Golden Valley Botanicals

Golden Valley Botanicals

Mail Order Nursery | Rare and Drought Tolerant Plants | Seeds | Botanical Photography & Design

Mirabilis multiflora

Plant Type

Family

Nyctaginaceae

Common Names

Colorado Four O’Clock
Showy Four O’Clock
High Desert Four O’Clock

Alternate Latin Names

Hardiness Zones

Plant Characteristics

Origin:

California, Colorado, Texas, Northern Mexico

Height:

1-2′

Width:

3-4′

Exposure:

Full Sun to Partial Shade

Elevation:

Cold Hardiness:

-20 F

Heat Tolerance:

Irrigation:

Very Low, Once Established

Growth Rate:

Moderate

Bloom Color:

Magenta, Pink, Purple

Bloom Time:

Spring, Summer, Fall
Foliage:

Evergreen

Toxicity Info:

NA

Cultivation Notes

Mirabilis multiflora is a fantastic drought & heat-tolerant perennial native to the Southwestern United States. Blooms begin in early Spring to early Summer depending on your climate zone. The fading light of late afternoon signals to the blossoms that it is time to open up, thus the name. Once established, hundreds of blossoms open at once, attracting local pollinators, including hummingbirds, bees, quail, butterflies, and night-visiting moths. A cloudy overcast day or flowers left unpollinated the night before can cause them to open earlier in the evening and close later in the morning.

The plant grows from these beautiful striped seeds the first year, then begins to form a very large and deep-rooted underground tuber to store nutrients. Every year, the tuber grows deeper and wider. Once the first frosts of the year arrive the foliage will die all the way back to its roots. They are very difficult to transplant once established, so choose their new home wisely. They are much happier in the ground than in containers and require plenty of space.

Deep intermittent irrigation can provoke an amazing symphony of blossoms in even extreme Southwest desert conditions. It can also grow in part shade and prefers good drainage. It loves the desert sand but can grow in a wide range of soils and alkalinities. Intense drought without supplemental water can cause dieback, while rains can provoke more blooms.

Chilling (or stratifying), scarifying, and/or soaking the seeds overnight in a bowl of warm water before planting can vastly improve germination rates. To stratify, chill for at least a month at temperatures between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can actually store these seeds with good germination rates for at least three years with this method. If you want to let nature do the work for you, sow the seeds in early winter and expose them to the ambient cold temperatures, remembering to water thoroughly and then letting them dry out between waterings. A good drainage soil mix is essential: a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss, sterile sand, and some perlite works pretty well. Use pots at least 4″ deep and plant seeds shallow, about as deep as the seed is thick. Scarifying can be done by carefully cracking the hard outer surface of the seed coat. Some people use nail clippers, sandpaper, rubber mallets, or pliers. Soaking can help as well. Seeds should start to germinate within a few weeks of experiencing warmer temperatures, which can be simulated with a greenhouse or bottom heat or which occur naturally in Spring. The roots grow quickly, transplant well before the seedling has a chance to get rootbound. Protect from rabbits.

The sprawling habit of the Four O’Clock makes it an ideal groundcover to help conserve moisture and provide shade around the base of larger shrubs and trees. Planting it above a retaining wall or in an elevated location allows the branches to cascade down, creating a beautiful waterfall effect of pinkish-purple flowers.