Gardening for the Night Dwellers

While you may know about pollinator gardens and how they provide resources for our butterflies and bees you may be unfamiliar with moon gardens – gardens that help our less seen pollinators.

Bats, moths, and even beetles and mice can play a huge role in supporting the growth and biodiversity of our environment. Plants that only bloom at night can be completely dependent on these nocturnal pollinators to continue their life cycle. Moths are highly efficient and great at pollination as the ‘hair’ on their bodies collects a lot of pollen, which they then carry from plant to plant. Nectar-, insect-, and fruit-eating bats are also great pollinators as they can fly farther distances than many insects, distributing pollen to much more distant areas.

Moon gardens can be used to provide food and resources to our nighttime pollinators while providing a relaxing space for people to enjoy as well. These gardens center around bundles of white or pale blooms and silvery foliage that shines in the moonlight. Fragrant plants are also incorporated in an effort to entice pollinators and help enhance the pleasant atmosphere.

Creating a moon garden starts with selecting your space. The area doesn’t have to be large, but should be located in a place that receives plenty of moonlight and is accessible to view in the evening. Just as pollinators benefit from your garden, it can also be a relaxing and meditative space for you to enjoy during cooler temperatures. Choosing a space that is low-traffic or that can be seen gleaming from a window can maximize the benefit that you gain from the beautiful garden you create.

Once your space is selected it’s time to select your plants. Night-blooming flowers, bright white blooms, and silver foliage are the main components of a moon garden. Clustering your flowering plants together is recommended as they can create an impactful sight and stand out more than single blooms that may get drowned out in the darkness. The upright, fragrant blooms of Texas Kidneywood, broad petaled Showy Evening Primrose, and the small white blossoms of the Sweet Four O’ Clock are great choices for a native Texas moon garden. Moonflowers such as the Tropical White Morning-Glory and the Sacred Thorn Apple provide big eye-catching blooms in the evening and make great centerpieces. Frogfruit, a popular pollinator plant, is a great choice for some ground cover.


Sacred Thorn-Apple

Photo by: Cliffe, Harry

Reflective, silvery, or fuzzy leaves and stems are also very effective at catching moonlight. Artemisia are great shrubs that provide a range of visual interest. From tall, feathery foliage to fuzzy white leaves, these plants are able to fill any space. Silver ponyfoot is another versatile plant. The small cupped leaves are perfect for catching light and can stretch out to create great ground cover. Put in a pot or container, the trendles can overflow to create height and contrast in your space.

Silver ponyfoot

Photo by: Marcus, Joseph A.

Succulents and cacti are also great additions to a moon garden. Yucca and agave, both evergreen in warm climates, come in varying shapes and sizes and provide great food and habitat for pollinators. Yucca plants specifically are very particular and can be fully dependent on a select few species of moths and butterflies for pollination. The broad, waxy leaves of agave reflect well and can add significant light to your moon garden. In addition to plants, your moon garden can benefit from the incorporation of other features such as lighting or water features. Dim lighting can help accentuate your garden on nights with little moonlight, and the sound of running water is a great way to increase relaxation.

Moon gardens not only provide food for wildlife but can provide shelter and habitat as well. Insects, which serve as pollinators for plants and as a food source for other animals, have been in decline for several decades. Planting native vegetation is a great way to support biodiversity and provide resources to wildlife that may be impacted by the spread of invasive species and other threats.


Written by Emily Reyner

Sources include the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Austin American-Statesman.