Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Mirabilis Jalapa

The Marvel of Peru, the Four o clock or Tea time plant, Mirabilis jalapa was a great favourite in Victorian times but seldom known now. Which is a shame as it is one of the prettiest and most reliable performers you could try, and once got going almost bomb-proof. You see although you may occasionally come across it as a half hardy spot plant in a big bedding scheme it is as a tender greenhouse perennial it comes into it’s own. For it forms an over-wintering tuber which gets bigger and tougher each year and can be resurrected in spring for an earlier and much longer season of bloom. And it is one of those plants that really can fill your greenhouse with scent, sweetly so and quite orange blossom like. Mirabilis is an attractive plant anyway, the jointed somewhat succulent stems of dark green leaves are reminiscent of busy lizzies but the blooms are bigger and more trumpet shaped. Most often red, crimson or orange sometimes mauve these are gloriously  scented and start to open like clockwork from four pm, tea time, bloom on through the night exhaling more and more perfume. Further; each flower on a plant may not be identical, but a different shade or colour, there are even some where two or more colours are mixed in one flower, and not symmetrically but as if splashed by an artist. And you get a grand display from a remarkably robust plant that requires no special treatment other than the usual feeding and watering in any reasonably rich potting compost. Of course your tuber will need drying off as the light dims in autumn, it will go dormant very neatly; the blooming slows, the stems wither a bit then simply drop away easily breaking into discrete segments. Obviously you keep the tuber frost free in a cool dryish dark, I leave mine potted in the dried compost, and restart it again in spring. Once the last frosts are over it can be hardened off and moved outdoors- an established tuber in a big pot

  • Elizabeth

    I have just received 6 of these and wonder if I can plant them in a hanging pot.

  • Kate Raae

    I have 3 Miribilis Jalapa tubers in a large deep pot (12×12 ins) It has not flowered (no sign of buds)and the leaves are somewhat yellow and curled at the edges. I water and feed it with Tomorite regularily What happened there?

  • Allen

    I have just planted some of these this year. Can anyone tell me if these tubers need to be lifted in the winter in the same way as dahlias do so that the tubers do not rot? Can they withstand long dry spells in the summer or do they need regular watering please?

    • Adrian Worley

      I live in the North of Denmark. We plant our tubers in large tubs when they start to sprout. At the end of summer, the plant dies back and the stems just seem to drop off, at this time, we lift the tubers and store them in a cold dry dark place as with Dahlia tubers. The large seeds that form, one to a flower, grow very easily – in warm places, the species can be invasive. I have seen it written that the seeds work better if kept in a refrigerator for a few weeks before sowing, but we never do, and they sprout just fine.
      We have dozens of them now, all originating from a handful of seeds bought home from Greece 10-12 years ago. Interesting plant.

      • Adrian Worley

        Sorry, I should have added, we water fairly infrequently, but we get a lot of rain. In Greece where we got ours, they can survive and thrive in the long hot dry summer, the big root/bulb/corm holds a lot. I would expect them to be quite tolerant of dry periods.

  • Anne H MacPherson

    I’ve bought some tubers but the garden shop was not clear which way to plant them! Carrot style or pointed end up? I’ve tried to fine cultivation notes but failed!!

    • john ringer

      Hello Anne I have had this plant for a few years I started with seeds only to find they grow to tubers ,I have put new tubers on there sides and they always seem to do well about 6″ deep.I do nothing to them ,they seem to and they always give me a good show.Good Luck

  • john ringer

    Help Please I have had Miribilis Jalapa for a few successful years in my garden and they have self seeded I have not done anything to them they are so successful but this year I have been hit with “Ground Elder” and only seem to have a few shoots of Jalapa come through out of about 80 to 100 plants I seem not to be able control the Ground Elder .I love this Mirabilis Jalapa plant and am at my wits end .

  • Silas

    I agree, Miravilis jalapa is a great plant but can be a weed in warmer climates when its seed is left to scatter. One of the most common forms found in Australia is the white flowered variety.

    Happy gardening.