It's Four O'Clock Somewhere

Written by Matt Macedo on 16-Jul-2014

Maybe that's not how the saying goes. However, that image of a Four O'clock  conjures up  summer cocktail time to me. Pretty hot pinks, yellows, white, purple and reds a yards pageant queen and like many pageant queens it's a bit high maintenance. In my Northern California yard its a weed! One well seasoned perennial plant drops a seemingly never ending flood of black peppercorn sized seeds. I spend most of early spring and summer picking these gals out of cracks, beds and borders.  

If you grow a these in your yard, I say try it in a big urn first for a season or two so you can contain it and see if its for you or put it on a neglected hill side and let it go.  Seven years ago I seeded a packet, super easy to seed, soak for 24, start inside, watch them go.  First year I was pretty happy I got these nice drought tolerant desert plants full of hot afternoon color.

Second season I got hundreds of them everywhere! For some of you that may be a plus.

I try to keep to a handful of these in the yard. They are completely dormant in winter, so mark where you have placed them. Many times I have planted a new annual or perennial only to have a monster stalk pierce right through the middle in June.   I plant them in semi-tall borders with Speedwells, Sunflowers and Dahlias and others, as seen to left. 

I have some in pots also and others in dry neglected parts of the yard, yes I have neglected parts of my yard.  Each new generation you will get a wild variety of color patterns, some solid and some zebra stripped. 

They only really give one good show. They rise from huge nearly indestructible bulbs (that gophers hate!) in June. Growing to a mammoth 4' to 5' and about 3' wide in a month, so give the second year and third year, and so on  Four O'clocks plenty of room to grow.  Big bloom time is July and some of August. Remember the blooms only open in late after noon, hence the name.  Moths love them, Humming Birds too.

By August they will topple over from heavy blooms and swollen ovaries. Generally I will  put a small tomato cage above them before they sprout  for future support. 

I do cut them back for a small rebloom, but it tends to look a little sad on the second bloom wave.  No summer water will yield a sad plant and she will still do her thing, just on a smaller wimpy  scale. Unkillable is probably the first thing that comes to mind with a perennial Four O'clock.