Floral fragrances wafting through the warm air is one of the best parts of summer. Sunny days bring spectacular blooms and sublime scents. But what about the nighttime? Some of these light-colored, night-blooming plants emit sweet aromas to go in with your full moon cocktails or your star-gazing on lazy summer evenings on the patio.
Night-blooming flowers are often found in the “exotic” category of plants. The agricultural temperate zone of the northeast corridor, roughly the agricultural temperate zone of 5a to 8b, isn’t a natural home to many night-blooming exotics. A work-around is displaying the plants in outdoor pots and over-wintering them inside. This may sound complicated, but it isn’t. If you have the room indoors to bring the plants in, you can have their beautiful, mysterious aires in your night garden year after year. Make sure to place them where they will not receive too much artificial light when it’s dark outside. The upcoming full moon would cast a halo-like glow on any of these examples of night-blooming flowers.
Moon flowers are a great place to start. They grow on a vine and are related to (ironically enough) morning glory and to sweet potatoes. They come in variations of white or purple and have a lovely, soft scent. Moon flowers are hardy to sub-tropical temperate zone but we 4-season types can winter them inside.
Often mistaken for a weed during the day, evening primrose is a night-bloomer that can grow almost anywhere. If you are a beginner gardener, start with these easy-to-grow plants. They can be seeded in dry spots with plenty of sun.
Night phlox can also be started from seeds. This bloom has a stronger scent than the typical softer aromas of night-bloomers. If you are planting more than one night-bloomer, check with your local nursery to see which scents work well together or simply plant them in different areas of your landscape (none of the scents are likely to overwhelm an area). Night phlox is from South Africa, attracts butterflies, and can be potted or planted in soil. A sunny spot with moist soil is best.
You’ve seen –and smelled– the casablanca lily if you’ve been to a wedding. Because of their strong scent, these lilies are popular in floral arrangements. Casablanca lilies can grow in various zones, including the northeast corridor of the US. They like moist soil and sun, just like the night phlox and many other exotic plants.
Take a chance on some night-blooming plants. Their mysterious ways will tempt you outside to sit still and breathe in the scents of the warm summer night.