Updated date:

Moonflowers: Night-Blooming Plants

A moonflower, Ipomoea alba, photographed at night.

A moonflower, Ipomoea alba, photographed at night.

Beautiful Moonflowers for the Night Garden

The moonflower must be among the most beautiful of flowers as well as one with a very romantic name.

Imagine sitting in your garden on a warm summer evening, a full moon overhead and beautiful moonflowers blooming nearby with their fragrance wafting on a light breeze.

Several different plants are called moonflowers, but the one most commonly referred to by that name is the Ipomoea alba, a twining, vine-like plant. The picture below shows a moonflower growing around a tree. You can see from the background that the photograph was taken at night.

Others include Datura innoxia and Mentzelia pumila, although this one is also sometimes called Evening Star because of its night blooming habit, and usually the flowers are more star-like in shape.

Also Ipomea Alba, this time during daylight

Also Ipomea Alba, this time during daylight

Ipomoea Alba: The Moonflower

The Facts

The Ipomoea alba is part of the family Convolvulaceae (convulvulus) which includes morning glory and the less welcome bindweed, one of the more difficult to eradicate weeds of the temperate garden.

The species Ipomoea alba is a native of tropical and sub-tropical parts of South and Central America as well as Florida. In this climate, it grows wild and may even be treated as a weed. In cooler climates, the moonflower can grow but only as an annual, and so the seeds need to be sown each year. If you are lucky, you may find that they self-seed in some places and so appear each year without any effort on your part.

The plant may grow between 15 ft. to 90 ft. tall, and the large flowers can be up to six inches across.

The Moonflower in the Nighttime Garden

Moonflowers bring a kind ethereal magic to the garden at night. Because they encourage us outside to see the flowers in all their glory, we experience our gardens in a different way than during daylight. We become aware of the creatures of the night as they go about their business. The magic is even more pronounced when there is a full moon bathing everything in moonlight.

The Short Life of the Moonflower

Moonflower twining round up a stick

Moonflower twining round up a stick

A Short-Lived Moonflower

The moonflower opens in mid-to-late afternoon and blooms right through the night.

Its lovely fragrance and large flowers attract night flying insects, like moths, to pollinate it. I guess there is less competition in attracting insects at night.

When the sun rises in the morning, the moonflower dies. It is replaced by another one the same afternoon until all the buds have flowered and then died as the sun's rays strike them.

Have you seen a moonflower?

Growing Ipomoea Alba

Sowing Moonflowers From Seed Is Easier Than You Might Think

Unless you live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate, you will probably have to grow them each year from seed.

Unlike some other Ipomoea, they like a rich, well-manured soil, so prepare the bed before planting out or sowing outside.

Most experts agree you should nick the seed with a file and even soak it for 24 hours too before sowing. If you have late frosts, sow the seeds indoors about a month before the last frosts to give the plants time to germinate and start growing before planting out. That way you will get flowers sooner than waiting to sow them until after the last frost.

This moonflower does not like having its roots disturbed, so put the seeds in peat or other biodegradable pots that eventually can be planted in the ground and will rot away.

If your area is quite mild and it's unusual to have frost after about April, then you can sow them outside in the ground in the place where you want them to grow. They need support to twine around so provide them with a wall, canes, netting, etc.

Then sit back and wait to enjoy their flowers and perfume!

Watch a Moonflower Blooming

Grow Seeds With a Germination Station: An Effective Way to Get Them to Grow

A germination station with a heated mat is a good way to grow moonflowers and other plants from seed. Just make sure you follow the instructions for using it and for the particular seeds you want to germinate.

Another Moonflower: Datura innoxia

Datura innoxia - also known as a moonflower

Datura innoxia - also known as a moonflower

This is another species that is sometimes given the name of moonflower. Unlike Ipomoea alba, this is a low growing shrubby type of plant that grows to a maximum height of about 4 ft. As it is entirely toxic to humans and animals, care should be taken when planting it if you have children or pets.

Watch Datura Innoxia Open

How to Grow Moonflowers: Expert Advice on Their Cultivation

© 2009 Carol Fisher

What do you think of these flowers?

Billy on October 10, 2018:

I’ve grown them for about 3 years. The are amazing but don’t last.

They bloom around 10:00pm and die around 6:00am

Norma Thinger on September 12, 2018:

I recommend reading the short fiction book by Christine T. Hall entitled “Conversations with a Moonflower”. Bonneville Books. Springville, Utah. Copyright 2011 distributed by Cedar Fort, Inc.

Summary: an Amish woman gives her deceased neighbor’s family a moon flower, which changes their lives for the better.

loretta lanier on September 11, 2017:

Love this plant i would like to know it this is easy to grow

poetryman6969 on November 18, 2014:

Gorgeous photos!

Pat Goltz on February 02, 2014:

We have Datura here, and it's very beautiful. It's a shame it's toxic. Sometimes I have come across plants at night that had a couple dozen flowers. This plant is commonly known as Jimsonweed.

John Dyhouse from UK on February 22, 2013:

We have a plant which we know as "moonflower" but it is obviously not the same as yours. It blooms at night, and is finished by the next morning. Each flower is much bigger than a fist and has the most equisite perfume.

Hope you don't mind if I give a link to some photos on Flickr, flickr.com/search/?w=15866619@N00&q=moonflower

Mary Crowther from Havre de Grace on October 11, 2012:

I love this interesting flower, so pretty!

Rosaquid on September 22, 2012:

I've tried to grow them to no avail. I like your tip of starting them early.I'll have to try that. Thanks!

sweetstickyrainbo on September 21, 2012:

Gorgeous poison. PRetty poison

hijess on September 20, 2012:

What a beautiful and interesting flower. Too bad it doesn't stick around for longer!

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 01, 2012:

Stunning photos. I love these EXCEPT NOT bind weed which is a pest in my garden. Though sometime I catch myself even admiring their beauty.

GreenfireWiseWo on August 26, 2012:

Great lens - I love moonflowers.

hntrssthmpsn on August 02, 2012:

I do love moonflowers, and agree wholeheartedly that the beautiful name is part of their appeal. So nice that they're so lovely and glowing while the rest of the garden sleeps!

Fay Favored from USA on June 23, 2012:

Last year I tried to grow some, but they didn't do well in the heat. We had a very dry summer. I will try them again though. They are lovely.

anonymous on April 09, 2012:

My mother has a cactus with a fower that acts in the same way. I've never heard of these before, but they're beautiful.

JennySui on April 05, 2012:

Nice lens! Congrats on getting purple star.

curious0927 on March 03, 2012:

You have great talent! I especially love the length of this lens. Just enough information to take in at one time. Gorgeous! Blessed!

gemjane on February 01, 2012:

Great lens! I love the poster. Looks like the children's book would be very interesting.

traveller27 on November 10, 2011:

Absolutely gorgeous images. Blessed by a travelling angel.

traveller27 on November 10, 2011:

Absolutely gorgeous images. Blessed by a travelling angel.

rewards4life info on October 18, 2011:

Beautiful page I loved watching the videos I can't believe how quickly they open. We get a lot of bindweed in our part of the country it's lovely but a pain as it grows so quickly. Nice lens very interesting to the green fingered among us.

lifeloveliving on October 17, 2011:

I love Impomea plants but didn't really know much about these moonflowers. Lovely!

NaturalVamp on September 30, 2011:

I have seen these beautiful flowers but I had not known it to be called moonflowers. How lovely they are.

Carol Fisher (author) from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on August 29, 2011:

@ecogranny: That is so kind of you, Grace, I really appreciate it and I'm so glad you enjoyed the article.

anonymous on August 28, 2011:

Fantastic twining shade plant for a pergola too, just plain nice all round, great lens.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on August 27, 2011:

Stazjia, what a beautiful page. I was awestruck, watching the moonflower unfold in real time. Don't you just love how that tiny tendril tickles the bud? The bud seems to shake it off! I appreciate, too, your including the Latin names of the plants you featured. So beautifully wrought, I had to stop and nominate it for LOTD.

Candlemakingsup on August 23, 2011:

Great!!

Dianne Loomos on August 13, 2011:

Moonflowers are beautiful!

Cynthia Davis from Pittsburgh on August 13, 2011:

I love moomflowers! They're so easy to grow and received many admiring glances from my neighbors.

Blessed by a Squid Angel**

anonymous on August 13, 2011:

Beautiful lens! I love the time lapse videos.I planted moonflowers one year at my old house, and I loved them. Where I live, they have to be planted each year. I've never tried them in my new location--I sort of forgot how much I liked them. I'll plant some next summer for sure by my patio.

anonymous on July 30, 2011:

Hi Stazjia,

I really liked your lense. These are such unique plants! Great info here. I think I'll give them a try (from seed) next spring. Thanks! :)

N T T

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on June 27, 2011:

I remember watching moonflowers bloom in the evening when I was a child. They are fascinating! Thanks for sharing this lens.

pawpaw911 on June 08, 2011:

They are one of my wife's favorites.

hysongdesigns on May 26, 2011:

I had moon flowers when I lived in TX. But haven't grown them in AZ yet. Here we have the Datura growing wild. Most people around here call it Datura or Jimpson weed. Loved the real time videos, very nice.

Ben Reed from Redcar on January 21, 2011:

Totally gorgeous. What a wonderful lens.

RaintreeAnnie from UK on December 29, 2010:

What a gorgeous flower! I loved reading this page and learning more about the moonflower-it really is incredibly beautiful.

Congratulations on your purple star!

Bambi Watson on December 29, 2010:

I love all the various morning glories, but Moonflowers are my fave!

Congrats! & Blessed >*

Kathy McGraw from California on December 29, 2010:

OOPS...I forgot to say congratulations on that pretty purple star :) So, congratulations my friend! Well deserved.

Kathy McGraw from California on December 29, 2010:

Beautiful flowers! I'm not sure if I have ever seen a Moonflower, but I sure like that star one. I know of a cactus that blooms at night, then dies off in the morning, the first time I ever saw it I was fascinated because it was so different. But these vines, yes I would love them at night when we have the windows open...or sitting out in the yard. Beautiful!

anonymous on December 29, 2010:

What a pretty flower, congratulations on your Purple Star! - Kathy

MargoPArrowsmith on December 29, 2010:

Congrats on the star, lovely lens

Jhangora LM on December 29, 2010:

Congrats on the Purple Star! While the flower looks beautiful, I think it should rather be named Star Flower.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 29, 2010:

These are just fabulous flowers and I include them in my Create a Moonlight Garden. I'll feature your lens there. Congrats on the purple star.

poutine on December 29, 2010:

Beautiful flower and well deserved Purple Star.

julieannbrady on December 29, 2010:

Ah, what do I think? I sincerely think I died and went to heaven and encountered lovely Moonflowers! Such a delight -- congrats on your purple star my dear.

ChrisDay LM on December 29, 2010:

Great flowers. Great pics. Well-deserved Purple Star Trophy. Congratulations

WhiteOak50 on June 04, 2010:

Oh, I love moonflowers!! I grow them too every year!! I have several pictures of them, isn't their scent enchanting, mystical and intoxicating? I love them.

Indigo Janson from UK on January 25, 2010:

How beautiful. It's quite magical watching them open in those videos.

Carol Fisher (author) from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on December 29, 2009:

@ElizabethJeanAl: I wish we could grow moonflowers here in the UK but we have to make do with morning glory.

ElizabethJeanAl on December 29, 2009:

I used to have several moonflowers but they died out and I keep forgetting to get more seeds from my mother-in-law. She's the queen of moons. I swear she has a hundred of them.

Great lens.

Thanks for sharing

Lizzy

AppalachianCoun on September 08, 2009:

Wonderful and beautiful lens. We haven't seen this flower in years. Thank-you for bringing back memories. 5 stars*****

Sojourn on July 30, 2009:

Beautiful flowers and I loved the videos. Nice job!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on July 25, 2009:

Lovely! Didn't know about moonflowers, now I want to grow them.

Joan4 on July 25, 2009:

my absolute favorite flower of all! Moonvine!! Blessed by a SquidAngel aka Moonvine!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on July 25, 2009:

We love the Moonvine and it is my sister, Joan4's favorite flower. I didn't plant any this year and have missed them. Great lens - beautiful and informative.

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on July 24, 2009:

Very cool! I loved watching it bloom! 5*

Terry Boroff (flipflopnana) from FL on July 23, 2009:

Such a beautiful lens! I loved watching the videos!

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on July 23, 2009:

Thank you for the introduction to this beautiful flower. What a fantastic lens!

Rachel Field on July 23, 2009:

What a beautiful flower and a beautiful lens!

GramaBarb from Vancouver on July 22, 2009:

Sooo beautiful! Loved the video of the Moonflower opening.

Holley Web on July 22, 2009:

This is just gorgeous! It really makes want to plant these on an arbor outside my back door. I sit outside at night to view the moon and it would be a magnificent romantic touch for us. Thank you for introducing me to this beauty!

drifter0658 lm on July 22, 2009:

What a beautiful flower. The blooming at night like romance under the alluring moon. Simply gorgeous.

Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on July 21, 2009:

Beautiful Carol. I didn't know that Peter Loewer wrote books for children. I'm going to feature this lens on my Moon Garden one.

anonymous on July 21, 2009:

An absolutely beautiful lens, Carol!

kimmanleyort on July 21, 2009:

Isn't nature so interesting? Great lens. I especially loved the videos.

motorpurrr on July 21, 2009:

That's neat! Maybe that's what I planted outside. It has the same flower. I thought it was weird that it was opening up last night in the evening. You solved a mystery for me. Thanks.