A Guide to Gardens That Look Best After Dark
How to Plant an Evening Garden
Before you pick a spot, observe the moon’s path for several nights and note where it is least obstructed by trees and casts the fewest shadows. Peacefulness is paramount, so be sure to keep a safe distance from neighbors.
What to plant: To ensure the greatest nocturnal visibility, settle on a palette of pale petals and foliage that really stands out at night. Try cleome, fragrant nicotiana (flowering tobacco), ‘White Wave’ petunias, angels’ trumpets, and sweet alyssum.
The layout: Plant the front edge of the garden bed with low ground covers. In the middle, use plants that stand between 12 and 24 inches tall. Anchor the back of the garden with plants that are at least two feet high. (Read plant tags to check their height specs.) Make sure soil and light are adequate: To do their job in the evening hours, these plants need good growing conditions during the day.
How to Plant an Evening Container Garden
If you would rather use pots or other containers for your evening garden, you can arrange them anywhere.
What to plant: Most nighttime plants, especially annuals, are suited to container gardening. Be sparing in your use of aromatic blooms (a little fragrance goes a long way), and put some distance between them. Try cleome (spider flower), green-and-white caladium, chartreuse bacopa, white cosmos, and vanilla-scented white heliotrope.
The layout: As with a standard evening garden, you’ll want to vary the heights of the plants to create visual interest. Settle on a mix of attractive containers in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Black and dark-colored pots accentuate plant colors at night and make the blooms look as if they’re floating.
Illuminating an Evening Garden
Even on cloudy or moonless nights, you can enjoy after-six gardens by using path lights, lanterns, or strings of twinkle lights to help illuminate the pale plant colors. Keep the light soft and diffused to mimic the moon's subtle glow.
Solar-powered lights are an ideal way to avoid a costly installation and steep electric bills. Most contain solar panels that collect sunlight during the day and convert it to electricity. At dusk, their bright white LED lights begin to cast a warm glow, which can last from 8 to 10 hours.