If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending Tohono Chul’s Bloom Night, Tucson Botanical Garden’s Sunset Saturdays, or the Desert Museum’s Cool Summer Nights, then you’ve experienced a taste of how enchanting our desert gardens can be after hours. When the summer sun goes down (and the earth stops smoldering) many of our desert plants come alive, and we can really take our time to be inspired by the tranquil beauty and gentle fragrances they have to offer.
If you absolutely love to garden but can’t take the summer heat, a moonlight garden might be just your thing. Read-on for some tips on creating a lovely and serene place to relax outdoors after dark.
The first rule of moonlight gardening is to choose colors that you can see at night. White flowers show up best in dim lighting, but any pale-colored flowers will work. Avoid flowers that are red, dark blue, or purple around your nighttime seating areas; these colors are difficult to see in the dark, and they won’t add much excitement in the evening.
Some flowers only open at night, and these are some of the most dramatic plants to include in your moonlight garden. There’s nothing quite like sipping your favorite beverage by the light of the moon while these flowers begin to open. Many night-blooming flowers will close and fade by mid-morning the following day, so watching them unfold and come alive can be quite a treat.
The dark green foliage that lends a cooling effect to our gardens by day will simply fade into the nighttime shadows. Instead of dark greens, choose plants with silver, bluish, or variegated foliage to stand out in the dark. As an added bonus, many of our plants with silver foliage are also very tolerant of drought and heat.
In the darkness of night, other senses can become more acute than sight, so don’t forget to include some plants that will appeal to your sense of smell. Night blooming plants are often more fragrant than daytime bloomers because they are pollinated by nighttime critters. These critters frequently rely on their sense of smell to find the nectar or pollen that they seek.
Here’s a short list of some of our favorite moonlight garden plants (click on the plant name for more information and photos from our online catalog where applicable):
*Because availability changes with the seasons, we aren’t able to sock all of these plants year-round. Please call or email Civano Nursery to check on individual plant availability.
Agave angustifolia ‘Marginata’ (Pacific Agave) – variegated foliage
Artemisia x ‘Powis Castle’ (Powis Castle Wormwood) – silvery foliage, fragrant foliage
Berlanderia lyrata (Chocolate Flower) – yellow flowers, fragrant flowers, flowers open at night
Bougainvillea ‘White’ (White Bougainvillea) – white flowers
Buddleia marrubifolia (Woolly Butterfly Bush) – silvery foliage
Cestrum nocturnum (Night Blooming Jessamine) – white flowers, fragrant flowers, flowers open at night
Citrus trees – white flowers, fragrant flowers
Convolvulus cneorum (Bush Morning Glory) – white flowers, silvery foliage, flowers open at night
Cordia boisseri (Texas Olive) – white flowers
Dasylirion wheeleri (Desert Spoon) – white flowers, silvery foliage, architectural interest
Elaeagnus x ebbengii (Silverberry) – silvery foliage
Encelia farniosa (Brittlebush) – yellow flowers, silvery foliage
Eriogonum fasciculatum ‘Little Rascal’ (Little Rascal Buckwheat) – white flowers, silvery foliage
Euonymus japonicas ‘Aureo- marginatus’ (Variegated Euonymus) – variegated foliage
Euonymus japonicas ‘Aureo-variegatus’ (Gold Spot Euonymus) – variegated foliage
Gardenia jasminoides ‘Veitchii’ (Everblooming Gardenia) – white flowers, fragrant flowers
Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine) – pale pink flowers, fragrant flowers
Lantana montevidensis ‘White’ (White Trailing Lantana) – white flowers
Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Compacta’ (Compact Texas Ranger) – silvery foliage
Leucophyllum zygophyllum (Blue Ranger) – silvery foliage
Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (Hall’s Honeysuckle) – white flowers, fragrant flowers
Maireana sedifolia (Pearl Bluebush) – silvery foliage, architectural interest (photo posted above)
Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot Daisy) – white flowers
Moraea iridioides (Fortnight Lily) – white flowers
Oenothera caespitosa (Tufted Evening Primrose) – white or pale pink flowers, fragrant flowers, flowers open at night
Oenothera speciosa (Mexican Evening Primrose) – pale pink flowers, fragrant flowers, flowers open at night
Peniocereus greggii (Arizona Queen of the Night) – white flowers, fragrant flowers, flowers open at night (photo posted above)
Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ (Variegated Mock Orange) – variegated foliage, fragrant flowers
Plumbago auriculata ‘White’ (White Cape Plumbago) – white flowers
Plumbago scandens (White Desert Plumbago) – white flowers
Rosa banksiae ‘Alba Plena’ (White Lady Banks Rose) – white flowers
Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller) – silvery foliage
Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) – white flowers, fragrant flowers
Yucca pallida (Twistleaf Yucca) – silvery foliage, architectural interest