At this time of the year many parts of the world are experiencing summertime heat. When it gets too hot to be outside, I start thinking about being out in my yard more after the sun goes down.
There are so many plants that add not only fragrance, but color and texture for nighttime enjoyment, that if you have never tried this, you are limiting the time you can be out and using your garden.
Many plants flower exclusively at night. Many more wait until evening to release their wonderful scents. White flowers and plants with variegated foliage glow softly as they reflect the moonlight. To those who work all day, an evening garden can be a peaceful refuge.
So consider this: coming home from work, having dinner, and then going out into the cool, quiet evening to enjoy your garden in the light of the moon.
When planning your garden, you’ll want to incorporate plants that show off their beauty at night. Some basic elements of planting, with evening enjoyment in mind, include using:
- White flowering varieties
- Night flowering varieties
- Plants with fragrant nighttime flowers
- Plants with bright patterns on foliage
- Plants with silver leaves
Each of these elements, individual or combined, will produce a beautiful garden anytime of the day, but especially at night.
With so many unique colors and hybrids emerging into the flower industry, we gardeners can often skip over the classic white varieties. Although other colors than white are great for sunny summer days, remember that white flowers show off their classic beauty both in the sunlight and the moonlight.
White Showy Flowers
- Lilacs – (Syringia vulgaris) – Zones 5-9
- Hydrangeas – (Hydrangea macrophylla) – Zones 6-10
- Rhododendrons – (Azalea) – Zones 7-11
- Impatiens – (Impatiens walleriana ‘Stardust’ or ‘Bride’) – Zones 9-12
- Sweet Alyssum – (Lobularia maritima) – Zones 7-10
- Dianthus – (Dianthus barbatus) – Zones 4-10
- Camellia – (Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’) – Zones 5-10
- Camellia – (Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine-No-Yuki’) – Zones 9-11
- Common Calla – (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – Zones 8-11
- Candytuft – (Iberis sempervirens ‘Autumn Snow’) – Zones 4-11
- Matillija Poppy – (Romneya coulteri) – Zones 7-10
- Cosmos – (Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’)) – Zones 8-11
- Verbena – (Verbena x hybrida ‘Armour White’) – Zones 9-10
- Foxglove – (Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’) – Zones 5-10
- Bleeding Heart – (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’) – Zones 2-9
- Cape Fuchsia – (Phygelius x rectus ‘Moonraker’) – Zones 8-11
- Oriental Poppy – (Papaver oreintale ‘Perry’s White’) – Zones 3-9
- White Forsythia – (Abeliophyllum distichum) – Zones 5-8
- Columbine – (Aquilegia flabellata �Alba’) – Zone 5
Night-flowering Plants & Night-Fragrant Plants
- Evening Primroses – (Oenothera): are perennials with sweetly scented blossoms of soft white, pink and bright yellow that open each evening – Zones 5-10
- Moonflower – (Ipomoea alba): is a night-blooming relative of the morning glory that perfumes the garden with 5 – 6 inch (13-15 cm) white flowers. A plant that is specifically planted for its evening blooming habit and powerful scent. Moonflower is most often grown from seed and provides a quick annual cover for an arbor, trellis, or fence. Plant where there is support for its vining tendrils to climb up – Zones 10-12
- Angel’s Trumpet – (Brugmansia / Datura innoxia): produces fragrant, 6-inch (15 cm) white flowers that appear from midsummer until frost on this viney annual. Note that this plant is poisonous and should be kept away from children – Zones 9-11
- Night Phlox -(Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’): at dusk, flowers open to release a honey -almond-vanilla fragrance – Annual
- Evening Stock – (Matthiola incana): has small pink or purplish flowers that are not showy, but emit an intoxicating fragrance at night – Zones 6-10
- Four O’Clock – (Mirabilis jalapa): is a sweetly fragrant annual with colorful trumpet-shaped flowers that open in late afternoon and release a jasmine-like perfume – Zones 8-11
- Nottingham Catchfly – (Silene nutans): offers a scent reminiscent of hyacinths. The flowers open on three successive nights before fading – Zones 6-10
- Night Blooming Cereus – (Selenicereus): is known for its large, fragrant, night-blooming white flowers. This cactus is not hardy below 55�F (12.7 C), so grow it in a container and bring indoors for the winter – Zones 9-12
- Daylilies – (Hemerocallis): night blooming include ‘Moon Frolic’ and ‘Toltec Sundial’ – Zones 3-9
- Yucca – (Yucca filamentosa): bears flowers that are open both day and night – Zones 4-10
- Lilac – Syringia vulgaris ‘Miss Ellen Willmott’ which provides luxurious fragrance at night in addition to their reflective white flowers – Zones 5-9
- Flowering Tobacco – (Nicotiana): is a lovely annual with long, trumpet-like blooms valued for their intense evening fragrance – Zones 7-11
- Night Gladiolus – (Gladiolus tristis): features creamy yellow blossoms with an intensely spicy night fragrance – Zones 7-10
- Fragrant Columbine – (Aquilegia fragrans): offers creamy white flowers with a rich honeysuckle scent – Zones 5-8
- Cottage Pink – (Dianthus plumarius): display pale pink flowers smelling of cloves – Zones 3-10
- Fairy Lily – (Chlidanths fragrans): bears yellow, fragrant flowers on stalks in mid-summer – Zones 9-11
- Climbing Hydrangea – (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) – Zones 5-9
- Sweet Autumn Clematis – (Clematis paniculata) – Zones 5-9
- Honeysuckle – (Lonicera japonica) – Zones 4-10
- Mock Orange – (Philadelphus coronarius) is a fast growing shrub that can reach 10 feet (3 m). In late May to early June, it is loaded with fragrant, white, orange-scented blossoms – Zones 2-9
Bright Foliage Plants
Plants with silver leaves or variegated patterns of green and white create an evening glow in the garden.
Lamium – (Lamium maculatum ‘Silver Licorice’) – Zones 4-10
- Lamb’s ears – (Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’): offers silver shimmer at night – Zones 5-10
- Hosta – (Hosta fortunei ‘albo-marginata’) – have white margins around large gray green leaves that present a glowing silhouette in the moonlight – Zones 6-10
- Dusty Miller – (Centaurea cineraria) – Zones 7-10
- Licorice Plant – (Helichrysum petiolare ‘Variegatum’) – Zones 9-10
- Russian Sage – (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Filagran’) – Zones 6-9
- Silver artemesia – (Artemesia schmidtiana) – Zones 3-9
- Silver sage – (Salvia argentea) – Zones 6-9
- Caladiums – (Caladium x hortulanum ‘White Christmas’) – Zones 10-12
- Variegated cannas – (Canna) – Zones 9-12
Examples For You
Putting it all together
This garden features white flowers and silver foliage. An espaliered apple tree sits in the center of the white border surrounded by the roses: Marie Bugnet, Lac Majeu, Kakwa, and Polar Star. The perennials include campanulas, delphiniums, lilies, lupines, verbascums and late blooming phlox. Inter-planted among the perennials are lavatera, hesperis, foxgloves, nicotiana, and stocks. This selection of plants provides color and fragrance from June through September.
Ths garden is done mostly in white and the air is made wonderfully sweet with the aromas of heliotrope, tuberoses and verbenas. Many of the white flowers bloom in the late afternoon or evening and their fragrance hangs in the night air.
Overall remember, the idea behind a moonlight garden is to reflect the glow and stillness of nighttime, and to create a special area that really offers its best qualities at night.
This can be done with minimal effort, maybe only a few square feet (meters), but it’s enough.
This way, instead of just sitting in front of the television, or doing paperwork, you now have a new refuge you can go out and enjoy, even if it’s only for a few minutes when it’s cool and quiet. How nice is that?