Leaf retention: In winter, this plant dies above ground and its stem breaks off at
ground level, leaving no trace of its root location. It reappears in mid winter or spring.
It will also die back in extreme drought.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 1-2' high and 3-6' in width. After a few years, it may cover 15-25
Flowers: Vivid purple trumpet flowers, 1" wide and 2-3" long, are composed
of colored, fused bracts, because the plants in this family have no petals. They open late
afternoon and close early morning in full sun. A cloudy day will cause earlier opening and
later closing. The flowers produce a sweet, musky fragrance at night. Flower buds occur
in clusters of six to eight.
Bloom: Several blooming cycles occur in spring, summer and fall in response to rain.
Many flowers bloom at once, often over the entire plant.
Fruit: Seeds held in a papery capsule formed by dried bracts.
Leaves: Green, ovate with a pointed tip, at times nearly heart shaped.
Stems: No thorns. The leaves and many-branched stems turn white after winter die
back, with the stems resembling white balsa wood. They should be collected and discarded
to avoid a scattered trash appearance in the garden.
Roots: A deep tuber growing larger and deeper every year. Wild Four O'clock is
extremely difficult to transplant.
Wildlife: Attracts sphinx moths. It serves as a food plant for the sphinx moth
Toxic / Danger: All parts are poisonous.
Origin: Southwestern United States and Mexico.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 5-10.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade. It performs best in part shade in hot desert regions.
Water once established: Every two months during drought. Watering may result in
wildlife browsing unless protected by a fence. It tolerates some supplemental water,
but overwatering leads to the leaves and stems turning brown and breaking off. Once this
plant is established, do not water more than once a month.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low organic content, 5.6-8.5 (acidic to alkaline).
Litter: Low except at the start of the winter season or in the middle of a severe
Propagation: Seed. Scarify the seed before planting.
This plant is a member of the Four O'clock family (Nyctaginaceae). Other common names are
Colorado, Showy, and Desert Four O'clock.
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Latest update: February, 2019.