The Q&A Archives: Four O'Clock Seeds

Question: I have made a number of attempts to sprout four o'clocks, but have never succeeded. What are the tricks?

Here are the variations of methods that I had tried
(all trials use sterilized seed starting soil, indoor, and on a windowsill at about 65 to 70 degree F, and with the seeds some depth under the surface of the soil)
soak seeds in hot water, then plant
soak seeds in cold water, then plant
soak seeds in water, remove the outer shell, then plant
plant without soaking
without soaking, remove the shell with razor blade, then plant

I have tried with 3 different packets of four o'clock seeds. None of them sprouted. Could you tell me what I missed?

Answer: Four O'Clock, or Mirabilis, need light and warmth to germinate. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before planting out. Sow seeds on the surface of moistened seed starting mix in individual peat pots and just barely press in with your hand. Cover pots with plastic wrap to help hold in the moisture. Put pots on a tray and place in a warm area such as on top of the refrigerator or on greenhouse propagating mats. The seeds should germinate in 7-21 days. When seedlings appear remove the plastic wrap and place pots under a source of artificial light. The seeds do not require any pre-treatment. Be sure to start with fresh seeds that have been stored properly. Old seeds, or those subjected to extreme temperatures, light, or excessive moisture won't germinate as well as fresh seed.

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