Beautiful at night - Mirabilis jalapa

Beautiful at night - Mirabilis jalapa

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Tuberous perennial herbaceous plant, often grown as an annual, native to Central and South America. It appears as a dense, very branched erect bush, with large dark green leaves, shiny, with a heart-shaped base. In summer it produces many fragrant, five-lobed, yellow, red, pink or white or two-colored flowers; often flowers of two different colors bloom on the same plant; the flowers open at dusk. It produces many fertile, woody, black and egg-shaped seeds. The Mirabilis Jalapa is a perennial (in Italy used mostly as an annual) native to South America and more particularly to the Perщ. Initially from Linnaeus it was called Admirabilis Jalapa. It is in fact "admired" not so much for its beauty, but for its originality. First of all, the flower head only opens in the evening, usually after 5 pm. The flowers do not have corolla, but they are constituted by a single calyx, which opens like a trumpet. Another detail that points out this vegetable is the great variety of possible colors. These can be combined in extraordinary ways even on the same single flower!

Origins and description

As we have said, it is native to the New World and arrived in Europe in 1524. It immediately became popular among the less well off who appreciated its long flowering and its ability to spread easily. However, it was also noted by botanists (Correns) in particular for the quality of having short cycles of growth and development. These, combined with the great variability of colors, were indispensable requirements to make it the perfect guinea pig for the study of genetic inheritance in plants.
In general it is a herbaceous plant up to 30 cm high. Its root is blackish on the outside and white on the inside. The stem is knotty, stained with dark crimson and may appear smooth or slightly fluffy. As it grows it becomes well branched and forms a small roundish bush. The leaves are alternate, smooth, oval but pointed. The base is instead heart-shaped. The flowers are collected in bunches at the apexes, composed of at least 3 and at most 6 heads. After pollination large black seeds are produced.
The colors available are many: red, white, yellow, soft pink or bright and can be variously stained or mottled. In general, sachets of seeds are found in mixed colors. If we want a single color scheme, it is good to look for them at specialized seed dealers. If we like a particular color, we can have fun practicing the pollination ourselves and then proceed with the selection until we reach a pure color.
Mirabilis longiflora it belongs to the same genus, but is much less widespread at horticultural level. Comes from Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It has black root, very branched and initially prostrate stem, to then become erect. The leaves are alternate and fluffy. It produces white flowers with a red throat, very elongated. A great merit of this plant is its strong perfume similar to that of orange blossom. It can be hybridized with the jalapa.


The beautiful at night they prefer sunny positions, possibly in full sun, at least for some hours of the day. When the first colds arrive, the aerial part of the plant tends to dry and completely disappear, the tubers will produce new plants the following year, but only in temperate places; if desired in places with harsh winter it is possible to extract the tubers from the ground and keep them in a sheltered place until spring. This operation is not necessary, however, as new plants will pop up in large quantities from the seeds fallen from the plant.


These herbaceous plants need frequent watering, quite abundant, from April to October, especially in the hottest periods of the year; let the substrate dry between one watering and another. Add fertilizer for flowering plants to the irrigating water every 15-20 days.


It takes place by seed, it can be practiced from March in seedbed, or from April directly to the dwelling. The propagation is very simple and usually takes place from seed. These are harvested in late summer and placed in peat jars in the month of March, in a sheltered place. Usually three are inserted, forming a triangle. Once checked, the seedlings must be thinned out, immediately eliminating those that are too thin. In any case we leave at most two plants per container.
As there is growth, we will engage in various toppings to make the specimens well-groomed and give them the most round shape possible.


The cultivation of the mirabilis jalapa it is not at all difficult, since it adapts very well to the most diverse terrains and exhibitions. Its strengths are certainly the autonomy, the ability to spread itself (sometimes even too much), the long flowering season and the intense fragrance that is emanated during the night hours, especially in the hot season.
It is also a very interesting plant for insect lovers. With its effluvium and the shape of the flower head it is able to attract a large quantity of evening and night pollinators, from butterflies to macroglossum stellatarum.
Family and gender
Nyctaginaceae, gen Mirabilis, jalapa and longiflora
Type of plant Perennial herbaceous grown as an annual
Exposure Full sun
Rusticitа Not very rustic
Ground Rich and moist
colors White, pink, red, yellow
Irrigation Frequent in the summer
Flowering From June to October
Composting Once a week


It is a not very rustic vegetable. It is in fact cultivated in almost all of Italy as an annual.
However, it must be pointed out that in the places of origin (and with some foresight also from us) the specimens can be kept for up to 5 years, maintaining excellent flowering capacity.
My advice is to try this way only if we have some plants with corollas of a particularly beautiful color and that, in the midst of others of another color, it would be difficult to keep them for seed in the following years.
In this eventuality, when autumn arrives (around November and in any case before the frosts) we can take the roots from the ground. We will leave them for a few days in a dry, shady, but well-ventilated area. In this way they will dry well and there will be no danger of mold growth during the winter season.
We will then place them in a well-ventilated room covered with coarse sawdust, dried peat or agricultural vermiculite and we will wait for the spring to then place them again.
If we live in the south of Campania it is also possible to let them winter directly in the ground. To avoid that any more rigid days of the average can damage them, it will be good to cover the area with abundant mulching based on straw, leaves or other insulating material. It may also be a good idea to spread a few centimeters of very mature flour manure which, in addition to acting as a thermal insulator, will melt and lighten and make the substrate richer.

Soil and cultivation in pots

They do not have great demands regarding the soil, they grow without problems in any garden soil, preferring loose, well-drained and fertile soils.
As we mentioned the beautiful at night It is an undemanding plant and adapts to a multitude of different terrains. They also flower in sandy soils, but because they are decorative at most, they must be given a very rich substrate in organic and rather light substance. Excellent is the common garden soil enriched with a well decomposed organic soil conditioner.
If we want to cultivate them in a container we can choose soil for flowering plants (for example the one for geraniums is fine) mixed with abundant manure and, if available, a handful of roasted cornunghia. On the bottom it will be necessary to prepare a drainage layer with gravel or expanded clay beads.
For the choice of containers you can indulge yourself. The common earthenware or plastic pots are fine, but, with a little imagination, you can also use repainted tin bins, (with a height of at least 30 cm), cans or wooden crates recovered and decorated in various ways . The combination of different materials will add a touch of retro charm to our garden or terrace.


An attention of which the beautiful at night it certainly has the need for irrigation. The plant loves to live in always moist and fresh soils. It is therefore necessary, especially during the summer and if the plant is placed in full sun, to intervene at least once a day, possibly in the morning, before the great heat arrives.
If our plants grow in a container we will have to intervene in an inversely proportional manner to the size of the latter. The smaller it is, the more times we will have to distribute water.
If the pots are kept on sunny terraces or in very hot regions it will be a good idea to arrange some saucers full of marbles or expanded clay. They will then be filled with water. In this way the constant evaporation will increase the surrounding humidity and will give relief to the plants in the hottest hours.


This is also a point that should not be underestimated if we want to obtain always very decorative specimens.
It is important that the substrate is always rich in organic matter. In addition to this, if in full ground, we can administer a slow release granular fertilizer for flowering plants every 3 months (but we always follow the manufacturer's instructions). It is very important that potassium is prevalent in the composition, which encourages the production of abundant and very colorful corollas.
If the beautiful at night instead they grow in a pot, an excellent solution can be the use of a liquid product for flowering plants to be distributed once a week or to be diluted in minimal doses in the daily irrigation water.


There mirabilis jalapa in this respect it is not particularly demanding. It is able to bloom both in full sun and in partial shade (and often also with bright shadow). The ideal location, however, is very sunny and warm. It absolutely does not fear the winds and therefore is ideal for terraces and coastal areas.

Pruning and cultivation treatments

In this respect they do not require great attention. You will only have to intervene to clean up the stems from the withered flowers (so that the re-flowering is encouraged and there is not too much spontaneous spreading).
Always make sure that the area around the foot is kept clean. It is very easy, in fact, that small plants are born which, in time, end up suffocating the mother.

Pests and diseases

Aphids often ruin new shoots and flowers. Such problems are rarely encountered. It may happen that they are attacked by aphids, but only exceptionally do they suffer serious damage.
Newly born seedlings can instead be eaten by snails or slugs, especially during spring wet nights. In this case, we prepare traps with beer or, in the case of massive presence, we spread some snails.

Beautiful at night - Mirabilis jalapa: Perfume

The beautiful at night are characterized by a heady scent that is particularly noticeable towards evening. It is therefore advisable to cultivate a few pots near a window, to be able to fully enjoy them.
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Schedule of works

February March

Sow in greenhouse or at home
April May Planting, planting, irrigation, fertilization

June to October
Flowering, fertilization, irrigation, cleaning
September October Seed harvesting
October-November Tubers extraction
November to April Conservation of tubers in a sheltered and not damp room