Moonflowers: Night-Blooming Plants

Updated on April 25, 2019
A moonflower, Ipomoea alba, photographed at night.
A moonflower, Ipomoea alba, photographed at night. | Source

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 | Source

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

More moonflowers
More moonflowers | Source
Moonflower twining round up a stick
Moonflower twining round up a stick | Source

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?

Have you seen a real moonflower growing in a garden or elsewhere?

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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 | Source

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

© 2009 Carol Fisher

What do you think of these flowers?

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    • profile image


      21 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Norma Thinger 

      22 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      loretta lanier 

      2 years ago

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

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      5 years ago

      Gorgeous photos!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      6 years ago

      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 profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      7 years ago from UK

      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,

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 

      7 years ago from Havre de Grace

      I love this interesting flower, so pretty!

    • Rosaquid profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      Gorgeous poison. PRetty poison

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      7 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens - I love moonflowers.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      7 years ago

      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!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      8 years ago from USA

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice lens! Congrats on getting purple star.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • traveller27 profile image


      8 years ago

      Absolutely gorgeous images. Blessed by a travelling angel.

    • traveller27 profile image


      8 years ago

      Absolutely gorgeous images. Blessed by a travelling angel.

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 

      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

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

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      8 years ago

      Moonflowers are beautiful!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh

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

      Blessed by a Squid Angel**

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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 Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      9 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      They are one of my wife's favorites.

    • hysongdesigns profile image


      9 years ago

      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 profile image

      Ben Reed 

      9 years ago from Redcar

      Totally gorgeous. What a wonderful lens.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      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!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      9 years ago

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

      Congrats! & Blessed >*

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      9 years ago from California

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

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      9 years ago from California

      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!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

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

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      9 years ago

      Congrats on the star, lovely lens

    • profile image

      Jhangora LM 

      9 years ago

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

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      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.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Beautiful flower and well deserved Purple Star.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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 profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      9 years ago

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

    • WhiteOak50 profile image


      10 years ago

      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.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      10 years ago from UK

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

    • Stazjia profile imageAUTHOR

      Carol Fisher 

      10 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      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


    • AppalachianCoun profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful flowers and I loved the videos. Nice job!

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      10 years ago from Red Hook, NY

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      10 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      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.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      10 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Very cool! I loved watching it bloom! 5*

    • Terry Boroff profile image

      Terry Boroff (flipflopnana) 

      10 years ago from FL

      Such a beautiful lens! I loved watching the videos!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

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

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 

      10 years ago

      What a beautiful flower and a beautiful lens!

    • GramaBarb profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver

      Sooo beautiful! Loved the video of the Moonflower opening.

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 

      10 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      drifter0658 lm 

      10 years ago

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

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      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.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      An absolutely beautiful lens, Carol!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      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.


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