Growing Four O’Clock Plants
The Four O Clock Flower Plant (Oenothera biennis) is one of the most popular plants in the garden. These are easy to grow and produce beautiful blooms every year. They are also very adaptable and will thrive in almost any climate. However, they do require some care when growing them indoors. If you have never grown these before, then here’s what you need to know:
1. You Can Grow Four O’Clock Flowers Indoors Or Outdoors
You can grow these plants either outdoors or indoors. They are not picky about where they live so long as there is enough light and water.
2. There Are Two Types Of Four O’Clock Flowers – Indoor & Outdoor
There are two types of four o’clock flowers; indoor and outdoor varieties. Both types are edible but the outdoor variety tends to be sweeter and easier to harvest.
Long Does It Take For Four O’Clock Seeds To Sprout?
Indoor four o’clock flower seeds usually take between six months and three years for germination. Outdoor four o’clock seedlings tend to germinate faster, taking anywhere from five months up to a year.
4. Four O’Clocks Like Warmth And Sunlight
Four o’clocks need a lot of sun when they grow so be sure to plant them in an area that gets full sun most of the day. They also like it a little warmer than other plants so be sure the temperature is between 60 and 100 degrees.
5. Water Four O’Clocks Thoroughly But infrequently
You should water the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. However, you don’t want to over or under water them because this can cause them to wilt and die. Be sure to let the topsoil dry out a bit between waterings.
6. Fertilize The Four O’Clocks With Cow Manure
Cow manure is a good fertilizer for four o’clocks. You can also use bone meal or any type of fertilizer that has a high amount of phosphate in it as well as nitrogen, but steer clear of using any fertilizer that has potash in it.
7. Cut Off The Old Flowers To Make Way For New Ones
You will need to cut off the old flowers so that the plant knows to keep blooming. You can either do this yourself or let the bees do it for you naturally.
Big Do Four O’Clocks Grow?
Four o’clocks can grow anywhere from 2 or 3 feet to over 6 feet tall. It all depends on how healthy and happy they are as well as what type of fertilizer you use and if you let the flowers stay on the plant or not.
9. The Leaves Of The Four O’Clocks Are Edible As Well
The leaves of the four o’clock plant are also edible. In fact, they are packed with nutrients and very good for you. They taste a little like cucumbers.
Four O’clocks are one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. They thrive in almost any condition and you don’t have to do much to take care of them. Just remember to plant them in an area that gets full sun at least eight hours a day and keep the soil wet but not waterlogged. Be sure to harvest the flowers and the leaves. The flower petals can be eaten raw or cooked into pies, jellies, cakes, soups and more.
Whether you plant the outdoor or indoor variety of four o’clocks is up to you. For best results, plant them in pots or containers so you can move them indoors when it gets too cold outside. The soil that you choose to grow your four o’clocks in is also your choice. You can use regular potting soil or you can use soil that has more sand in it. It all depends on what is easiest for you and the conditions that are easiest for the plant.
Be sure to fertilize your four o’clock plants with some cow manure, bone meal or any other type of fertilizer except potash. As with all plants, make sure you wash off the fertilizer before you eat any of the leaves or flowers.
Four o’clocks are a great addition to your garden. They come in a large variety of colors and add beauty as well as nutrients to your soil. So be sure to plant some this year!
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Cautions About Four O’Clocks
Although four o’clocks are relatively safe plants, you should take certain precautions when dealing with them.
1. Children Should Not Be Allowed To Play With The Plants
Children tend to put things in their mouths. Also they tend to play with things in general. As we all know, there are many poisonous plants out there and sometimes it can be difficult to tell which ones are which. In addition, children do not have a well developed system for determining whether a plant is safe or not. This means that they are more likely to do something harmful to themselves in this regard.
So as the parent or guardian, you should know which types of plants are dangerous and which ones are not. You should also know where these plants grow and make sure that your child does not have access to them.
Your child should also not be given the responsibility of caring for a four o’clock plant at this time.
2. Avoid Eating The Whole Plant
Although the flowers and leaves of the four o’clocks are edible, they can cause some side effects that you may not like. For example, you may experience nausea, dry mouth and vomiting. While these side effects usually do not last long, they can be scary especially if you are not prepared for them.
Also, some people are allergic to four o’clocks or any members of the nightshade family. These people run the risk of suffering from blurred vision, difficulty breathing, and even death if they are exposed to any part of these plants.
For these reasons you should avoid eating the whole plant at this time. As you have learned, there are many other benefits that can be gained from this plant without having to eat it.
3. Wear Gloves When Hand Pollinating
As you may have learned from the previous lesson, hand pollination is a very delicate process and should be done with care. In fact, because this process can get a bit messy, it would be wise to wear some gloves when performing this task.
This will help prevent any possible staining of your hands as well as keep them safe from any chemicals that the plant may release during this process.
4. Don’t Consume The Plant If You Are Allergic
As with any other plant that you may be allergic to, you should not eat the four o’clock flower or leaves if you have been previously diagnosed with any type of allergy to members of the nightshade family. Although these allergies are not common for most people, there is always a small percentage of the population that has these types of allergies.
If you are in this small percentage, then eating any part of the four o’clock plant can cause you to suffer from severe symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty breathing and even death. As with children, it is the responsibility of the adult in charge to make sure that these types of accidents do not occur. So if you know that you have allergies to nightshade family plants, then you should never consume any part of the four o’clock plant.
5. The Flowers And Leaves Are Edible
As you will learn in this section, there are many different uses that you can get out of the four o’clock plant. Of these different uses, one of the main ones is as a food source. This is because the flowers and leaves of the plant are edible.
In fact, the Aztecs are believed to be the first people to use this plant as a food source. They used it mainly for desserts and sweet foods. Other native people of North America also used it as an additive to food in general, even through most tribes didn’t normally use it as a food source.
The strange thing about the four o’clock flower is that it can be eaten at any stage of its growth. The leaves and flowers are good to eat in the earlier stages of growth, however they become too sour to enjoy as the plant grows older.
When the fruit of this plant is still green, it is not fit to eat. However, once the fruit has turned yellow and started to soften a bit, then it can be eaten. Some people even choose to let the fruit ripen until it turns into a dark red color. Each part of the fruit can be eaten, however it is suggested that you only do this in an emergency as it isn’t quite as tasty as some other food sources.
Not many modern day people eat this plant because there are so many alternatives available to them. However, if you are stuck in an area where few other food sources are available to you, then the four o’clock plant could potentially save your life and serve as a nutritious meal that is easy to find.
6. The Root Can Be Used As A Medicine
In addition to its uses as a food source, the four o’clock plant has many other benefits that you can gain from it. One of these benefits is medical in nature and involves using the root of the plant.
It is important to note that only the roots of the four o’clock plant that are white through and through should be used for medicinal purposes. Using the roots of a darker red color can be poisonous and potentially cause harm to you.
The main use of the root is in treating a variety of different types of pains, including joint pain, muscle pain, headaches and even heart pain or heartburn. If you are suffering from one of these conditions, all you need to do is prepare the root as a tea and drink it.
To prepare it, you should first peel the root while removing any spots that are a darker red color. You can then either slice or grate the root before placing it in a container of some sort, covering the root with water and then allowing it to soak for several hours. After soaking, strain the liquid and drink it as you would with any other tea.
7. The Root Is Also Used As A Dye
The root of the four o’clock plant isn’t just used for medical purposes, it can also be used as a type of dye. In fact, the Aztecs used to use the roots in order to dye fabrics a deep black color. Today, the dark black color of the roots has more or less been replaced by other types of dyes.
However, this doesn’t mean that the root is useless. In fact, you can still use the roots of the four o’clock plant in order to dye your clothing and other fabrics a different color. Just like with medicinal uses, only the white roots should be used as the use of any other colored roots could potentially be dangerous.
To use the roots as a dye, you should first peel them, remove any spots of a different color and then rub them against the fabric that you want to dye. You will then need to soak the fabric in water for several hours before rinsing it and allowing it to dry. Depending on how dark you want your fabric to be, you might need to apply this process several times.
8. The Plant Is Often Found In Deserts
People often think of deserts as being dry and hot all of the time, which is true for the most part. However, while deserts might be defined by their lack of rainfall, this doesn’t mean that it never rains in deserts and when it does rain, the rain can be heavy.
Due to the fact that the build up of rain can cause the desert to become flooded, many desert plants have learned how to survive these conditions. The four o’clock plant is one such plant and can survive in areas that experience a buildup of water following a rainfall.
Another thing that the four o’clock plant does in order to survive in a desert environment is that it has adapted itself in such a way that it can survive without too much sunlight. Since the sun is often burning down on a desert, the four o’clock plant only grows to about a foot tall in order to escape its rays.
9. The Plant Has A Similar Growing Habitat To Cacti
The four o’clock plant is often found in places that contain cacti. This might be because the cacti are serving as some sort of physical barrier that is preventing the four o’clock from being damaged by winds. While this is one possibility, there is another theory which states that the four o’clock plant and the cacti are using each other to enhance their growth.
The process through which this works is actually quite fascinating. What the four o’clock plant does is that it begins to suck up water from the ground. While it is doing this, it also releases a type of chemical which triggers the cacti to release their own water stores into the ground. The benefit of this is that the cacti then act as a support for the four o’clock plant and both plants grow bigger and stronger as a result.
10. It’s A Native American medicinal Plant
Native Americans have been using the four o’clock plant for centuries in order to treat a wide range of medical conditions from treating open wounds to helping women during childbirth. The Cherokee in particular used the root of the plant in order to treat abdominal pains and chest pain. The Comanche on the other hand used a mixture of the leaves and the roots of the plant in order to help with treating fevers and kidney problems.
The use of the plant as a painkiller still persists in modern day medicine. Pharmaceutical companies have taken the plant and its active ingredient, the cyclopamine, in order to synthesize their own painkillers. Due to the fact that the plant and its extracts are easily available, pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of this and have used it as a cheap substitute for other more rare and expensive plant based medicines.
11. The Poison Grows Inside The Fruit
The fruit of the four o’clock plant has been known to be edible for quite some time. In fact, Native Americans were known to consume the fruit not long after the first Europeans arrived on their shores. The problem with the fruit is that if it isn’t prepared or consumed in the right way, then it can actually be poisonous to humans.
The fruit itself is a four corned yellowish orb which contains a thick and slimy liquid inside. To avoid poisoning, Native Americans used to crush the fruit into a pulp before straining off the liquid and then throwing away the fleshy pulp leaving just the juice. They would then let it dry in the sun before turning it into a powder which they could mix with water as and when they needed to.
12. It Was First Colonized By The Spanish
The four o’clock plant is a native plant to North America, but it was actually the Spanish who first took seeds of this lovely plant back to Europe. From there, it spread around the world quite extensively.
However, the plant didn’t get its common name until the early 1800s. Before then it was just known as the “sleeping plant” due to the fact that it has a soporific effect on animals and humans. Due to this, they believed that sleeping near the plants would have the same effect. It wasn’t until 1812 that it got its modern name after it was described by Patrick Browne in his book, ‘The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica.
13. Oak Trees And Four O’clocks Can Live Together
The oak tree and the four o’clock plant can actually live together in perfect harmony, even though they appear completely different to one another. The relationship that they have is actually quite an important one as the oak tree provides protection for the four o’clock by giving it shade from the sun.
Sources & references used in this article:
Guide to Medicinal Plants, A: an Illustrated Scientific and Medicinal Approach by HL Koh, CH Tan, TK Chua – 2009 – books.google.com
Colorado flora: eastern slope, a field guide to the vascular plants by WA Weber, RC Wittmann – 2012 – books.google.com
Taylor’s guide to growing North America’s favorite plants: proven perennials, annuals, flowering trees, shrubs, & vines for every garden by B Ellis – 2000 – books.google.com
Occurrence of bacterial canker in tomato fields of Karnataka and effect of biological seed treatment on disease incidence by S Umesha – Crop Protection, 2006 – Elsevier