Various flowers bloom only at night, preferring the soft rays of the moon to the harsher sunlight. Many night-blooming flowers feature white petals that reflect the moonlight. Flowers that bloom at 4 a.m. are pollinated by bats and nectar-feeding moths. Many of these plants are tropical perennials that thrive in warm climates. Gardeners in cooler environments can generally grow night bloomers as annuals and overwinter the plants indoors.
Missouri Evening Primrose
The Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), an herbaceous perennial in the Onagraceae family, naturally occur in prairies and bluffs across the Southern United States (U.S.). This nocturnal flower generally thrives in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 3 to 7. The Missouri evening primrose is a sprawling plant that reaches about 12 inches high with spreads between 12 and 18 inches.
This primrose prefers dry, well-drained soils and fully sunny positions. The vibrant yellow flowers are 3 to 5 inches in diameter and bloom from May through August. These slightly fragrant flowers bloom for just one night, typically opening late in the afternoon and staying open until the next morning. Root rot often sometimes occurs in poorly draining soils. Gardeners often plant the Missouri evening primrose in rock gardens, borders, cottage gardens and meadows.
Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba), perennial vines belonging to the Convolvulaceae family, grow well in USDA Zones 10 to 12. This tropical plant reaches between 10 and 15 feet in length with spreads ranging from 3 to 6 feet. The fragrant, nocturnal flowers feature white petals that unfold before nightfall and close again around noon the next day. These flowers reach up to 6 inches across and bloom from July through October.
This plant prefers full-sun sites. Moonflowers work well in containers and hanging baskets. This night-blooming plant also provides attractive cover for trellises and fences.
The angel's trumpet plant (Datura innoxia) is an herbaceous perennial in the Solanaceae family. Indigenous to Central America and Mexico, this nocturnal plant typically thrives in USDA Zones 9 and 10. The angel's trumpet reaches 2 to 3 feet in height and 3 to 6 feet in width. The fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers bloom at night from July through the first frost. The petals emerge cream, but fade to pink and then mature to lavender.
The angel's trumpet needs fully sunny locations with well-drained, loamy soils. Spider mites and whiteflies occasionally feed on this plant. The angel's trumpet grows well in containers and borders. This plant is a member of the nightshade family and contains toxic principles.
Marvel of Peru
The marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa), sometimes referred to as the four-o-clock plant, is a perennial belonging to the Nyctaginaceae family. Native to tropical America, this plant does well in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. The marvel of Peru matures to heights between 2 and 3 feet with similar spreads.
This plant thrives in moist, well-drained soils in partially shady to full-sun planting sites. Funnel-shaped flowers bloom from June through the first frost in various shades of pink, magenta, yellow and red. These plants open around 4 p.m. and don't close until the next morning. The lightly fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds. All parts of the marvel of Peru contain toxins. Gardeners often plant this night-blooming flower in containers, flowerbeds or borders.
Evening primrose (Oenothera kunthiana) is a herbaceous perennial in the Onagraceae family. Native to Guatemala, Mexico and Texas, this plant does well in USDA Zones 6 to 10. Mature evening primroses reach about 2 feet in length and 12 inches in width. Flower petals emerge white, but turn pale pink with maturity. These flowers bloom during the night from June through August. Evening primroses need dry soils in fully sunny locations. This plant works well in cottage, rock and wild gardens.