Mirabilis

Mirabilis flowers

Attractive tender perennials from South America, usually treated as a half-hardy annual in the UK. They form an attractive rounded bush with a broadly spreading habit. The pretty trumpet-shaped flowers open in the late afternoon and close again in the morning, releasing their rich fragrance in the evening and at night.

Family: Nyctaginaceae (Syn. Mirabiliaceae)
Botanical Name: Mirabilis
Common Names: Marvel of Peru, four-o'clock plant, umbrellawort

Foliage: Lush, dark green, attractive foliage.

Flowers: Single trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of white, yellow, pink, red, occasionally veined or bicoloured.

Flowering Period: July to October.

Soil: Well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH. Protect from winter wet.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Grow in a south facing aspect, in a sheltered location.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Tuberous rooted tender perennial (usually grown as half-hardy annual).

Origin: Mexico, Peru

Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.

Planting and Growing Mirabilis

Plant the roots in deep, moderately fertile, loamy soil, in a sunny position, once all danger of frost has passed. The roots can also be started off in pots under-glass, for an earlier show and planted out in early summer.

Although they can be grown from seed it is often easier to buy ready grown plants or tubers from a garden centre or nursery in the spring.

Mirabilis is a fast growing plant, which makes it ideal for covering large areas, such as raised beds, sunny banks or well drained borders. They can also be grown in large containers, which will restrict growth.

Taking Care of Mirabilis

Water regularly during dry weather and water container grown plants daily.

To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks, or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilize.

Mirabilis can be lifted and stored over-winter in a similar way to dahlia or begonia tubers. Store in cool but frost free place and plant out again in late spring.

Pruning

Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by aphids and slugs.

Propagating Mirabilis

Sow seeds under glass, thinly in a trays of seed compost, in April. Prick out, pot on, harden-off and plant out at the end of May when all danger of frost is past.

Popular Varieties of Mirabilis

Mirabilis jalapa a neat, bushy shrub that produces flowers in a mix of colours, from deep-magenta, to pure-white, bicolours, and even bright-yellow. Height to 3ft (90cm). For sale at You Garden. Cultivar 'Broken Colours' bears flowers in a range of colours, splashed, streaked or marbled in cerise-red. Wonderfully fragrant. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Mirabilis longiflora is a highly fragrant variety. The long trumpet-like, white and pale pink flowers with their dark pink centres flowers open at dusk and close the following morning. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.