Moonflowers: Night-Blooming Plants
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.
Ipomoea Alba: The Moonflower
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
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?
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
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
- How to Grow Moonflowers
A step-by-step account of growing these beautiful flowers.
- PlantFiles: Moonflower, Moon Vine, Giant White Moonflower
Basic information about Ipomoea alba.
© 2009 Carol Fisher