Mirabilis jalapa

Quick Characteristics:

Height: 60-100 cm (2-3.3 ft)
Flower Colors: white, red, yellow, pink, patterned
Flower Season: mid summer to late summer
Usage: flowers first year from seed thick roots
Life form: deciduous thick roots

Mirabilis jalapa is among the most colorful of the genus. Since it was already cultivated by the Aztecs, both its origin and true natural form are somewhat unclear. The epithet Jalapa may refer to the Department in Guatemala or several places in Mexico. M. jalapa was introduced to Europe as an ornamental as early as the middle of the sixteenth century and has naturalized in many, mostly subtropical climates.

The base colors are white, yellow and magenta, allowing for any combination of those in an often quite coarse broken color scheme. Plain pink can occur as offspring from magenta and white parents, while orange or salmon forms seem to be produced by a very fine broken color's pattern. Flowers open up in the late afternoon and close in the morning of the following day. Mirabilis jalapa can be cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, self-seeding readily. Since the seedlings are quite large and easily pulled, they usually do not become too invasive there. Alternatively, the tubers can be lifted after the first freezing and tolerate dry, dark winter storage. In Martin Bohnet's zone 7 garden, a few specimens survive outside close to a south-facing wall, protected both from cold and winter wetness. Photos 1-2 by him show two broken color forms. Note the four-fifths pure magenta flower on photo 1. Photo 3 shows the size a tuber may reach in one year in good conditions. The stem has not yet fallen off, but will so as the plant forms a suberised abscission layer at any stem node, including the root neck.

Mirabilis jalapa, Martin BohnetMirabilis jalapa, Martin BohnetMirabilis jalapa root tuber, Martin Bohnet

Plants grown by Judy Glattstein. Photos 1 to 3 show an unusually colored cultivar "Orange Crush"; photo 4 shows the cultivar 'Alba'.

Mirabilis jalapa 'Orange Crush', Judy GlattsteinMirabilis jalapa 'Orange Crush', Judy GlattsteinMirabilis jalapa 'Orange Crush', Judy GlattsteinMirabilis jalapa 'Alba', Judy Glattstein

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