We've covered the basics of building a moonlight garden here on MNN, including recommending some annuals that grow well in any region of the U.S., but as the winter planning season kicks into gear, here are more plants for thought: A list of native plants for specific areas of the country that would be right at home in your moonlight garden.
1. White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata) – This lovely aster is among the first asters to bloom in the summer and it will flower in partial to full shade. It's particularly effective when allowed to naturalize.
The foam flower's tiny white blooms will light the way for a nighttime stroll in the garden. (Photo: Dave Bonta/flickr)
2. Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) – Planted along garden paths, foam flower's airy racemes of tiny white flowers will light the way for night walks in the garden on spring evenings. When happy, plants will form clumps one-to-two feet wide.
3. Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata 'David') – The cultivar David is snow white and typically grows in an upright clump to 3-4 feet tall. Its fragrant, tubular flowers last from mid-summer into fall and will also start fresh for an extended period when cut and placed in a vase.
4. Smooth or wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) – This is a loosely and widely branched deciduous shrub that typically grows to 3-6 feet tall. It produces tiny white fertile flowers in flattened clusters that stand out in the light of the moon as well as in daylight.
5. Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii) – This is a stout, branched, sprawling perennial that grows up to 2 feet high and produces large, white, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom from March through November. The flowers are beautiful and open after dusk and close by mid-morning the following day. Jimsonweed does comes with a warning, though: it's a member of the deadly nightshade family and possesses narcotic and hallucinogenic properties that can be fatal.
Evening primroses will attract all sorts of good insects to your garden. (Photo: Irene Grassi/flickr)
6. Common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) – The yellow flowers open visibly fast in the evening from late spring to summer. They attract moths, butterflies and bees, and the seeds in the fall are a dietary staple for birds.
7. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) – A tall shrub that grows up to 10 feet and produces racemes of white flowers that are fragrant in the evening. The plant is very hardy and resilient to ice or snow damage. (Suggested cultivars: 'Hummingbird,' 'Sixteen Candles' and 'compacta').
8. Red baneberry or doll's eyes (Actaea rubra) – This is a small woodland plant with fine-textured foliage that resembles Astilbe. In late spring and early summer it produces lightly scented, short white bottle brush flowers that give way to clusters of bright red berries in late summer that are attractive to mammals and many songbirds. It combines well with other woodland natives such as wild ginger and wood ferns. Beware! All parts of the plant are poisonous. Actaea (Cimicifuga) atropurpurea is a more graceful and floriferous form and features long, white and sweetly fragrant blossoms from late summer into fall.
Rue anemone will be a small treasure in your garden. (Photo: Rictor Norton & David Allen/flickr)
9. Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) – A dwarf woodland plant just six inches tall that flowers in the spring. A tiny spreading treasure.
10. Common witherod (Viburnum nudum) – A 6-8 foot tall shrub with umbrella powdery white flowers with a light baby powder fragrance. It blooms in later summer in northern climates. Witherod is a great bird-loving plant because of its red and purple-to-black berries that form as flat clusters. Leathery pointed oval leaves that measure about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide.
11. White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) – A gorgeous woodland plant that thrives in humus soil. It produces butterfly-like three petaled flowers in May-June.
12. Desert four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) – Bright purple blooms open late afternoon through the night, for about 8 weeks in mid-summer. It thrives on natural precipitation only, even in the high dry deserts of the Southwest and needs dry well-drained conditions and full sun to look its best. It's easy to grow from seed and comes in many colors. This is one of those nostalgic plants that people's grandmothers grew.
Night-blooming cereus is a desert flower that's popular in rock and moonlight garden alike. (Photo: Kirkastroth/Wikimedia Commons)
13. Night-blooming cereus (Peniocereus greggii) – One of the strangest plants of the desert, the night-blooming cereus is a member of the cactus family that resembles nothing more than a dead bush most of the year. But for one midsummer's night each year, its exquisitely scented flower opens as night falls, then closes forever with the first rays of the morning sun. This native of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of southern Arizona, east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico, is popular in rock gardens and can be grown from stem cuttings.
14. River primrose (Oenothera jamesii) – This is a tall plant that produces showy butter-yellow flowers that open in the late afternoon or early evening. It grows on stream banks so it will need consistent watering during the summer. Plant it in the back of a garden bed because of its height.
15. Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii) – See description under Mid-Atlantic.
16. Artemsi (Artemesia ludoviciana) – This plant is grown for its silver foliage because the leaves provide an excellent contrast in the evening to flowering plants and green foliage in borders and herb gardens. It is an especially good selection for areas with poor dry soils.
17. Desert four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) – See description under Midwest.
18. Wooly Stemodia (Stemodia lanta) – This is another plant that is grown for its foliage; in this case, the silver, whitish, or grayish leaves. As a bonus, it also produces tiny lavender or white flowers that are best appreciated at close range. It is especially effective when planted where it can spill over the edge of a pot or wall. It will dieback where winters are cold, but in warmer areas it is reliably evergreen.
Western mountain states
19. Desert four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) – See description under Midwest.
20. Blazing star (Mentzelia decapetala) – Biennial with serrated rough leaves in a beautiful rosette its first year. Second year: stems 2-3 feet tall, branched, with large pointed white buds, opening into ten-petaled creamy-white stars with golden starburst of anthers in the center, lightly fragrant, exotic looking (at right). The flowers open in early evening, and close the following morning, for about 6 weeks in mid-summer. It requires dry, well-drained conditions and full sun to look its best. It will not be happy in wet climates or poorly drained locations.
21. Moonflower (Datura species) – This is a poisonous tree-like native with white, pink, yellow or orange flowers that was used by Native Americans. It can grow easily just about anywhere. It likes high light and can handle nearly no water. Often with a light purple tint to the center of the large, white slightly fragrant trumpet flower.
22. Fragrant evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) – Both the species and the cultivars make great garden plants. The flowers come in shades of pink, white or yellow. Several have attractive seed pods as well. Native to prairies and some make it to high altitudes. It's a low-maintenance plant and can handle very hot and dry conditions.
Southern California (Mediterranean climate)
21. Sweet almond tree verbena (Aloysia virgata) – This shrub to small tree produces recurrent flushes of panicles bearing white flowers that send a heavenly fragrance some distance from the plant day and night that carries. It can be grown as a herbaceous perennial in warm climates and as a dieback shrub in cooler areas.
22. Night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) – You may miss the non-showy flowers on this sprawling shrub with its long and climbing vine-like stems, but you won't miss the scent. The flowers open in the evening and produce such a strongly perfumed scent that some find the fragrance overpowering. Popular in warm climates, it dies to the ground after a freeze but will re-emerge in the spring.
23. Night-blooming cactus (Echinopsis species) – Echinopsis is a genus of often ball-shaped small cacti that grow to only about six-inches in diameter covered with hedgehog-like and sea urchin-esq spines. Their appeal is in their large flowers that open at night and typically stay open the next morning. The flowers are so large they can almost hide the plant.
24. Orange jasmine or mock orange (Murraya paniculata) – This tropical bushy shrub to small tree is native to parts of Asia and produces citrus-like flowers with an aroma day and night during the summer. Can be grown outdoors in warm climates and in pots that are overwintered indoors in areas where there are frosts and freezes.
The fragrant tea olive a great choice to plant near doors or windows (Photo: Kazuhiro Tsugita/flickr)
25. Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) – This multi-stemmed large shrub to small tree produces tiny white to pale orange flowers that give off a delightful and delicate fragrance, especially in the fall. It is a great choice to plant near doors or windows. It is also the least cold-hardy of the Osmanthus species.
26. Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) – This shrub grows 9-10 feet tall and produces white flowers in clusters at the ends of long stems. At the height of flowering, the plant is covered in a mass of blossoms. The flowers have a heavy, sweet scent similar to orange blossoms with a hint of pineapple.
27. Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii) – See description under Mid-Atlantic.
28. Common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) – The flowers get their name from the way they open visibly fast every evening beginning in late spring. They are gone by noon the next day, but don’t worry. The tall spikes will repeat the daily spectacle until late summer.
Blazing star (Mentzelia decapetala) photo: Bob Herschy/Wikimedia Commons