Question: Do you have any advice
for planting four o clock seeds directly into the ground in June? I have
an area between the driveway and a chain link fence that I want to plant
four o clock seeds. It's an area not near any other flowerbeds, so
I'm not worried about invasion. I live in Zone 7.
Answer: Other than soaking them
overnight in warm water (you can also rub them on some sandpaper in advance
to nick the hard seed coat), these are very easy plants to grow from seed.
If you don't mind waiting, you really don't even have to do that.
My own yard is a testament to this, as every spring I have zillions of little
four o'clock seedlings everywhere, even in the lawn. I generally don't
start seeds in the garden per se, but put them in flats or pots in some
nice potting soil just to keep an eye on them until they are strong enough
to withstand some neglect, which they will inevitably get in my garden.
But if you want to plant them directly in the garden, there's nothing wrong
with that - just keep it moist out there until they get established.
I am also in zone 7, and this is pretty much the most prolific plant I have
ever encountered in this climate. Once you get those little seedlings
going, you will never have to worry about having Four O'Clocks around again.
Although Four O'Clocks will withstand horrific drought once they are mature,
I do keep them mulched, because mulch just does so much good. I use
pine bark mulch. Last year during that horrible drought that lasted
all summer, I only watered mine a couple of times because of the water restrictions
and they didn't seem to suffer a bit. One bit of advice from experience
is in order though - in the fall when they are going to seed, sweep
under them in the driveway and get rid of as many of the seeds as you can
or they will roll and blow and get carried off and end up all over the neighborhood.
I also have Four O'Clocks beside my driveway, and the cement is literally
black with seeds in the fall. Anyhow, there's my 2 cents - despite
being slightly annoying in the spring with all the seedlings everywhere
(they are very easy to spot and to pull, but if you miss one you will have
a battle), Four O'Clocks are in many other ways a gardener's dream plant,
especially for hot, inhospitable places like along driveways. By the
way, do be aware that they will die down to the ground in the winter, but
they will be back. Have fun!
Question: We have had four o'clocks
for a few years. This year they have good stems but the leaves are completely
stripped away. And no flowers. Seems to be progressive moving right on down
the row. What could be causing this?
Answer: Four O'Clocks are
one of the most disease/pest free plants around, and I had to do some serious
looking to even come up with any kind of answer at all for this one.
The only time I have ever seen Four O'Clocks completely defoliated is after
the first few light frosts, but as I write this it's mid July, so that certainly
can't be it. I thought through various diseases such as bacterial
and fungal diseases, and none of them fit at all, because if you had something
serious like that the plant would be noticeably sick as a whole, but you
say the stems are healthy. Deer and rabbits don't like Four O'Clocks
either so that's not it. Since Four O'Clocks are a part of the
Nyctaginaceae family of plants, with the most well-known
relative being Bougainvillea, I looked around for something that might completely
defoliate a Bougainvillea plant, and lo and behold I may have your answer.
My best guess as to what is going on with your Four O'Clocks is that
they are getting eaten by Bougainvillea Looper, a brown or green moth caterpillar
that is about 1 inch long and moves by contracting and expanding (it's sometimes
called an inchworm because of this). I am aware that you didn't say anything
about the leaves being chewed, and this concerns me, but otherwise this
fits your symptoms pretty well. This caterpillar is a voracious eater
and can apparently easily defoliate an entire plant in short order.
This might explain why the problem seems progressive - they are just inching
down the line. Bougainvillea Loopers feed at night and disguise themselves
well during the day, so at this point to confirm or disprove, you will have
to go out there and look really closely both at night with a flashlight
and by day, where they will blend in to the existing stems and foliage so
well they are almost undetectable unless you are specifically looking for
them. If you find that indeed this is your problem, go to the garden
shop and get some Dipel (also called BT), which is a natural pesticide that
will eliminate the problem without destroying every other beneficial insect
in the garden. Good Luck!
My Four O'Clocks are about
4' tall and haven't bloomed. They have never gotten this tall and
have always bloomed. I love them and all my others aren't nearly that tall
and are loaded with flowers. What has happened to this one?
We are in North Florida. What do we need to do?
Answer: There are only a
few things that can go wrong enough with Four O'Clocks that would cause
complete lack of flowers, and number one in my experience is too much shade.
Four O'Clocks will tolerate some shade, especially in hot areas like North
Florida, but it's a fine line, and if you err on the side of too much shade,
the result is no flowers every time. Are there any structures, shrubs,
trees, etc. around this particular plant that might be reducing its sunlight?
After receiving this question, I went out in my own yard and looked around
(I have a lot of Four O'Clocks), and sure enough, there is one on the north
side of my house between the house and my above-ground pond that only has
a few blooms on the very top. If yours is in a north-facing position
and is against or beside any kind of structure, this is very likely your
problem and this is my first and best guess. Other less likely considerations
would be too much sun, since you are in such a hot climate (which I doubt
since you say the plant looks healthy), or that it's just a bit too early
in your long growing season for blooms on this particular plant. In
my zone 7 Southeastern garden, the Four O'Clocks really are just now blooming
full force as I write this in late August, and that particular plant might
just be on a slightly slower internal clock than the rest for whatever reason.
I would give it another couple of weeks before giving up if none of the
above applies. If at the end of the season, the plant has never put
out blooms, my best advice is put something else there next year that will
be happier in that position.