How to grow mirabilis jalapa from seed

Image of a pink mirabilis jalapa flower

Mirabilis jalapa – or 4 o’clock, as it’s commonly called – is a hardy flowering plant with pretty flowers in colours such as pink, yellow, orange and white. It’ll grow just about anywhere, provided it can find moisture. It isn’t a very demanding plant in terms of feeding and care, and its flowers attract pollinators.

Growing these happy-grow-lucky plants from seed, however, can be fairly tricky. Their seeds are like little ground peppers, with a hard external cover. However, there’s a workaround for it. As with most other tricky-to-germinate seeds, pre-soaking is necessary.

What I like to do is soak the seeds for 18-24 hours, and then nip its top and bottom. By nipping, you cut away some of the tough outer shell, so the moisture and nutrients can soak into the seed proper (a little orange ball inside the shell). For nipping, you can use a knife or secateurs, although I’d recommend the latter as there’s less risk of hurting yourself.

You’ll notice that the black seed isn’t perfectly spherical. It has a little pouty protrusion on one end. I call this the top, and the end opposite it (which also protrudes a little) is the bottom. I cut the protruding portion off, and I can usually make out the seed inside. It may be sufficient to go this far and pop the seeds in, but I go a step or two further, to ensure success.

Once you nip the top off, if you can see the orange seed inside and if the shell’s well-soaked, you can usually pry little ‘sections’ of the shell off. I pull one or two – or sometimes all – of these off, so the seed’s growth isn’t obstructed by the shell.

I sow them sideways, with the ‘top’ and bottom pointing left and right, as I’m not sure yet which is the root end and which is the shoot end. They go half an inch deep, and they’re kept fairly moist until they germinate. Once the first ‘true’ leaves are out, fertilise gently.

And there you have it – your very own 4 o’ clock plants, grown from seed.




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