Moonflower for Attracting Moths and More

Wonderfully fragrant moonflower blooms after dark, attracting beautiful sphinx moths to your flower garden.

With National Moth Week well underway, it seems like the perfect time to talk about growing moonflower in your garden. There’s something a little 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 love your flower garden well into the evening hours, so choose a place for this vining plant where you’ll be sure to breathe the sweet fragrance after the sun goes down.

Moonflower Jen GiordanoJen Giordano
Jen Giordano Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

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. It’s 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 Jen GiordanoJen Giordano
Jen Giordano Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

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’s in a sheltered area, but heavier ones will kill the plant to the ground. Gather seeds in advance so you can start the plant again the following year (zones 8 and higher may be able to overwinter this plant as a perennial).

Moonflower Jen GiordanoJen Giordano
Jen Giordano Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

As a powerfully fragrant night-blooming plant, moonflower is a draw for night-feeding moths, especially sphinx moths. Head out on full moon nights to enjoy the luminous glow of the white blooms, and you might see the whirring wings of a White-Lined Sphinx or Pandora Sphinx moth nearby!

Looking for more night-blooming plants? Click here!

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.