Four O’Clocks: The Marvel of Peru!

The four o’clock plants are an heirloom once grown by Thomas Jeffersen in the garden at Monticello — he referred to them as “the fragrant marvel of Peru”. After years of absence from my gardens, these gems are back — but only if I can convince someone to share seeds or plants with me.

So, I have 3 colors; pink (from my Mother — seeds and plants), Yellow (from one of my sisters — both seeds and plants) and red seeds from one of my In-Laws.

Despite the rise in temperatures to the upper 90’s, and a decrease in rainfall at the same time, these plants have begun to flower … and do so dependable each day.

Four O’Clocks are so named because the flowers open in the evening, remain open over night, then fade in the light of morning. Each bloom lasts a single day. The yellow and pink blooms last well into mid morning while the red blooms do not last long enough to be seen in morning’s light.

The Red flowers open red with wavy, red petals that reveal a magenta star when fully opened (pictured above). These were grown from seed and I’ll be looking for more from them (although I have to admit that I reserved some of the gift seeds — just in case these don’t make!)

In areas with loose soils and moderate temperatures, the plants create a large bulb, some up to the size of footballs (especially in the Yoakum, Texas area where they have occasionally overtaken volumes of pasture land!). When the bulbs do not form, an abundance of seed production ensures new flowers in the Spring. I collect the seeds, label and date them, then add them to my seed collection for the next year.

It’s after 4:00 now, local time. Soon, the flowers will be opening and revealing the fragrance once noted by Thomas Jefferson!

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