HOW TO PLANT A MOON GARDEN

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Submitted Date 02/24/2019
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You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a moon garden?” A moon garden is simply a garden that has been populated with nighttime plants. While many plants we are familiar with open their flowers for daytime pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, there are also important pollinators that are active in the evening hours. These include bats, moths, and squash bees. So, like their daylight counterparts, night-blooming plants are adapted to open their blossoms when their pollinators are out and about. If you’re a nighttime creature like I am, you might consider planting your own moon garden.

A moon garden not only provides food and habitat for the nighttime flyers but is a great way to enjoy your garden after hours. This particular style of gardening utilizes white blossoms, nocturnal nectar, and light-colored foliage to create a dreamy atmosphere. Some people even add water features and white pebbles to add extra flair. There’s also the option to add fairy lights and reflective orbs, but I personally think these detract from the beauty of the plants and their ability to shine beautifully in the moonlight.

Two important first steps in deciding what to plant in your moon garden are the same steps you might take for planting a daytime garden. The USDA assigns “hardiness zones” to different areas of the country. These help gardeners pick plants that survive temperature extremes commonly found in their areas. You can use the USDA’s map of these zones to discover which plants will be more tolerant of your local weather conditions. Secondly, I always like to encourage growing native plants. Native plants have the advantage of already being adapted to your area’s zone and its animal life. So, they may be hardier than imported or introduced plants and better resist common pests. Once you’ve found natives that grow in your zone, it’s time to go shopping!

The suggestions below are all native to North America and their hardiness zones are included in the following descriptions.

Dusty Miller - I recently picked up this beautiful plant (Jacobea maritima) at my local nursery. It’s not known for its flowers, but it has lovely grayish-blue leaves that remind me of lacy snowflakes. It looks great in the daytime as a divider between bright colors and its soft leaves practically glow at night. The Dusty Miller doesn’t get very tall and I can keep it in a pot if I want to. This one grows best in zones 7-10.

Chocolate Daisy - This is the next nighttime plant on my shopping list. Unlike the Dusty Miller, this one (Berlandiera lyrata) has colorful flowers that open at night. It gets its name from the chocolate scent they release to attract nocturnal pollinators. The stamens (the pollen-producing part of the flower) is reportedly edible and known to taste as good as it smells. This is a good one if you live with deer in the neighborhood, as they tend to avoid this plant. The Chocolate Daisy is hardy in zones 4-10.

Mock Orange - Plants with white blossoms that open after dark are great for moon gardens. One such plant, Mock Orange (Philadelphus virginalis), has small white flowers that shine like little stars on a background of dark green. I don’t think I’ll keep it potted, as it could to get up to six feet tall. Try this one if you’re in zones 4-8.

Those are just a few options for moon garden plants. Obviously, if you live in a small apartment, you may want to opt for varieties that do well in containers. If you want to see the nighttime visitors pollinating your outdoor garden, the richly-scented flowers are the optimal choice. But, if you’re sensitive to fragrances, plants with light-colored leaves and novel textures are the way to go. Whatever your needs and preferences, there are abundant options to choose from when planning your moon garden. Keep an eye on your plant's soil, sun, and watering preferences and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your garden by the moonlight.

*Photo of Dusty Miller taken by the author.

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  • Tomas Chough 3 weeks, 1 day ago

    Wow! I'd never heard of a moon garden. Pretty cool. I'm glad I learned something new today. Thanks for sharing Jen!

    • Jen Parrilli 2 weeks, 5 days ago

      Happy to! Let me know if you decide to plant one and what you pick out for your garden.

  • James D. 2 weeks, 1 day ago

    I’m a dedicated night-person, so this resonates with me. It seems like a really cool idea.

    • Jen Parrilli 1 week, 6 days ago

      Now, if only I could get a night job. LOL