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Mirabilis, a wonderful family of fragrant flowers


Mirabilis is a family of flower shrubs that are amazing when planted in a garden.

Mirabilis key facts

NameMirabilis species
Type – annual or perennial

Height – 3 feet (90 cm)
Exposure – full sun

Soil: ordinary, well-drained – Flowering: June to September

Each species is unique but care is often similar. 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 plantingMirabilis 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.

Make sure drainage is good enough that water never accumulates around the roots.


Since most mirabilis species bloom in the afternoon or evening, it’s best to plant it in a spot that gets afternoon sun. This is on the western side of a house, garden bed, or hedge. The blooming will be more intense!

How to prune and trim Mirabilis flowers

Caring for Mirabilis flowersMirabilis plants don’t need any pruning. They won’t develop any woody parts and in colder climates will die back in winter.

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.
  • Most mirabilis species are already officially declared invasive in Hawaii.

Mirabilis in winter

Mirabilis plants aren’t frost hardy. In case of frost, airborn parts will die off. However, if the freezing is mild or if you’ve added mulch, they will certainly sprout from the tuber (roots) in spring.

  • Smart tip: in fall, when they’ve died off, mark the spot where they’re growing so you don’t mistakenly dig them out when doing your early spring planting.

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

Red and yellow mirabilis flowersPlants 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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Images: CC BY 2.0: Patrick Standish; Pixabay: Maria Teresa Martínez; Public Domain: Candiru
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