Most people who have experience with these tuberous plants that thrive in the heat of summer seem to have definite opinions about Four o'Clocks. Because they are prolific re-seeders, some find them an annoyance to be yanked out of the garden asap. Others love them, as I do.
Mirabilis jalapa, commonly called Marvel of Peru or Four o'Clocks, is an interesting plant because flowers of different colors can be found on the same plant at the same time. Individual flowers can also be marked with different colors. The various patterns on these flowers are called:
~sectors - which involve whole sections of the flower,
~flakes - which have stripes of varying sizes, and
A single flower can be a solid color or can have a combination of sectors, flakes, and spots. Likewise, different combinations of flowers and patterns can occur on different flowers of the same plant. Another interesting feature of Four o'Clocks is the ability to change color. Yellow flowers can gradually change to a dark pink color and white flowers can change to violet.
This heat-lover is native to South America, but it has naturalized throughout tropical/warm temperate regions of the world. In cooler temperate areas, it will die back with the first frosts and regrow the following spring from its tuberous roots. The plant does best in full sun.
The flowers usually open in the late afternoon, thus giving rise to the common name of Four o'Clocks. The flowers produce a strong, sweet fragrance throughout the night and close in the morning. They are pollinated by nocturnal long-tongued moths of the Sphingidae family, such as the sphinx and hawk moths, as well as by other pollinators that are attracted to the fragrance.