, yellow or a combination of colors, sometimes with mottling and striping. Flower of different colors may appear on the same plant. The flowers open about 4 o’clock, hence the common name, remain open all night, and are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. The fruit is a leathery, 5-ribbed achene and plants readily reseed themselves. The roots and seeds are poisonous if ingested but toxicity severity is low. An old fashioned plant, 4 o’clocks are especially attractive in cottage gardens and are useful in containers. The genus name, Mirabilis, is he Latin word meaning amazing, perhaps referring to the many different flower colors. The specific epithet, jalapa, may honor Jalapa, Guatemala, the site of its origin. On the other hand, it may honor Jalapa/Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz in Mexico where it was linked to a purgative drug made there. Photo Credit Nicholas Gemini Wikimedia Commons

Type: Tender herbaceous perennial (but often grown as an annual)

Bloom: Tubular, funnel-shaped flowers in summer

Size: 2-4′ H x 2-4′ W

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Moderately fertile, medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 9-11

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: Generally healthy but susceptible to damage by aphids, slugs

Propagation: Seed in spring, division in fall

Companion Plants: Summer phlox, lantana,’Goldstrum’ rudbeckia.

Outstanding Selections:

‘Broken Colors’ (flowers splashed or marbled in orangey-red)

‘Jingles’ ( series with small, multi-colored flowers)

Photo Credit: Steve Sanders Wikimedia Commons

By Karen