Plant Fragrant Moonflower to Attract Moths

Updated: Dec. 12, 2022

Wonderfully fragrant moonflower blooms after dark, attracting beautiful sphinx moths to your flower garden. This vining plant is easy to grow from seed.

moonflowerCourtesy Jane Rutkowski
Moonflowers unfurl their petals at night

There’s something magical about flowers that open after dark, when other flowers are dropping their heads or closing their blooms for the night. Night-bloomers like moonflower give you a reason to enjoy your flower garden and outdoor space well into the evening hours. Choose a place for this vining plant where you’ll be sure to breathe the sweet fragrance after the sun goes down. You may even attract hummingbird moths and other nighttime pollinators. P.S. You can also attract moths to your garden with light.

Enjoy the backyard benefits of a moon garden.

How to Grow Moonflower

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a member of the morning glory family and is also related to ornamental potato vine. It’s a climber, so while it doesn’t need much ground space, plan to provide a trellis or fence to allow it to reach toward the starry sky. It’s a perennial in its native tropical range (which includes Florida and Texas), and grows well as an annual in other places. Moonflower is easy to start from seed (nick the seed and soak overnight for best germination success) and can be started indoors a few weeks ahead of the first frost in northern areas.

moonflower at nightCourtesy Clay Finney
Moonflowers slowly open in the evening.

Give moonflower full sun during the day, and regular water while it establishes—it can handle dry soil pretty well after that. As a night bloomer, it may take a break from flowering during the long summer days of June and July in more northern areas. When the day length returns to closer to 12 hours in the late summer and early fall, the blooms will return. Frost will end the season for moonflower; the first light frost may not do it in if it is planted in a sheltered area, but heavier frosts will kill the plant to the ground. Gather seeds in advance so you can start the plant again the following year. Gardeners in zones 8 and higher may be able to overwinter this plant as a perennial.

Plant a trellis of fragrant moonflower near your door or windows so you can watch the flowers unfurl at dusk and enjoy the scent. “Moonflower is a gorgeous plant and it smells heavenly,” says Pamela Rupp of Cincinnati, Ohio.

moonflowerCourtesy Amy Hall

Moonflower Attracts Moths

As a powerfully fragrant night-blooming plant, moonflower is a draw for bats and night-feeding moths, especially sphinx moths. Head outside on full moon nights to enjoy the luminous glow of the white blooms. You might see the whirring wings of a white-lined sphinx moth or hummingbird clearwing moth nearby!

Next, see what a sphinx moth caterpillar and pupa looks like.