121 Moonlight Gardening Plants: A Cheat Sheet for Planting Your Garden

Moonlight gardening is one of the romantic parts of gardening. Being in the garden after long days of working acts as a release for both body and soul.
There are several important things when it comes to making a moonlight garden that shines at night.

Plant Flowers That Show Up At Night

This means white flowers and/or gray foliage with darker contrasting foliage to act as a contrast.
Also understand that cream flowers and yellow flowers are almost as effective in moonlight gardens because they reflect available light almost as well as white.

Even though a plant might be listed e.g. begonia, not all of the available begonia varieties are white. You will have to pick white varieties from the listed plants.

If You Can’t See It – At Least Be Able To Smell It

A moonlight garden should be a fragrant garden and picking fragrant plants such as white roses would do double duty. Again, you’ll have to be aware that some varieties have powerful fragrances (Brugmansia, Roses) and some come with none.
Note that most of the night blooming and fragrant plants are pollinated by moths.
Watching these wonderful creatures flit about the moonlight garden is as entertaining as watching bumble bees stagger about under a full load of pollen. The difference is that watching a moth drunk on pollen and nectar is kind of tough to distinguish between one that is straight sober – they always fly kind of funny.

Wait until you see your first giant night moth – then you’ll know why you have a moonlight garden.

Moonlight Garden Design Thoughts

One of the most famous of moonlight gardens is Sissinghurst, designed by Harold Nicholson and planted by Vita Sackville West.
What is seldom thought about by those that visit this interesting garden is that Vita would write in the tower overlooking the garden (She was a best selling novelist, poet and garden writer in her day.)
Her view of the garden was “down”.
And it is from this vantage point that she designed her shapes and colour swatches. The garden was not primarily designed to be viewed at ground level and I know more than one garden visitor who has come away from the famous white garden with mixed feelings for its lack of vibrancy during the heat of the day.

This moonlight garden, the “White Garden”, was designed to be seen at night from above and so it doesn’t look as impressive as its reputation by day.

As an aside, I have several of Vita’s books and they are fantastic garden writing by an excellent gardener and writer. Well worth searching out.
Pick the point of view carefully and design the garden so the brightest/whitest flowers are towards this view.
You can do this with any garden btw – not just one designed for strictly nighttime viewing.

Moonlight Plant Lists

The following moonlight garden plant lists do not include tropical plants. And unfortunately for those of us living in the north, some of these are among the most fragrant and heavily flowering of the white flowers. For example, for many years I kept a night blooming Cereus in my greenhouses and when it came to bloom, we’d have moonlight garden parties to sip wine, chat and watch the blossoms open to release the most delicious of perfumes. This and many like it are not hardy outdoors outside of the tropics.

Some basic white annuals for moonlight gardening:

  • Arctotis – African Daisy, 12-36″, full sun, blooms Blooms June-frost.
  • Bacopa – 8″ full sun, blooms Blooms June-frost.
  • Begonia – 6-8″, part shade-full sun, Blooms Blooms June-frost.
  • Cleome – Spider Flower,48″, full sun to part shade, Blooms June-frost.
  • Cosmos – 36″ full sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Euphorbia -Snow on the Mountain, 24-36″, full sun, Blooms June-frost.
  • Eucalyptus – 12-24″, full sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Geranium -12-36″, full sun to ½ day sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Helichrisyum – Licorice Plant, 18″, full sun to part shade, Blooms June-frost.
  • Impatiens – 8-24″, shade to part sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Ipomoea – Moonflower, vine to 8′, sun to ½ day sun, July-frost.
  • Lobelia – 2-6″, full sun to part shade, Blooms May-August.
  • Marigold – 12-18″, full sun to ½ day sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Nasturtium – ‘Alaska’, 4-8″, sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Nicotiana – 12-36″, sun to ½ day sun, Blooms June-frost.
  • Osteospermum – 18-24″,full sun to ½ day sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Pansies – 4-8″, sun, August-June.
  • Petunias – 4/8″, sun, Blooms May-frost. Salvia – 8-24″, sun to part shade, Blooms May-frost.
  • Snapdragons – 8/24″, sun to part shade, Blooms May-frost.
  • Sunflowers – 24-48″, sun, Blooms June-August.
  • Sweet Alyssum – 2-4″, sun to part shade, May-July.
  • Vinca Major – Variegated Periwinkle, 24-48″, sun to shade, Blooms May-frost.
  • Vinca – Perwinkle, 6-8″, sun to part shade, Blooms May-frost.
  • Zinnia – 10-18″, sun to part shade, Blooms May-frost.

Bulbs for Moonlight Gardens

  • Acidanthera – 12-18″, sun, two blooms, one in June & one in August.
  • Arum italicum – 6″, ½ day sun to shade, June-September .
  • Calla lilies – 24″, sun to part shade, June-July.
  • Narcissus or Daffodils – several white varieties, 12-28″, sun to ½ day sun, March-May.
  • Tulips – 8-20″, full sun to ½ day sun, March-June.

Perennials for Moonlight Gardens

Note that some of them are only useful for their foliage or at best the flowers are a minor attraction. Also note that some of these plants are such a pale yellow that they almost qualify as white.

  • Anacyclus – Mountain Atlas Daisy, 3″, sun, June-July.
  • Anemone – 18-36″, sun to part shade, June-Aug
  • Anthemis – 12″, sun, June-July.
  • Aquilegia – Columbine, 10-24″, ½ day sun to part shade, April-May.
  • Arabis – Rock Cress, 6″, sun, April-May.
  • Aruncus dioicus – Goatsbeard, 24-36″, shade, June-September.
  • Artemesia – 12-30″, sun, foliage
  • Aster divaricatus – Wood Aster, 12-18″, sun to part shade, June.
  • Astilbe – False Spirea, 12-36″, part shade to shade, June.
  • Astrantia – Masterwort, 24″ part shade to shade, June-September.
  • Baptisia – 40″, sun to ½ day sun, June.
  • Boltonia asteroides – Thousand-flowered Aster, 36-48″, sun to ½ day sun, September.
  • Campanula – Canterbury Bells, 24″, sun to ½ day sun, June.
  • Cerastium tomentosum – Snow in the Summer, 4-6″, May-June.
  • Chrysanthemum superbum – Shasta Daisy, 18-24″, May-June.
  • Cimicifuga – Black Cohosh, 40-60″, ½ day sun to shade, June-July.
  • Clematis paniculata – Fall Blooming Clematis, sun to ½ day sun, August-September.
  • Convallaria – Lily of the Valley, 8″, 1/2day sun to shade, May.
  • Delphinium – 24-36″, sun, May-June.
  • Dianthus – Pinks, 10/12″, sun to ½ day sun, May-June.
  • Dicentra – Bleeding Heart, 24-36″, ½ day sun to shade, May-June.
  • Digitalis – Foxglove, 12-36″, sun to part shade, May-June.
  • Echinacea – Coneflower, 36″, sun, June-August.
  • Filipendula – Meadowsweet, 24″, sun to ½ day sun, July.
  • Galium odoratium – Sweet Woodruff, 4/6″, ½ day sun to shade, April-frost.
  • Gaura lindheimeri – Wand Flower, 36-48″, sun to ½ day sun, June-August.
  • Gypsophila – Baby’s Breath, 36″, sun, June-July.
  • Helleborus niger – Christmas Rose, 18-24″, 1/2 day sun to shade, December-February.
  • Helleborus orientalis – Lenten Rose, 18-24″,1/2 day sun to shade, February-March.
  • Heuchera – 6-12″, part sun to shade, June.
  • Hosta – Variety of heights and bloom times, shade to part sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Iberis – Candytuft, 4-6″, full sun to part shade, April-June. Iris – 36″, sun to part shade, June, April-August .
  • Lamium – 6-12″, ½ day sun to shade, May-June, Blooms May-frost .
  • Lavender – 10-24″, sun, June, Blooms June-frost .
  • Linaria purpurea – 24-36″, sun to ½ day sun, June.
  • Linum alba – Perennial Flax, 18-24″, sun to ½ day sun, May-July
  • Lupinus – Lupine, 24-48″, sun to ½ day sun, June.
  • Lychnis coronaria – Campion, 24″ , sun, June-July.
  • Lysimachia – Loosestrife, 36″, sun to part shade, July. Malva – Mallow, 36″, sun to ½ day sun, June-July.
  • Mazus reptans – 4-6″, sun to ½ day sun, June-July.
  • Matricaria – Feaverfew, 12-18″, sun to ½ day sun, June-July.
  • Paeonia – peony, 36-48″, sun, June.
  • Phlox maculata 36″, sun to ½ day sun, June-August.
  • Phlox paniculata – 36″, sun to ½ day sun, June-August.
  • Phlox subulata – Creeping Phlox, 2-6″, sun, April-May.
  • Physostegia – Obedient Plant, 30″, sun to pard shade, September.
  • Polygonatum odoratum ‘variegatum’ – Variegated Solomon’s Seal, 28″, ½ day sun to shade, Blooms May-frost .
  • Pulmonaria – Lungwort, 12″, ½ day sun to shade, April-May .
  • Santolina – Lavender Cotton, 12-24″, sun, March-September .
  • Stachys – Lamb’s Ears, 12″, full sun to ½ day sun, June-July
  • Tiarella – Foam Flower, 8-12″, ½ day sun to shade, June.
  • Thyme – creeping and variegated, 1-8″ respectively, sun, June, Year-round foliage interest.
  • Veronica – 12-18″, sun, June-July, Blooms June-frost
  • Yucca – 36-48″, full sun, Mid-summer blooms

Grasses For Night Gardens

  • Acorus – 12″, full sun to part shade, (grass).
  • Calamagrostis – 36″, part shade, (grass).
  • Carex ‘Variegata’ – 4-12″, part shade, (grass).
  • Hakonechloa – 18″, ½ day sun to shade, (grass).

Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Moonlight Gardening

  • Abelia – 4-5′, full sun to part shade, June-July.
  • Amelanchier – Serviceberry, 4-5′, sun, April.
  • Azalea – 2-10′, part sun to shade, May-June.
  • Cornus variegata – Variegated Dogwood, 8-16′, full or half sun, .
  • Chionanthus – Wintersweet, 6-8′, full sun to ½ day sun, March.
  • Clethra – Sweet Pepper Bush, 6-18′, full sun to shade, July.
  • Cytissus – White Scotch Broom, 5-6′, full sun to ½ day sun, March-June.
  • Deutzia – 5-8′ full sun, June-July.
  • Euonymus – 3″-6′, depending on the variety, full sun to ½ day sun, .
  • Halesia – Carolina Silver Bells, 8-15′, sun, June.
  • Hydrangea 4-5′, full sun to part shade, June-September.
  • Kalmia – Laurel, 6′, full sun to shade, June.
  • Magnolia – 15-30′, sun to part shade, June-July.
  • Malus – Flowering Crabapple, 10-15′ sun to part shade, May.
  • Miscanthus gracillimus varigatus – Japanese Silver Grass, 8′, full sun to ½ day sun, Blooms May-frost.
  • Pieris – Andromeda, 4-5′, ½ day sun to part shade, June-July.
  • Prunus – Flowering Cherry, 10-15′, sun, April.
  • Pyrus – Flowering Pear, 10-20′, sun, April-May.
  • Rhododendron – 4-10′, part sun to shade, May-June.
  • Silver Lace Vine – will climb to 15′, full sun, June-August.
  • Spirea – 3-6′, full sun to part shade, June-August.
  • Syringa – Lilac, 8-12′, full sun to 1-2 day sun, May-June.
  • Weigelia – 4-5′, full sun to part shade, May-July.
  • Wisteria – Vine, full sun to part shade, May-June.
  • Viburnum – 4-10′, sun to part shade, April-August depending on variety.

So with all that plant information about moonlight gardening, what else do you need to know.

You’ve got white flowers, fragrant flowers and likely the most important point of all in the moonlight gardening world is a bench or vantage point to enjoy the garden.

There is little point in putting all this work into a moonlight garden if you don’t take the time to appreciate it.

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