Your Garden At Night

When you visit the Garden this summer for Flora Borealis, you’ll get to see something else that happens only when the sun goes down: the blooming of the Victoria water lilies in the Central Axis and Carver Garden. These massive flowers open at sundown, reaching peak bloom overnight. They turn a beautiful shade of pink before they close up and sink below the water’s surface again.

Macro Water LilyMary Lou Olson_K1C2762
Photo: Mary Lou Olson

It’s easy to turn your back on your own garden after a sweltering summer day, but nighttime could be the perfect time to enjoy your garden, if you focus on a few basics.


As daylight fades, other senses come to the fore, including smell. Night bloomers’ heady scents are used to attract pollinators (often moths). Similarly, you’ll notice many have trumpet-shaped flowers, a feature that likely co-evolved with their pollinators.

What to plant:

  • Moonvine (Ipomoea alba) night-blooming morning glory
  • Ornamental flowering tobacco is graceful and fragrant. Try Nicotiana alata or N. sylvestris ‘Queen of the Tribe.’
  • Evening primrose (Oenothera) is a tall native with yellow flowers that is also good for kids because around 5 p.m. you can watch the flowers swiftly unwind and open.


White is the primary color in an evening garden for a good reason: it will reflect every scrap of light that hits it, from moonlight to candlelight, so it shows up very well in the evening. (If you also plan to use the garden in the daytime, a lot of white will be stark and dazzling under sunlight.)

Other colors also make a dramatic appearance come nightfall. While bright colors like reds and oranges go dull in the dark, pale blues, pinks, yellows, and purples stand out.

What to plant:

  • Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) and angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.)—each provides a dramatic, tropical look, but position them carefully as each is poisonous.
  • Four o’clocks (Mirabilis spp.), as the name suggests, open their flowers in late afternoon.


Just as white shows up well in low light, plants with silvery foliage also
stand out at night.

What to plant:

  • Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria)
  • Sagebrush (Artemisia)
  • Eucalyptus ‘Silver Drop’
  • Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is slow to flower, but has dramatic foliage to accompany bright purple blooms.


Andrea Androuais, Content Managing Editor
Featured image: Kent Burgess

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