Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wild Four O'Clocks

What I consider the utility area of the garden includes the rain barrels, the compost tumbler, access to the rain gauge and storage of a few miscellaneous items with potential for future garden projects (chunks of concrete, old wooden gates, some black edging, bags of mulch, etc.)  This area has also become home to mystery plants.

I had a few mystery plants last year. I didn't know what they were. I left them hoping they were the local wild blackberries which are popular for pastries. When the mystery plants didn't produce blackberries, I forgot about them. My sunflowers and morning glories took over the area.
This spring, I noticed more of these mystery plants sprouting. They're spreading.
 In the path.

By the morning glory trellis.

By the fence.

By the hawthorne tree.

And, numerous other places.

"Oh no," I thought. "What am I dealing with here?"

I searched online with no luck. I took a sample of the mystery plants to our local horticulture agent. She was stumped, and took the mystery plants to the nearby agriculture experiment station. Someone there identified the mystery plants as mirabilis nyctaginea or wild four o'clock. After some searching online, I found these sites with good information:

Wild four o'clocks can be aggressive and are considered a weed by some. I have decided that I'd like to control them, but want to keep some near the fence.
The last link above had the following information:

"The extensive root system and the waxy covering on the leaves hamper the effectiveness of herbicides."

Good to know that before I waste a lot of time trying to spray.

"Hand pulling is not recommended because the stems break at the crown, the roots are strongly branched, and broken root pieces will produce sprouting."

That explains why it's coming up in bunches. I tried to pull out some of the plants.

"Small infestations can be spaded, or dug up."

I don't think I want to dig in that area. Too rocky.

"Repeated mowing or cultivation will prevent seed production to lower the seed bank, and eventually the plant will die from loss of nutrient reserves stored in the root."

This is information I can use. My plan is to cut down the plants I don't want to the ground, and try to dead head the flowers of the plants I want before they produce seed. We'll see how this works out.


  1. Always a pleasure to visit with you. Very interesting info about the wild four o clocks. Enjoy your day!

  2. I recognized that leaf straight away. I have four o'clocks popping up everywhere from a seed packet I planted a couple of years ago. Just trying to get rid of the ones I don't want and leave the others. I have my pink ones posted today, they are quite pretty.

  3. OH MY GOSH!! I HATE those things. They have been coming up here since we moved. .and I have noticed them in a few more places over the last few years. They have those tiny pink flowers. .and the roots that TOTALLY break off if you try and pull them!! They are so different from the regular four o'clocks and I don't think they are pretty at all. .the flowers don't last long, and so tiny compared to the stalks. Thanks for the good information!! I'll start cuttin' 'em down!

  4. Hey, I do believe those comments earlier were for you. I was thinking I was talking to Darla at first and when you emailed me I was confused. But yes, I was commenting on all the 4 o clocks. I so love their fragrance.

  5. A neighboring gardener grows four o'clocks alongside a building adjacent to his property line. They are very colorful and attractive in bloom. He has offered me seeds - I don't believe I've ever tried them. If I did, I probably pulled them up as weeds - forgetting where I scattered them. Hearing of their invasiveness, I would probably want to grow them in a confined bed -- which I really don't have anyway...

  6. It's great that you were able to get an ID on it. Nice to know that the 'system' works, when you need it! I hope you can keep it under control and just enjoy the blooms that do show up. At least it hasn't invaded one of your actual garden areas:-)

  7. While I cannot get a four o clock to grow for me! I don't need anymore weeds though so I need to pass on this one.

  8. I'm definitely staying away from four o'clocks. I have enough trouble with the wild african violets and the wild strawberries. I mistakenly tried to keep them under cultivation and contained. Bad idea. At least I've been able to keep them out of the garden beds and confined to just a couple areas of the backyard. Sometimes I win and sometimes they win and the battle rages on between man and invasive weed.

    Have a great non invasive plant day.

  9. And did your plan work? Were you able to starve them out? (My biggest problem with that approach is just being consistent enough not to accidentally let the weed win.)

    1. Well, they have not taken over everything. They did come up in a few surprising places so I suppose some seed escaped me. The drought probably helped keep them in check last year. I take after them with my garden shears now and then. We're coexisting pretty well.


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