how to grow four o'clocks?

origami_master(5b)August 4, 2006

HI guys, I really need your help this time (like always, LOL) I have four o'clock seeds, but do not know how to germinate them, I know they need light to germinate. These are all the ways that I tried:

-burying the seed

-pressing the seed onto soil trying to imitate nature

-scattered seeds on soil

-wet paper towel baggie method

-covered pot (like greenhouse) with seeds buried in soil

-covered pot (like greenhouse) with seeds scattered on surface

-covered pot (like greenhouse) with seeds pressed into the soil

I haven't been able to get any of them to sprout, I have tried with different four o'ock seeds from many people, but none are sprouting, so I guess I really can't blame the seeds (if it was all from one person, I would blame the person and their seeds but with seeds from different people...) In all cases, I've kept the soil moist and at about 18*C so I guess about 70*F or so? Your help is really appreciated! Thanks so much!

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I to have done the same with no luck not sure what else to do I even soaked some with no luck.There must be some secret to growing these from seed or maybe they just take a long time to grow.Been 3 weeks and nothing from any of my tries.Sure hope some will know what to do.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 6:50PM
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webkat5(Z6a MO)

They will self sow here....I successfully winter sowed 'Limelight' this past winter....didn't do anything special...they just popped up when they were ready.

I already have a few volunteers from that plant...little late for them, though...

Then had a few volunteers from last years plants. They are very easy germinators...not sure why you would be having trouble...hmmmmm....

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 1:31AM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

In Columbus, they seem to germinate very easily, but they are some of the later seeds to germinate. They want warm weather to sprout.

Next year I would suggest late winter sowing (outdoors following the winter sowing methods on the forum). You want to avoid rot, but you also want warmth and moisture.

I sow them on top of the soil.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 5:44PM
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origami -- Do you know anybody who has the plant? One thing people may not know is that you can plant the root 4-6 inches deep and mulch it. It will come back in the spring. Once you have it, the plant will sow itself every year as long as you mulch after it has germinated. You can also store it over the winter and treat it just like dahlias.

I'd offer to send you roots, but I can't ship to Canada.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 3:11PM
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limequilla, why can't you send to Canada? I've never had trouble receiving tubers from pen/garden pals in other countries from Brazil all the way to Hong Kong!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 4:03PM
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kristal(3b MN)

I didn't get any of my winter sown ones to germinate, but they direct-sowed okay. They did seem slow to come up.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 8:42PM
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I started these indoors from seed this spring. I bought one of those kits with the pellets and the lid. I poured in the warm water, and stuck it in the windowsill. Once I had a sprout, I took off the lid, and made sure the dirt pellets stayed moist. They grew faster than any other plant that I had started indoors. I remember it took them awhile to germinate, though. I thought I had lost most of them, but left them in the container and kept them moist anyways. Eventually they came up. And then grew like weeds. They grew faster than my Morning Glories. And now I have a bunch of seeds! Good luck, and I hope this helps!! Christy

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 6:25PM
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cookie8(zone 5 ON)

I'm in zone 5 (I think) in Canada. I got some seeds from a friend. I soaked them for a night, covered them lightly in soil, watered them for two or three days (got lazy) and now I have about 8 plants with blooms starting. I'm pretty sure I planted them in early June. I think they took about two weeks or so to germinate.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 9:14PM
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I WS my 4 o'clocks on Arpil 25th and all 45 of them germinated on May 21st. We had an extremely cold and wet spring so this year they where slow. Once they sprouted they where very fast to grow. Had to transplant them to larger containers before I could get them into the ground.

WS end of April, beginning of may and you should have tons of sprouts.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 3:48PM
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I am in Ont. Canada and will be happy to send you fresh seeds and tubers for next summer if you would like. Seham

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 12:10PM
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I suggest a simple trip to your local public library...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 11:20AM
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starfyre(z8 wa)

I grew mine by putting the seeds between two damp papertowels on a plate and putting them on top of the water heater. I checked each day to make sure they stayed moist. They sprouted in a week. Once they had a good sprout I put them into little peat pots of clean potting soil and put pots into one of those jiffy greenhouse kits in a sunny window. I put them in a sunny window and as soon as they were thriving propped the lid up with popsicle sticks, then removed it a week later - then planted thelittle peat pots out. A few of them haven't flowered yet but I don't think they get enough sun or something...

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 8:03PM
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gunnysax(Zone 5 ~ SE Wi)

No one has mentioned knicking the seed. I heard that helps, but never tried it. Could someone explain how to knick a hard seed? Thanks

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 7:48AM
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geoforce(z7a SE PA)


How to knick a seed:

Notch through the tough outer coat at the end away from where it was attached to the pod (Generally a mark or scar here)

File - use a small triangular file is best. hold seed in pliers

X-acto or other knife - DANGEROUS put seed down on cutting board and cut by pressing knife.

Fingernail or toenail clipper - my preferred method simply clip through tip of seed.

Dremel or other rotary tool - said to help with those really big hard ones. Use like a file.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 10:36AM
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I'm in zone 7 (Central Ark) and had my first 4'oclock given to me by my mom.
I didn't realize how seedy they get.
I collected something like 10 to 15 seeds a day.
I just started pushing them into the dirt and in about a week, up they came.
I did absolutly nothing but shove them in about an inch.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 3:53PM
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celeste75(Z 5 NY)

I use an emory board or a piece of sandpaper to knick my four o'clocks and lupines. Rub back and forth about 4 times. Then I plant them in a jiffy peat pot, cover and wait.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 8:19PM
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ninjabut(USDA z 8,CA)

Pickwick- these boards are kinda for asking questions so you DON'T have to hit the libary.
Nothing wrong with the library, but I think , at least in my case, I get answers in a timely manner by asking questions here.
JMHO Nancy

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 9:28PM
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I like reliable,evaluated books as a foundation if one is selective...little subterfuge (agendas) or misinterpretations :)life is short

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 11:24PM
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My Dad has a four o'clock plant and he gave me a bunch of seeds. I put some seeds in a wet napkin and put the napkin in a bowl on my kitchen window sill, in the sun. I just kept the napkin moist and then in just a week they started sprouting. Then I put the seeds in a bowl with fertilized soil (About 1 + 1/2" deep) and they grew right up. Then I planted them in my yard and they're doing great. It was really cool to see them sprout up in the napkin. I do that with all of my seeds now and it works great! :)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 6:11PM
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SoFL Rose z10

They need very very warm weather to sprout. 70 degrees is too cold. I've had best luck with them in September sowing them in almost full sun with temps around 80-85. Try the baggie method again but place the baggie close to a heat source like a furnace, top of your fridge or wrapped in an electric blanket.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 10:13AM
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I am a beginner also but I would like to share what I have done. I live in Singapore. :)

I dug 5 holes each spaced roughly 10cm wide and direct planted the seeds into the soil(ground) with 3-4 seeds each and scattered 2-3 on the surface. I planted it with a strong sun and watered immediately after planting. After 1 week, it started to germinate and I have 2 seedlings on each hole.

I did not care about it as I believe nature will do its job. I only watered it when there is no rain on that particular day. Till now it has been 2 weeks and the seedlings have at least one set(2 leaves excluding the "spade-shaped" ones) of true leaves now. :) Hope this will help.

*Note: I did not use any fertilizer or miracle grow on it. Just throw it in and let it happen.:)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 4:29AM
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Yep, from my experience in Oklahoma, 4-oclocks are hardy enough to be directly planted in the soil after it's warm enough to plant okra or corn. They sprout vigorously in not too long and should flower before frost. Here, they persist by tuber from year to year.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 3:44AM
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I have never nicked or soaked the seeds. I just sow them where they are to grow in late spring to early summer, or whenever the weather starts to warm up.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 6:14PM
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I planted mine about three weeks ago and we have temps. in the 80's and the 90's but nothing.Should i just assume they aren't going to come up?I just took them from the package and planted them.Should i have refrigerated them for two weeks before planting?Thanks for any help.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 4:07PM
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If you go to Thompson & Morgan's website,, you can search Mirabilis, and find their sowing guide. They mention surface sow, but packets I have indicate a depth of 1/2" for planting seeds. Go figure. 7-21 days is the stated germination time frame.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 3:00PM
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I have had them (the rainbow/multi- colors on each plant!) for several years & they always reseed themselves & some of the plants winter over & re-bloom also. I think originally I soaked those hard seeds before I planted them though. Once you have them growing, you will always have some!!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:01PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

I soaked them 24 hours in water. Then placed between moist paper towels, and placed them on a seed starting warming mat. They sprouted in 2 to 5 days. Then planted the sprouts in seed starting medium. They did great.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 9:22PM
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Once you get some seeds growing, you will never have to worry about starting any more seeds! My yard is almost 'weedy' with all the multi-colored 'rainbow' 4 o'clocks that seem to be perennials here as the large tap root regrows again each year. The pretty mixed colors on each flower as well as on the same plant are so fragrant & beautiful ... not as boring as the single colored varieties! The mixture of colors seems to get even more mixed with the years & I try & save as many seeds as possible to give to my neighbors & relatives. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 11:31AM
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I have found the best way to start four o'clocks from seed are to plant in the fall. Just make sure you mark where they are. Sometimes they don't flower the first year. But, they are very aggressive once they get started and return year after year. They do readily reseed every year also.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2014 at 8:35PM
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