A “moonlight garden’ is a garden that contains plants that have white flowers, silver foliage, or variegated foliage. A garden with white and silver colors looks stunning in the moonlight because the plants reflect light at night. A moonlight garden may add to your enjoyment if you like relaxing in your yard after dark, entertaining, or relaxing. You can plant a moonlight garden using annuals, perennials, shrubs, or any combination of the three, and you can also use containers for planting. With some planning, your moonlight garden can offer nighttime interest over several seasons. Consider using soft outdoor lighting to enhance the look of your moonlight garden, such as solar stake lights, fairy lights, or candles in glass jars.
Here are some plants to consider for your moonlight garden. Check with your local nursery or mail-order supplier for the availability of specific varieties and cultivars.
Spring-Blooming Bulbs with White Flowers
Plenty of spring bulbs you can plant will give you white flowers. Early blooming snowdrops are a welcome harbinger of spring. There are some varieties of white croci, such as ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘Snow White.” Several all-white daffodils and jonquils, including ‘Mount Hood’ and ‘Thalia.” Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and Spanish bluebells all come in shades of white. There are wide varieties of white tulips also, from early ‘Emperor’ tulips to Triumph tulips (like ‘Pays Bas’), Darwin hybrids (like ‘Ivory Floradale’), double tulips (‘Mount Tacoma’), lily-
flowering tulips (like ‘Sapporo’ and ‘Triumphator’), and May-flowering tulips (‘Clearwater’ and ‘Maureen’). Windflowers (Anemone blanda) also come in shades of white.
Mid-Spring White Perennial Flowers
Once the spring bulbs begin to fade, perennials start to bloom. In mid-spring, columbines put on a lovely show with white shades, including the ‘White Barlow’ columbine and the ‘Dove’ variety from the ‘Songbird’ columbine cultivars. Columbines also come in pale shades of pink and yellow, which can enhance the palette of a moonlight garden. The woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) variety known as ‘May Breeze’ is a hardy perennial that blooms for weeks and is happy in partial shade. There are a number of white peonies (such as ‘Festiva Maxima’ and ‘Duchess de Nemours’), and white irises such as the German iris ‘Immortality’ (which reblooms in late summer), the Japanese iris ‘Mt. Fuji’ and the Siberian iris ‘Swans in Flight.’ There is also a white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’).
Summer-Blooming White Perennial Flowers
Summer gardens with white flowers will light up your yard as dusk arrives. They can provide a magical glowing landscape to enjoy in the evening. White perennial flowers include dianthus (‘Greystone’ and ‘Itsaul White’), tall phlox (‘David’), echinacea (cultivars include ‘Pow Wow White,’ the cream-colored ‘Delicious Nougat,’
the large ‘White Swan’ and others), and of course, many daisies, including ox-eye or Shasta daisies (which include a range of cultivars like ‘Becky’ and ‘Snowcap’) and Montauk daisies. There are white lupines, white yarrow (try ‘Ballerina’ or ‘New Vintage White’), white veronica (‘First Lady’ or ‘Icicle’), and white chrysanthemums (many cultivars include ‘French Vanilla,’ ‘Odysseus’ and ‘Starlight’).
Shrubs with White Flowers
Many shrubs with white flowers are suitable for a range of growing zones. The dramatic flowers of Brugmansia’s trumpets) are a real show-stopper, and these plants do well in hotter climates. There are white lilacs, white Rose of Sharon (hibiscus), white viburnum, white butterfly bushes (‘White Profusion’ and ‘Pugster White’), and wide varieties of white and cream-colored hydrangeas. White flowering hydrangeas are available in big-leaf, oak-leaf, or smooth-leaf varieties. They usually have a cycle of flower color that starts with greenish white, turns creamy white, and then turns pale rose when temperatures cool. Varieties with white flowers include ‘Limelight’ (which gets its name from the slight green tinge in the young blooms that turn whiter as they mature), ‘Little Lamb,’ ‘Snow Queen,’ ‘Annabelle,’ and ‘Blushing Bride’ (which has pale pink edges).
There are many white roses to choose from. One can find a white rose variety of virtually every type of rose cultivar and brand, including climbing roses, hybrid tea roses, Floribunda roses, Rugosa roses, ‘Knockout’ roses, David Austin Roses, and miniature roses. Some worth considering include ‘Moondance’ (a Floribunda rose with creamy white petals that have a light fruity scent), ‘Desdemona’ (a David Austin rose with pale peach tones when in the bud and a myrrh fragrance), and ‘Sugar Moon’ (a fragrant hybrid tea rose with deep green leaves). White climbing rose varieties include ‘White Dawn,’ ‘Iceberg,’ and ‘Sally Holmes.’
White Flowering Annuals to Grow from Seeds or Tubers
Some annuals will reseed themselves in the garden, while others need to be planted yearly. You can experiment with different seeds to see what happens in your garden. Reliable annuals that come in shades of white include cornflowers (also known as bachelor buttons), cosmos (like ‘Purity’ or ‘Afternoon White,’ or the fluffy doubles ‘White Knight’), zinnias (try ‘Polar Bear’ or ‘Benary’s Giant White’), and marigolds (‘Snowball’ or ‘White Swan’). There are even white sunflowers! Try ‘Snow White’ (with dark black-brown centers) or ‘Italian White’ (with deep reddish brown centers). Some annual flowers are grown from tubers, including dahlias, cannas, and pot begonias.
White Annual Flowers for Containers
Annuals are so helpful in the summer months for effortless color, either planted in flower beds or containers. All these blooming powerhouses need is regular watering and some occasional deadheading. White-flowered annuals include petunias, portulacas, snapdragons, lobelia, ageratum, wax begonias, and salvia.
Perennials with Silver Foliage
White and cream-colored flowers will be the focal point of your moonlight garden. But having silvery or variegated foliage plants the all-important background and structure to your design. Some beautiful plants with silvery foliage will look breathtaking in your moonlight garden. Start with artemisia: also known as “wormwood,” this herby plant comes in several varieties. ‘Silver Mound’ artemisia grows in clumps and has delicate feathery fronds; it likes partial sun and performs best if divided every other year. ‘Silver brocade’ artemisia has serrated thick silver-white leaves that weave along the ground and among low growing plants. There are many newer heuchera hybrids with silvery leaves also. These cultivars include ‘Stainless,’ ‘Dolce Silver Gumdrop’ (which has deep pink flowers), and ‘Smoke and Mirrors.’ There’s also the heucherella plant, a related variety with slightly smaller leaves and flowers; one silver-leafed cultivar is ‘Cracked Ice.’ Brunerra is a shade-loving perennial that gets tiny blue flowers in spring and has handsome silvery foliage throughout the season; try the ‘Sterling Silver cultivar. Some pale blue hostas look silvery in the moonlight, including ‘Blue Angel,’ ‘Krossa Regal,’ and ‘Halcyon.’
Perennials with Variegated Foliage
Many perennials have varieties that have a variegated foliage variation. Variegated means the foliage contains more than one color, often with one color occurring on the edges of leaves. One of the most common examples is variegated hostas. Deep green leaves can have variegated streaks and white, yellow, blue, and light green edges. There are dozens of hosta cultivars with white variegated leaves that would look wonderful in your moonlight garden, including ‘Patriot,’ ‘Loyalist,’ ‘Francine,’ ‘Fire and Ice,’ and many others.