Mirabilis, a family of fragrant flowers

Two delicate, white mirabilis jalapa flowers against a hazy deep green background.

Mirabilis is a family of flower shrubs that are often amazing when planted in a garden.
Each species is unique but care is often similar.

Mirabilis major facts

NameMirabilis species
FamilyNyctaginaceae
Type – annual or perennial

Height – 3 feet (90 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary, well-drained

Flowering – June to September

Proper care for most of the species is the same. In all cases, Mirabilis tends to spread easily, so carefully check its boundaries or it will turn invasive.

Planting Mirabilis in the garden

Mirabilis plants are often sold for planting in Spring.

  • Plant Mirabilis from April to May.
  • Space plants by about a foot (30 cm).

Once your Mirabilis is established, it will bear seeds. It’s easy to grow Mirabilis from seed.

How to prune and trim Mirabilis flowers

A shrub of wild mirabilis with hundreds of violet blooms.Mirabilis plants don’t need any pruning. They won’t develop any woody parts and in colder climates will die back in winter.

  • Mirabilis plants aren’t frost hardy. In case of mild frost, they may start off from the tuber (roots) in spring.

Deadheading Mirabilis

When the blooming starts, you can trigger more blooms by removing dead or wilted flowers.

Invasive Mirabilis

Since seeds have a high rate of germination, any patch of Mirabilis will quickly start spreading after the first year.

  • Simply pull out any seedlings that start sprouting where they shouldn’t.
  • Again, if you remove wilted flowers, you’ll reduce the amount of seeds. This reduces risk of Mirabilis turning invasive.

Different types of Mirabilis varieties

The most famous Mirabilis flower is Mirabilis jalapa, also called the four o’clock flower. It is commonly sold in garden stores for its fragrant flowers.

Interesting Mirabilis species include the following:

  • Mirabilis jalapa – non-hardy species sold throughout the world. Bears wonderful flowers that open up in the evening.
  • Mirabilis rotundifolia – species with round leaves, endemic (native) to Colorado in the United States. Currently threatened. Shale mulch is the perfect growing environment for this species.
  • Mirabilis expansa – also called Chago or mauka. Native to the Andes, this was domesticated by the Inca civilization. It was grown for food: tuber and stems can be used for cooking.
  • Mirabilis longiflora – commonly called “sweet four o’clock”. Mounding shrub up to 2 feet (60 cm) high, twice as wide. Delicious orange-blossom like scent.
  • Mirabilis multiflora – also named “wild four o’clock”. Creates astounding bushes covered in violet flowers.

All Mirabilis plants originated in the Americas.

Learn more about the Mirabilis family

Mirabilis jalapa flowers in a panache of red and yellow.Plants of the Mirabilis family are often called four o’clock flowers. This is because their blooms always tend to open in the second half of the afternoon, around 4 pm.

The sun’s heat starts to diminish, which triggers opening of the flowers. More pollinators are active at dusk thanks to the cooler temperatures.

Flowers are fragrant and release a deliciously scented odor during the entire night.

Smart tip about growing Mirabilis

If you’re fond of sleeping with windows open in summer, plant Mirabilis under your room window outside. The fragrance will call on peaceful and restful dreams and lure you to sleep!

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
White Mirabilis (also on social media) by titanium22 under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Violet Mirabilis by Patrick Standish ★ under © CC BY 2.0
Red and yellow mirabilis by Candiru ★ under Public Domain