Plants that bloom during the night add an exotic touch to the garden. Most are tropical natives but there are some that actually do best in cool climates. Some have a spectacular flower that last just one day while the flowers of others open and close in a twenty-four hour cycle. Many have a delightful fragrance that can be enjoyed outdoors while sitting on a deck, patio, or porch, but can also be enjoyed indoors if planted near a window that can be opened. The plants described below vary in their requirements so that most gardeners can find at least one that will do well in their garden.
Moonflower (Ipomea alba)
Not to be confused with other moonflowers, Ipomea alba is a flowering vine related to morning glories. The white or pink flowers are fragrant and three to five inches across. They open suddenly in the evening and last just one night. Plants flower best when and where summer days are about twelve hours long.
Type: Semi-tropical to tropical perennial but often grown as an annual
Light: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well-drained
Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata)
The species of this old garden favorite is tall and has the best scent. The star-like flowers may be green, white, yellow, or red . Cultivars are avaiable that vary in size, color, and fragrance; they tend to be less fragrant than the species but are open during the day.
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained; not drought tolerant
Evening Stock (Matthiola longipetala)
This native of Eurasia is widely grown in North America where it does best in cool climates. It has white to purple, four-peteled flowers .4 to .8 inches wide with a fragrance of vanilla, clove, and rose . Easily grown from seed.
Soil: Moderately moist, well-drained
Four O’clock (Mirabilis jalapa)
The flowers of this tropical South American native are curious because different colors can appear on the same plants and some flowers may show more than one color in a varity of patterns. Some flowers even change color as they age. As the name implies, the flowers open in the afternoon and persit into evening. The scent is a mixture of honey and lemon.
Type: Perennial Zones 7-10
Light: Sun to shade
Soil: Moist, well-drained; drought tolerant
Desert Thorn Apple (Datura discolor)This is not a plant to grow around children as all the plant parts are poisinous if ingested but for shear size of bloom, the flowers can’t be beat. The flowers are four to six inches across and are white with an indigo center. Plants are usually grown from seed.
Soil: Moist, well-drained