Enjoy the Backyard Benefits of a Moon Garden

Learn what to plant for nighttime beauty and why a moon garden is so beneficial for pollinators such as moths, bats and bees.

moonflower at nightCourtesy Clay Finney
Moonflowers slowly open in the evening.

Most of us notice how gorgeous gardens are when the sun is shining, but how often do we see what a garden looks like at night? Between dusk and dawn, when moonlight illuminates the plants, visitors can enjoy unique insight into a garden’s personality. Night pollinators such as moths, native bees and bats are attracted to plants in a moon garden with white and pale-colored flowers that are intensely fragrant and produce a lot of nectar. As you walk through the moon garden, you will be able to watch these varied and industrious third-shift pollinators as they go about their important work.

Moon Garden Pollinator Benefits


White-lined Sphinx Moth Feeding on Yellow Lantana FlowersLois_McCleary/Getty Images
White-lined sphinx moth flying above yellow lantana flowers in a garden and feeding on the nectar.

White flowers show up well in moonlight, so moths flock to them. Moths also have an amazing sense of smell. They love flowers that are highly scented. Some moths hover over the plants to sip nectar with their very long tongues, and others land on flowers while they feed. Many kinds of moths, like sphinx moths, will visit honeysuckle, columbine and amsonia blue star.


In the arid Southwest, three kinds of nectar-feeding bats pollinate night-blooming plants. They prefer the nectar of large flowers, such as agave, yucca and many types of cacti. Blooms of white, purple and green, along with very strong scents, will attract these beneficial nighttime creatures.

Discover 9 features to look for in a bat house.

Native Bees

Although most bee species, including domestic honeybees, do their pollinating during the day, a few native bees, such as small sweat bees, work by night, using the moon and starlight to navigate through the garden. They pollinate evening primrose, monarda and campion. Check out easy ways you can help bees.

Night-Blooming Flowers for Moon Gardens

A pretty yellow evening primroseChushkin/Getty Images
Evening primrose

A moon garden should include flowers in pale hues of yellow, blue, purple, green, white or cream, and pink, along with plants that have either silver or gray foliage. The pale blooms and silvery foliage reflect the light of the moon and stars, giving the garden a delicate glow. Plants with flowers that bloom at night, such as yucca, or blossoms that open at dusk and close in the morning, such as evening primrose and moonflower, are magnets for night pollinators.

Queen of the Night

276779956 1 Luke George Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Luke George
Queen of the Night’ cactus plant

Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Zones 10 to 12

This cactus is native to the rainforest. In colder areas, enjoy it as a large houseplant with well draining, moist potting mix.

“I keep a Queen of the Night cactus on my back lanai near the pool. It blooms at night with pretty and amazingly fragrant flowers. By morning this queen has run her beautiful, but short, reign over her sunless kingdom. I stayed up the last few years to watch this event and capture photos of Her Majesty,” says Birds & Blooms reader Luke George of Fort Myers, Florida.

Angel Trumpet

night blooming flowersCourtesy Jacki Rogers
Angel trumpet flowers

Datura wrightii, Zones 8 to 12

Reaching up to 6 feet tall, this ornamental can be used as an annual. Note that it’s highly toxic.

“I have always loved these big, white beauties. Angel trumpets attract different pollinators and it’s fun to watch them,” says Jacki Rogers of Akron, Ohio.

Moon Garden Plants with Silver and Gray Foliage

moon garden, Lavender Blooming In Pot Against White WallYin Jiang/Getty Images
Lavender growing in a container
  • Lavender: flowers of purple and blue
  • Woolly lambs’ ears: pink flowers
  • Horned poppy: yellow or orange flowers
  • Sea kale: sprays of white flowers
  • Helichrysum: yellow clusters of tiny flowers
  • Santolina: yellow button flowers
  • Silver Blade evening primrose: large pale yellow flowers
  • Pussy-toes: delicate white or pink flowers
  • Sage: flowers of purplish blue

Next, check out 15 beautiful white flowering shrubs.

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Tammi Hartung
Tammi Hartung is an herbalist and organic grower in southern Colorado, where she and her husband own Desert Canyon Farm. Tammi grows more than 400 varieties of herbs for culinary, medicinal and general household uses.