When you think of flowers blooming, I bet you picture those that seem to glow in the sunlight, in such vivid colors, and those which are at their best during summer.
Some of the most ornate, most beautiful flowers are those that only open at night, and are pollinated by moths or other nocturnal insects.
They’re known as “night flowers” or “moon flowers”, and while some will open every night for a season, some only open for a single night, making them truly special.
Usually scented, night flowers draw a myriad of pollinators to your garden with their fragrance, their blooms acting as a homing beacon with their vivid colors. Some attract moths, and some can attract bats!
They’re attractive plants for many reasons, and growing them near a seating area will allow you to see an entirely different, mysterious, and almost magical version of your garden at night.
Whether you’re looking to explore the whole new world of nighttime blooms, or you want an excuse to step outside your door at night, this article lists some of the most beautiful flowers that bloom exclusively during the small hours.
1. Queen of the Night
A flowering cactus, the queen of the night, is part of the Epiphyllum genus within the cactus family, native to Central America.
This plant only flowers for a single night, making it all the more special. Luckily, it’s also a perennial, so the plant won’t die after it blooms.
If you miss the first flowering, you’ll have another chance next year to see it bloom.
These beautiful white flowers can grow up to nine inches in diameter, a truly magnificent display, and no wonder it takes the plant a long time to produce them! They’re also heavily scented.
As an epiphyte, this plant grows on other plants without harming it. It can grow upright, or it can sprawl, or climb up other plants, depending on how it has been planted.
Indoors, hanging baskets or small containers are perfect for the queen of the night.
The flowers it produces bloom once per year, either in summer or fall, usually.
To make sure you don’t miss this stunning display, watch for any buds emerging from the plant.
2. Evening Primrose
Also known as Oenothera biennis, or the common evening primrose, is a biennial wildflower.
Biennials have a two-year cycle, where they grow all the foliage and the structure they need during the first year. In the second, they flower, set seed, and die.
It hails from North America. During the nighttime hours, it opens with yellow blooms which have a sweet scent. These flowers have four petals each, and can get as wide as two inches in diameter.
This plant blooms prolifically, which opens every night from late in spring, into the early days of fall. The stems get to a maximum of 5 feet 3 inches tall.
While it’s been valued for the vigorous display of flowers it produces, nearly all parts of the plant are edible, and they’ve been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.
It’s also where Evening Primrose oil comes from.
Part of the morning glory family, Ipomoea alba, is a perennial flowering vine. In colder climates, it’s treated as an annual plant.
It produces large white blooms that only open once the sun has set. The flowers close just as the sun starts to shine on the plant. If it’s a cloudy day, the flowers can stay open for longer.
In some parts of the world, very long summer days will prevent the vine from flowering, until early autumn, when daylight is more the usual near twelve hours that it is used to.
The moonflower blooms night after night from midsummer into fall. You can recognize this plant by the strong vine (see also Top 9 Vine Plants With Purple Flowers You Can Grow) the flowers which quickly open and are sweetly scented, and its heart-shaped leaves.
It’s also related to the sweet potato.
This plant needs to grow up a form of support, whether that’s up a wall, a fence, or a trellis.
A wall will also give some protection from cooler temperatures, as the moonflower is native to tropical climates, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Datura is a group of poisonous, flowering plants which encompasses nine species in total, all of which flower at night.
Other names include Sacred Datura, Thornapples, Devil’s Trumpet, Jimsonweeds, Devil’s Weed, Moonflower, and Hell’s Bells.
As you can probably tell from the ominous common names, these plants are poisonous, and most cause hallucinations if handled wrongly or ingested.
They’re not suitable plants for gardens which have a lot of pets or children visiting.
Datura produces large trumpet-shaped blossoms which point toward the sky, and are usually white, but different varieties can produce shades of yellow, purple, or pink.
This is one of the longest-lasting flowers on this list, which close around noon the following day. They’re heavily fragranced flowers, and open in every season except winter.
Often referred to as angel’s trumpets, moonflowers, and Floripondios.
Brugmansia flowers point to the ground, and are one of the most toxic ornamental plants, so keep this in mind when deciding if they’re a good fit for your garden.
They’re also extinct in their natural habitats within South America, but they are widely available as ornamentals, and their unusual appearance has meant that they survive as an introduced species.
The night-blooming flowers that brugmansias produce vary depending on the variety. They come in various sizes. Colors include pink, red, white, and yellow.
When they flower also depends on the cultivar. Most flowers bloom in spring, summer, and autumn. Some flower prolifically throughout the growing season.
Some only flower when the weather is colder, and some flower in an eight-week cycle.
Depending on where you live and the surrounding climate, brugmansia may be better as a houseplant rather than a tree or a herbaceous shrub, and the variety you choose. Some are hardier than others.
Brugmansia was once part of the Datura genus, but Datura flowers point toward the sky, and Brugmansia flowers point to the earth.
6. Four O’ Clocks
Mirabilis jalapa, this plant gets its common name from the plant’s tendency to open in the early evening.
It’s native to South America, and indigenous people have many medicinal uses for it.
Flowers are sweetly scented. Colors available are white, yellow, pink, or red.
One plant can even produce different colors, which makes for a nice display (and a surprise). Individual flowers can also be bi-colored.
Like many of the plants on this list, Four O’ Clocks flowers don’t last past the early hours of the following morning.
The good news is this plant produces flowers throughout summer and autumn, so you’ll get plenty of opportunities to see the stunning display this plant puts on.
Like many of the flowers on this list, Four O’ Clocks are poisonous, so keep it out of reach of children and pets, if you decide to use this plant in your garden at all.
7. Casa Blanca Lily
You may be surprised to see a lily on this list, as plants from the Lilium family are usually known for blooming in full sun to be at their best.
This is an Oriental lily, which produces pure white blooms at night. The flowers face outward, and can flower for up to four weeks during mid to late summer.
They’re a perfect choice for illuminating the gloom, reflecting light, and as a feature in a “moon garden” or as part of a nocturnal display.
It attracts a wide range of pollinators, including butterflies and hawkmoths.
Plant ‘Casa Blanca’ near seating areas you use at night in order to enjoy the display and the heady fragrance.
It’s worth keeping in mind that lilies are toxic to cats, so you may want to stay away from this option if you have any felines in your household.
Originally native to Mexico, the tuberose, Agave amica, or as it was previously known, Polianthes tuberosa, is part of the asparagus family.
The previous scientific name, Polianthes tuberosa, was originally coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, and went through several changes throughout the years, until the latest name was made official in 2017.
It’s often used as a perfume note, as it has a lovely fragrance. It’s also widely grown for its ornamental, night-flowering blooms.
Clusters of white, star-shaped, tubular flowers form in late summer evenings at the very top of a three-foot stem. This plant will survive in places where the temperature doesn’t drop lower than 20 °F.
In colder conditions, you can grow tuberosa as an annual, but they need around 4 months of warm weather to thrive and produce blooms.
It’s regarded as one of the most fragrant flowers in the world. The plant is also never found in the wild, as it was domesticated by the Aztecs, giving you some idea of how long it’s been around for!
These plants were also a favorite of Louis XIV of France, where they were planted in the hundreds at the Grand Trianon Château in Versailles.
9. Red Flare Water Lily
Part of the Nymphaea genus of water lilies, this is a tropical water lily which is an annual. The blooms begin to open at dusk, closing in the morning.
A great way of adding ornamental interest and color to a pond or water garden at night, these are heavily-scented flowers, which can grow up to ten inches in diameter.
The ruby red of the flowers provide a lovely compliment to the reddish lily pads, as well as deeply contrasting the water, which may appear black or glassy at night.
‘Red Flare’ blooms from mid-summer into early fall, depending on the temperatures.
10. Chocolate Daisy
Part of the sunflower family (see Sunflower Meaning and Symbolism), the chocolate daisy or Berlandiera lyrata is found in the rocky, limestone soil and plains of North America.
It’s a perennial, which opens eight yellow petals with a brown eye at night. It produces a fragrance similar to chocolate, which is at its strongest in the early morning, just before the flower closes.
While it is classed as a herb, unfortunately it doesn’t taste like chocolate, like the scent suggests.
These flowers attract a range of pollinators, and need full sun during the day to produce its eye-catching yellow flowers.
There’s a night-blooming flower for every garden, to suit every taste and area.
Night blooming flowers are unique in that they provide an excuse to look around your garden at night, opening up a new world of beauty, and mystery you may not otherwise be inclined to experience.
The displays these flowers put on can be unforgettable, whether you choose one that flowers for a single night, or a plant that produces blooms night after night.