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Luminous Leaves and Night Blooming Flowers: The Top Plants For A Moonlight Garden

Published on September 29th 2020
Queen of the Night flower
If you're the kind of gardener who likes to entertain late into the evening, why not create your own luscious nighttime retreat? A moon garden is a space that looks its best during the twilight hours. For many of us, these hours are the only time we can snatch to unwind in our gardens, so it makes sense to plant for evening appeal. From pale foliage that shimmers as darkness falls and foliage that casts dramatic leafy silhouettes to plants that give off a heady scent come dusk, here are our top plants for creating your little nocturnal patch of paradise.

Pale plants with personality

Queen of the Night
© Adriano Makoto Suzuki
A white flower garden isn't just visually arresting, it's also great for attracting night-flying insects and pollinators such as moths. An added bonus is night flowering varieties tend to give off the strongest scent too.
If you need an excuse to throw a party (and you've got the patience), make Queen of the Night your star guest. Usually kept as a house plant, Epiphyllum oxypetalum only flowers once a year and when it does, you'll want to be there. With its sculptural petals and seductive scent, it's easy to see why it's the subject of sundowner parties across its native land in Asia.
Starting with the first carpet of snowdrops, include these flowers to add a serene glow to your garden.


Galanthus spp.

A white flower on a Epiphyllum oxypetalum cactus

Queen of the Night

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

This Ipomoea alba was growing at my friend Zeb's house.  He called it a moon flower, and said that it just bloomed as we arrived and would probably die before the next morning.  I took a shot of it because it was very neat!  The next morning however, there was another moon flower that bloomed on the other side of the same tree, which was very very cool!


Ipomoea alba

White-Flowered Foxglove

Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora

Lily Of The Valley

Convallaria majalis

Regal Lily

Lilium regale

Silvery showstoppers

Maiden grass
Chinese Silvergrass © Bad Alley Cat
For a garden that seems to shimmer in the darkness, add silver-leafed plants, which will thrive in full sunlight and glint under the moonlight. As Lia Leendertz notes in The Twilight Garden, silver-hued leaves serve a purpose beyond the aesthetic: "The silvery effect is created by the hundreds of thousands of tiny pale hairs that cover the leaves...Their reflective surfaces have evolved in an attempt to fend off the worst heat of the sun and to help keep the plants cool."
If you like to plant by the lunar cycles and not just entertain under them, consider something like Chinese Silver Grass. It sends out feathery flowers just in time to mark the harvest moon as Autumn begins.

Add a splash of colour

Moonshine Yarrow
Yarrow Moonshine © reader of the pack
Not everyone is into the minimalist white look and the good news is you don't have to stick to white petals to get the lunar look. In fact, at Sissinghurst Vita Sackville-West's moonlit masterpiece, she also included greens, greys and silvers, as well as plenty of Yew and Box hedging for extra depth and structure.
For a Vita-inspired garden, consider punctuating bushier flowers such as Achillea ageratifolia and Santolina chamaecyparissus with the elegant spires of Eremurus, Verbascum and the showy trumpets of Lilium regale. Mauves, blues and lemon curd yellows will add pops of colour to your borders that take on an ethereal hue at sundown.

Get fancy with fragrance

Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle © Tony Alter
There's nothing like the intoxicating scent of jasmine or the sweet waft of honeysuckle to ease you into the evening. Leendertz suggests adding flowers that only unfold their goods once darkness has fallen, such as White Campion Silene Alba and Stock Matthiola bicornis.
For visual impact and fragrance go for Wisteria floribunda, but be sure you've got the space and a sturdy support for its large sweeping tendrils. "Lilies, dianthus and brugmansias are among the plants that will grow well in containers, so use these and, if necessary, move them close to wherever you sit and drink your glass of wine in the evenings," she adds.
In addition, the following will look stunning and pack a punch in the scent department.
Other ways to add ambience include using a pool of water or mirror to reflect the moonlight and draping solar lights or low-lit lanterns in seating areas and along pathways.
Eucalyptus globulus
Eucalyptus globulus © nathanmac87
If you've got the space, consider adding Eucalyptus for its delicate silvery foliage or Citrus trees for their scent.
Do you garden by the moonlight or for the moonlight? Share your planting tips and suggestions with our community below.
The Twilight Garden: A guide to Enjoying Your Garden in the Evening Hours by Lia Leendertz is published by Pavilion Books

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