How To Design a Moon Garden

Scented plants in silvery white hues keep the garden glowing

 String lights on a stately arch invite visitors to the evening garden. White and pale blue flowers glow at dusk.

When evening falls and it's too dark to weed, deadhead or start a new project, it's time to turn off your busy mind and turn on your senses. The garden becomes a whole new place after dark, filled with mysterious sounds, fragrances, and luminous colors.

What Is A Moon Garden?

A moon garden can be enjoyed from dusk to dark by both sight and smell. It's an especially pleasant space to be savored after the heat of the day has dissipated and folks are looking to relax in a calm and restful setting. It is typically defined by pale/light-colored plants that are heavily scented.

There are lots of easy ways to make your garden a more compelling destination in the magical light of evening. Incorporating just a few of them will keep you outdoors as long as possible, and hopefully add a whole new dimension of enjoyment.

The highlight of a moon garden are its fragrant plants in shades of white and silver.
bench in garden

Add a Rest Stop

If you want to tune into your garden in the evening, you need to slow down. Way down. In fact, the best way to tune in is to just sit down. If you don't already have a bench or two in your garden, get yourself something to sit on. Like a sensory garden, you want visitors to focus less on navigating long paths and bumpy terrain, and more on relaxing. Having a destination is important — especially after dark.

Best Plants For a Moon Garden

Fragrant Flowers

There are many flowers that become more heavily scented after dark because they use their fragrance to attract moths and other nighttime pollinators. In the calm, moist air of evening, the fragrance of these flowers can seem to hover over the entire garden. Add a few of the plants listed below (or add them all!) and enjoy an olfactory adventure as you follow your nose to seek out the source of each scent. Here are some favorites.

Casablanca lilies
Casa Blanca lilies are especially fragrant.


Plants Why We Love It
Nicotianas N. alata and N. sylvestris, which are both white, are the most fragrant.
Brugmansia and datura Both are scentless in the daytime; they turn it on after dark.
Moonflower A vine that thrives in heat, it has fragrant, white, trumpet-shaped blooms.
Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) Silvery foliage is soft to the touch
Lavender A heady fragrance combined with dusty gray leaves and purple blooms.
Dahlias 'My Love' and 'Eternal Snow' are pure white, while 'Eveline' sports edges tinged in purple
Stock This is a lackluster name for a beautiful annual with a carnation-like scent
Artemesia Feathery silver foliage glows at dusk
Tuberose This is a tender bulb that needs to be dug and stored indoors over the winter
Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius) This shrub has fleeting but fabulous white flowers
Alyssum More fragrant in the sun, alyssum's honey-scented blooms are still fragrant after dark
Cosmos Tall, billowy annuals are easy to start from seed and boast white and pink flowers.
Lilies 'Casa Blanca' is especially fragrant
Heliotrope Both the purple and the white varieties have a vanilla fragrance.
Heliotrope and ArtemesiaSilky, silvery Artemesia and fragrant purple Heliotrope are lovely moon garden plants.

Pick Plants That Glow

At dusk, and especially when there's moonlight in the garden, white flowers become luminous and can be seen from quite a distance. Most of the evening-scented flowers described above are white as well as fragrant. Other flowers to consider adding to your garden include white varieties of the following: clematis, roses, foxgloves, daisies, cosmos, impatiens and cleome. Sprinkle them around the garden to create little patches of moonlight.

Pale gray foliage, especially if the leaves are slightly fuzzy, really seems to glow in the evening light. The best plants for this effect are lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina), Artemesia, Lamium maculatum, lavender, garden sage (Salvia officinalis), Plectranthus argentatus 'Silver Shield', Licorice mint (Helichrysum petiolare), and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).

Lotus Solar path lightLight the way with weatherproof Solar Path Lights.

Include Gentle Lighting for Ambience (and Safety)

If you want to add lighting to your evening garden, keep it subtle. To appreciate the white and silver plants, you'll need to let your eyes adjust to the fading light. If there are bright lights scattered through the garden, that effect would be lost. Overly bright lighting has also been show to be detrimental to bats, birds, and other wildlife who may require darkness as part of their life cycle. Low-voltage or solar outdoor lights can add a soft glow, as will candle-powered lanterns. You might even use some white twinkle lights to accent a special tree or garden structure.

Solar Bottle KitEarth-friendly tabletop solar lighting, such as this DIY Solar Bottle Lantern Kit, bring warm touch of ambient light without the hassle of extension cords.

Special Features to Add to the Moon Garden

Once you've got plants and seating figured out, it's time to add some extras:

  • A white or pale-colored arbor or trellis glows at night, and serves as a great support for vining plants like clematis or moonflower.
  • Moving water catches moonlight in a magical way, and a little pond or self-contained water feature can take on a whole new life after dark.
  • As winds calm and ambient noise levels drop, you can really start appreciating the sound of leaves that rustle (think about an ornamental grass) or the soft tinkling of wind chimes.

Whether you enjoy your moon garden in the company of friends and family, or on a silent stroll by yourself, you'll find it's a soothing, soulful way to put the day to rest.

Solar-powered garden decorationsSolar-powered garden lights are sure to add a little magic.

Last updated: 10/05/2023