Mirabilis longiflora

Judy Glattstein jglatt@ptd.net
Sat, 16 Aug 2003 08:29:11 PDT
I've had one plant of Mirabilis longiflora for years, raised from seed that
came to me from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate. (Now there was a
president. How can you improve on someone who said that the best service one
could do for one's country is discover a new plant of value. But I digress.)
    Of course in my New Jersey climate this American native from west Texas,
Arizona and Mexico must be container grown. It has thick, substantial roots
covered with rough "bark." I don't know what to call them - some kind of
tuber? They are woody in texture, which I know from one year when it got
accidentally sliced as it was being dug up.
    It prefers good drainage, sunshine, and not too much water. Scandant in
growth, the lax stems are equally happy when they can scramble up an
adjacent shrub or simply sprawl on the ground. After it accidentally got the
chop that autumn, I grow it in a pot and provide a supporting framework of
twigs as scaffolding. Softly downy heart-shaped medium green leaves make a
modest covering, standing out from the stems on long petioles.
    In late summer the long-tubed small white flowers appear in clusters of
three, each flower accented with violet stamens. Night blooming, it has a
sweet fragrance.
    Winter storage is in my unheated, attached garage, where temperatures
can drop to 38° Fahrenheit during cold spells. I used to dig in late autumn
(when it was planted out) and pack it in a box, surrounded with dry peat
moss. Now I just take it out of its pot and box it up with no packing
material. My plant is at least 10 years old, perhaps a year or two more.
    Does anyone else grow this charming native? Has anyone seen it growing
wild? Is anyone else interested in it?

Judy in New Jersey, where the sun came out yesterday, and neither the plants
nor I knew what to make of it after so much rain.

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