Just coming into flower in the chaparral and desert hillsides is the California wildflower, Mirabilis multiflora. This small, sprawling plant smothers itself with brilliant magenta flowers that can be seen at quite a distance despite its small size. It is commonly called Froebel’s Four-O’Clock.
Look for this little gem tumbling between rocks or filling in between other natives. It likes full sun and excellent drainage. Early spring will find these Four O’Clock plants peppering hills and fields of California Poppies, Silver Puff flowers (Uropappus lindleyi) and Popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys).
In a wildflower garden the Mirabilis will add eye-popping color and fill in open spaces with their low-growing, spreading habit of growth. Plant this California wildflower where you need something decorative that can handle extreme dry and heat in the summertime. You can buy the Mirabilis multiflora (Froebel’s Four-O’Clock) from some wildflower/native plant growers. Purchase seeds from Horizon Herbs or another online seed company. Sometimes Las Pilitas carries the plants in stock for direct purchase or mail order.
Here’s a video of the plant growing on a hillside behind my house. It’s just budding up:
The Latin ‘Mirabilis‘ seems to be pronounced as either Mi-RA-bi-lis or Mi-ra-BEL-is.
Use this plant to cover wild hillsides in dry-summer climates. Because of its showy spring bloom it makes a colorful addition to a wildflower garden, too. The flowers attract birds and pollinating insects but seems to be unmolested by rabbits or other chewing pests. When not in bloom, it remains a good green ground-cover plant, but, like most California natives, looks dry and forlorn during the summer dormancy.
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