Plant of the month

news: Plant of the month

Marvellous Mirabilis

Plants that come out in the evening or at night are a real problem for garden centres because customers mostly choose plants that are in flower. For that reason, one seldom finds Mirabilis jalapa on sale, despite having a superb scent and flowers coloured pink, purple and yellow resembling a collision between a busy lizzy and a child’s paint box. If that is not enough, it has the constitution of a plastic daffodil! Among its many names are: Clavillia, Marvel of Peru, Morning Rose and the Four O’ Clock Flower. The latter is based on the fact that its flowers open in late afternoon, remain open all night and close once the sun has fully risen.

You will have probably seen Mirabilis growing through cracks of old building walls, between paving stones and in neglected street planters. It grows from roundish black seeds having a germination rate of practically 100 per cent, and quickly forms a tuber that sends up a large woody plant with lush green foliage up to a metre high, year after year.

Although you are unlikely to find it in a garden centre, don’t miss the opportunity of collecting seeds if you see one on your travels. Its evening scent makes it a good plant for the patio as well as for self-seeding in wild parts of the garden. Apart from its decorative and cast iron survival qualities, it is widely used in herbal medicine – check out: for a fascinating source of information on tropical plants and their medicinal properties.