Mirabilis a genus of 60 species of herbaceous and semi-woody perennials most of which are native to North and South America. The name mirabilis derives from the Latin word for "wonderful", a perfect choice for this exotic plant. One species in particular, Mirabilis jalapa, is extremely popular and widely grown as a garden perennial.
More Information About Mirabilis
The common name, Four O' Clock, comes from the fact that Mirabilis flowers open late in the afternoon and close by the next morning. The flowers are quarter-sized and range in color from white to yellow to pink to red, but their best feature is their wonderful scent that is produced to attract night-time pollinators such as sphinx and hawk moths. Plant mirabilis near a patio so your summer evening patio party guests can enjoy the sweet floral scent. Hummingbirds and butterflies alike enjoy this flowering perennial but the toxic plants keep deer at bay.
Outside of the summer perennial garden, Mirabilis species have many uses. The colorful flowers are boiled to produce dye and cosmetics. Mirabilis expansa is a traditional food crop of the Incas that has experienced a resurgence in the last 50 years, as its sweet potato-like tubers are quite large and grow in locations too harsh for most other crops. The young leaves of this species are also eaten, boiled or raw. Other mirabilis species are used to produce hallucinogenic drugs and medicine. The popular M. jalapa is quite toxic, so do not eat it! There are anecdotal stories of M. jalapa plants attracting Japanese beetles, which eat the leaves and xonsequently die from the poison. Great! Sounds like an attractive substitute for all of those Japanese beetle bag traps that adorn southern gardens in summer.
Mirabilis plants are quite tough because they produce a large tuber, allowing the plants to regenerate after a cold winter or an overactive weed-whacker. The plants sprout in the late spring once the weather warms up and grow into a 2' semi-woody subshrub. Hundreds of flowers appear in mid to late summer and will continue until frost. If you do not deadhead your plants, you will be rewarded (or cursed) with many viable seeds to collect or spread around your garden the following spring. You can also propagate the plants by dividing the black carrot-shaped tubers.
Mirabilis is an easy-to-grow plant, thriving in most any conditions although it prefers part shade and decent soil. Mirabilis will choke out smaller plants if given the chance, so plant it along with larger plants such as hedychium, alocasia, and brugmansia. When you are ready to buy mirabilis for your garden, check out our online list of mirabilis for sale.