Mirabilis multiflora

Submitted by Weiser on Tue, 09/25/2012 - 17:12

This is one of the showyest late summer and fall blooming desert perennials you are apt to come across. It most definitely makes it's presence know.

At maturity the plants can reach 18-24 inches (45-61 cm) tall with a spread of 6-8 feet (1.8-2.45 m), making it hard to place in confined situations. Sighting is important not only because of it's size but also it's other needs, full sunlight, heat and a well drained soil. The hundreds of bright magenta flower buds begin to pop as the sun starts dipping toward the horizon, drawing in the night flying moths. As the glow slowly fades, one soon notices that little brown bats are flitting around, picking off some of the moths. When morning dawns, the open sprawling mounds of glabrous heart shaped foliage are evenly studded with multitudes of glowing 2 inch (5 cm)trumpets. Their exerted stamens hoping to deposit a dusting of pollen before the sun climes above the tree line and their one night of glory is passed.

With it's two to three month blooming period this is one of the main focal points of my late summer garden, compeating with Epilobium canum, Zinnia grandiflora and a trio of late season Salvias ( pachyphylla, reptans, & azurea) for your undivided attention


Submitted by RickR on Tue, 09/25/2012 - 18:09

My friend grows this in his house's south foundation planting.  He is blessed with the proverbial "constantly moist soil", but I am sure it gets drier in that area.  Still, the soil is quite rich, and although the plant is very lax with more lusch growth, it has survived for 6-10 years.  When I saw it blooming, it couldn't have been that late in the day or that early in the morning, so I guess there must be some variation(?).

Submitted by Weiser on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 07:31

I'm a little suprise that it can handle your winter temperatures even along a sunny foundation that is good news. 8).

Desert Four-o-clock will take extremely dry conditions with ease. I grow mine with no direct irrigation what moisture it does acquire, it takes from drip emitters located two to three feet from it's location.  It develops a very long/large tap root with age.

Light intensity and heat play a big role in how densely the foliage and branching patterns develop. On cloudy days the flowers can stay open most of the day but in my climate this is a real rarity. They usually only last till mid morning, 8:00-9:00am.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:14

I've often read about Mirabilis but never come across anyone growing it in the UK. Must be fascinating to sense the bats in the dusk - wonderful reason to grow the plant.

Submitted by Weiser on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 17:29

Desert four o'clock seeds are dormant, require 8-12 weeks of moist chilling to become germinable, and will germinate in chilling. Light retards germination so the large seeds should be planted about a 1/2-1 inch deep. If sown in the ground do a fall seeding for spring emergence.

When starting in pots it may help to soak the rather large seeds in warm to hot water before chilling to help accelerate the water uptake.  If germination does not occur after 3-4 weeks of planting an additional cooling period of 2-4 weeks is recommended. The germinated seeds should be planted in elongate containers to accommodate the long storage tubers that soon begin to form. Container-grown plants tend to look weak but usually grow rapidly once planted out.

These desert plants take a while to awaken in the spring preferring warm soil temperatures. Be patent they will reward you, later in the summer. The foliage is frost sensitive and will be affected by even light frosts. Established plants will shrug this off and resprout if they do get nipped.

Submitted by Hoy on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 04:30

Thank you John for the information. I will try it at my summerhouse where the climate is warmer and sunnier! Hope some seed appear in the seed-ex!

Submitted by DesertZone on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 21:45

I love this plant, a must for late summer/fall blooms!  My big one died a few years ago and finaly got two seedlings to take off. :)

Submitted by cohan on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:27

Great plants, John- especially mature plants must be really impressive in person! Alplains lists 2 collections, and rates both at z4..

Submitted by Barstow on Wed, 10/03/2012 - 05:07

Not at all showy (no flowers), but living up to its epithet "expansa", Mirabilis expansa (Mauka) is a root crop from the Andes. I'm growing it for the first time this year (has been very difficult to get hold of in Europe until recently) and it has spread quickly laterally. Excited to see whether there will be any tubers once the foliage has died down, but the necessary sun-curing will be difficult this far north...

Read more here

M. multiflora was also harvested for food by Native Americans: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mirabilis+multiflora

Submitted by Martin Tversted on Wed, 10/03/2012 - 07:37

Trond, I have been growing this on serverel occations. Have actual just weeded away my last specimen as it was too big and I wanted more room for Yuccas. Anyway, its easy from seed, 2nd year plants, even here in Scandinavia are at least 1 meter across and in full bloom. But it really needs well drained soil, perhaps along the s wall of the house.

Alplains lists them.

Submitted by cohan on Wed, 10/03/2012 - 12:40

Another interesting one, Stephen, I'd be interested in hearing how the harvest goes..

Submitted by Martin Tversted on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 05:46

And I can recommen to sow it where you want to grow it. They dont transplant well but are easy to establish from seed where you want to grow it.

Submitted by cohan on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 14:09

Martin wrote:

And I can recommen to sow it where you want to grow it. They dont transplant well but are easy to establish from seed where you want to grow it.

Good tip! I need to wait till I have large enough raised bed space in a sunny spot!

Submitted by Hoy on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 14:42

Yes, good tip! But should I wait till I get enough sun at home it had been a long time to wait! Have to grow it at my summerhouse  ;)

Submitted by Martin Tversted on Sat, 10/06/2012 - 00:25

Sow it there in spring and let nature do the rest.

Submitted by lmeyer on Mon, 07/08/2013 - 20:16

John, I have a very small but very hot garden.  Do you think I could contain this plant in a pot?  Would it survive the Denver winter?  I am seeking plants that I can put into my new crevice garden.  My yard can easily get to 110 in the summer.  Any ideas most appreciated.



This plant can certainly survive Denver winter--needs a deep, well-drained root run. When I acquired mine they had overwintered in a pot so apparently it can be done. They get HUGE though. Might eat a the crevice garden. I use mine (standard magenta and a magnificent white one) to spill over and obliterate a rather drab legacy concrete retaining wall.


Thank you--I stumbled across it over the weekend and got sucked in, literally, for many hours.

I used to live in Minnesocold, btw, on a hobby farm in the middle of nowhere. I miss the lucious top soil I had and the precip as well as the variety of boulders piled in the groves, which prompted me to buy a skid steer to pluck them out and strew them about the property for my gardening escapades. How ironic that I now live on a rock and have to purchase rocks--sigh

Submitted by RickR on Tue, 11/26/2013 - 22:16

I'm glad that you find this site interesting; we certainly do.  And thanks for your first post's insight on how Mirabilis grows for you.

  I hope you will continue to contribute as you feel the impulse. 

We do seem to be getting warmer in Minnesota.  Climatologists predict we will have summers like Kansas and winters like Northern Illinois by 2100.

Wow. As I recall, it was regularly minneso-very-oppresively-hot-and-humid in the summertime as well.

I mean no offense with the minneso[insert whatever] comments, just playing with the word. I liked it there, despite the climate. (I still own the place, or rather, rent it myself, from the bank. who know's? I may return one day to see which of the perennial weeds out competed the others, but probably not. more so, it horrifies me to speculate what has become of my untended gardens because neither the previous tenants nor the current tenants even pretend to be 'gardeners'. too depressing)

The sentiment was and is that I really do miss the natural resources that I had in Minnesota that fooled me into thinking that a person could just plant stuff and it would magically grow--anywhere. When I tried that here, on the mountain, in the alkaline, rocky-clay hardpack sans irrigation, I became very discouraged. So yes, I have purchased rocks--because big, beautiful rocks are stellar in the winter, too, and I can't kill them--but mostly, I deplete my finite resources to haul in truck loads of soil amendments and finagle irrigation--because I must grow things, lots of things, even if I don't know their names.

Regarding the forum--not too confident that my urges to contribute would be worth much more than a pitiful laugh to you all, except, perhaps, to encourage other lurking neophytes to keep trying...even as I fail...

Anybody want to see pictures of the Amaranth Forest that sprouted up and took over my new rock garden that was supposedly dedicated (hah) to the cute, little, alpiney-type plants that I wanted to try? (which has nothing to do with Mirabilis)

¡Ay, caramba!

March--rock hunting; May--playing with rocks;

June-ish--just planted up, pulled out hundreds of seedlings and left a few

July--taller than knee high

September--got busy with other things! whoops, had to get out the sawsall

one with Salvia reptans

Should have a bumper crop again next year, if anyone wants seeds! No-they are a beautiful menace. All over the back yard too. Don't do it to yourself!


Submitted by RickR on Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:56

Minneso[whatever] is  badge we tend to wear with honor.  Nothing offensive there.  Interesting about the amaranth.  I grew a grain amaranth one year.  As I harvested,  I could see a lot of seed dropping out as I cut and bagged the heads.  I was expecting a carpet of seedlings the following year, but not a one came up!


Nice garden so far, including the amaranth. I have to say, a garden without surprises would be pretty boring!



Thanks Rick,

Aren't they all a grain at maturity or a yummy little green or red for a salad --or sautéed w/ butter--when young? or are some inedible? I really don't know, but I hope I haven't been wrong...

I grew quite a variety of them as re-seeding annuals in the holes, cracks, and crevices of my old decaying barn foundation in MN. Had some absolutely splendid golden things with about 3' x 2' shaggy, lion's mane heads on 'em, plus a bunch of different red ones with white, yellow, and black seed. It was really a spectacular blend.

I am surprised that you didn't have a carpet of seedlings, or at least a few somewhere. For me, in both states, they tend to end up anywhere and everywhere (birds and my carelessness) that they land --in the sun, inevitably where I don't want them, i.e. edge of the sidewalk.  In this case, I re-purposed some heavily inoculated waste-dirt mounds from the previous fall, in a technique known as poor planning, when I decided that I needed just a little more crappy dirt in the wild-hair-new garden...

Never a dull moment

Submitted by Fermi on Sat, 11/30/2013 - 21:32

In reply to by janedoe42


I love the way you garden! I bet your cat loves that jungle effect, too. Deep rooted plants are great for getting nutrients up into the top layers of the soil where other plants can enjoy them when they decompose.(As an aside my Dad planted Amaranth in our garden in Melbourne when we were kids and it was always appearing in places for years! In India a low growing sort is grown in fields and harvested as "bhaji" - basically used like spinach. If you have some seeds spare I'd love to try it again.)

Keep posting pics of your garden!



Submitted by janedoe42 on Sun, 12/01/2013 - 22:01

In reply to by Fermi

Hello Fermi,

I have certainly been enjoying the plethora of pics of all the special beauties that you can grow and that I've never even heard of--thank you.

That darn cat and the other one put themselves in a lot pictures, for some reason, dogs too.  ?

I sawed off all the amaranth; gave seed heads away to many travelers who asked for them; propped the rest in the trees for the birds and probably infected half the town. (I garden on a corner lot in front of everybody, which is quite a switch from my previous, more private settings. The place had been abandoned for about 10yrs and should have been condemned...roof caved in thru the first floor into the basement etc., about the only quasi thriving plants were the morning glory and thistle  ...so I regularly have a lot of folks stopping by to check out the transformations. It is a good way to share amaranth seed heads and sedums I guess. I keep trying to get rid of iris, but few will help me out there. So, I chopped down and dug out a bunch siberian elms and ailanthus thickets and made more new gardens this fall. Played a lot of plant tetris; opened up some of my other jungles and put in a few thousand -cheap dutch- bulbs, a bunch of perennials, and fruit trees. Should be a pretty magical scene, eventually, but not necessarily for this site.)

I was kinda joking about the amaranth seeds, really, but I will have plenty again next year if you seriously want some.

I hope to have new plants and transplants survive the winter and look like they live here next year--so I can post some more 'worthy' pics and say 'hey look--its still alive'.

but maybe some pics of cool rocks in the snow...

Submitted by Lori S. on Sat, 12/07/2013 - 12:16

In reply to by janedoe42

Jane, welcome to the site!  Your rock garden sure looks like a great start, and I love all the colour from the amaranth.  

What a beautiful view from your place!  I'd love to roam around that kind of country. Seems like it would likely be a fine climate for rock gardening too.

Funny, I caught the comment about your cat inserting itself into your pictures but had to go through the photos over and over before I finally noticed the black cat, looking like  a shadow.  

Back to the Mirabilis multiflora front, I did grow a few from seed one year, and eventually planted the roots out after the green tops went dormant...  never saw hide or hair of them after that.  Maybe I'll try again some day.  It is certainly encouraging to hear of the various places where it's being grown successfully.



Thank you,

It is great country, and the dogs love to run the mountains while I look at plants and rocks.

I'm still trying to figure out this climate! I have killed stuff because it got too wet in the clay--without watering--and then killed stuff in my amended, well drained soil because I couldn't water enough. argh. Many stuffs, though, do very well, besides the amaranth, and I am pleased with the summer success underneath that forest, and hope to have many survivors to fill in next year.

Re the Mirabilis--I tried to extract some oenothera speciosa (the monster which much be banished now) and thus begins the experiment with planting out some of its roots...