They Only Come Out at Night

Bob Stadnyk, April 4, 2024

Bob Stadnyk
Bob Stadnyk, Annuals/Tropicals Department Manager

I know you have all heard the saying “like moths to a flame”. This is so true as so many insects and most plants respond to daylight, with the pollinators being most active at that time. But what about the evening and overnight hours? If you ever just slow down for a moment and observe your surroundings during the evening hours in your back yard, you will experience a frenzy of vigorous insect activity. Add plants to the mix that bloom during the night, and you will have an entire ecosystem without even realizing it.

Ipomoea alba
Moon vine (Ipomoea alba), the quintessential moon garden plant.

White is the most vivid of colours that pop during the night. Annual flowers such as Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’ produce blooms that literally float at the slightest breeze (hence the name). By adding any other white flowering annuals such as moon vine (Ipomoea alba), geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), petunias, scaevola, etc., one can create a beautiful monochromatic planter that will literally glow in the dark.

Mirabilis jalapa
Four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are available in numerous colours.

Don’t forget the annual four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) as their blooms (you guessed it) open around 4pm every day unless the skies are overcast, which means they may open sooner.

Echinacea Pow Wow White
'Pow Wow White' coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a hardy variety that will pop at night. Image courtesy of Walters Gardens.

On the perennial side of things, coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are a must. Day or night they attract pollinators in droves. During the night, a host of totally different pollinators compared to the day find the pollen and nectar a real delicacy. All albino or white forms of perennials should not be overlooked for adding that special “pop” in the nighttime skies. 

Hydrangea Limelight
'Limelight' hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is an ideal flowering shrub for a moon garden.

On a larger scale, white flowering hydrangea, viburnum, lilacs (Syringa spp.), etc. anchor the landscape while also providing that nighttime glow. So don’t forget about that ecosystem that “only comes out at night”.