Often overlooked, moths play an important part in the ecosystem. Not only are they pollinators, but also food for many birds and bats. Here at Le Jardin Perdu, we enjoy nothing more than watching the moths coming out to feed as the sun dips behind the hills. With their amazing array of colours and sizes, moths are just as beautiful, if not more so than butterflies. However, although moth numbers are also in decline, there seems to be little information (or talk) about how we can help them; we think that it’s time to put that right!
What type of plants are best for attracting moths?
As with butterflies, it’s important to try to include plants in the garden that will provide year round nectar for moths. Day-flying moths will enjoy feeding from the same plants as butterflies do, but what about those moths which come out to feed as dusk begins to fall? After resting during the daylight hours nocturnal moths will emerge in search of nectar rich plants, to help them it is best to choose highly scented, lighter coloured flowers that will aid their search for food in the darkness.
Our 8 favourite scented flowers for attracting night-flying moths into the garden
Lunaria rediviva (Perennial Honesty). French name: Lunaire vivace.
This perennial has gently scented, lilac, almost white flowers which will bloom from April through to June. Plant in a sunny position and in well-drained soil. Height 90cm.
Hesperis matronalis (Dame’s violet, Sweet rocket). French name: Julienne des Jardins.
A gorgeous hardy biennial which has clusters of lilac to white flowers. Releasing its scent mainly in the evening, this plant will fill the air with its heavenly perfume from June through to August. Plant in sun or partial shade and in moist but well-drained soil. This would look perfect planted in drifts along the edge of a pond or stream. Height: 90cm.
Nicotiana sylvestris (Tobacco plant) French name: Le tabac sylvestre.
My absolute favourite scented flower to grow! This annual will provide you with an abundance of highly scented, white trumpet-shaped flowers which are a mecca for moths with long proboscis such as the Hummingbird hawk-moth and Convolvulus Hawk-moth. Easily grown from seed in March, they will flower from July right through to the first frosts. We have this planted in our front garden and on our balcony; the perfume in the evening is simply divine! A word of warning through; they self-seed prolifically! Plant in full sun and in well-drained soil. Height: 1m – 1.5m. You can learn how to grow Nicotiana sylvestris in our earlier blog.
This is a half-hardy perennial which is available in a range of colours but try to choose a light coloured variety such as Phlox paniculata ‘David.’ Highly scented, Phlox flowers from July through to October and prefers to be planted in full sun in moist, but well-drained soil. Height: 80cm.
Buddleia davidii. French name: Arbre aux Papillons.
It’s well known that butterflies love Buddleia, but why not plant a white-flowered Buddleia such as Buddleia davidii ‘White profusion’ for moths? This Buddleia produces clusters of gorgeous scented, white flowers from July through to September. Plant in full sun or partial shade and in well-drained soil. Height: 3m.
Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose). French name: Onagre bisannuelle or Herbes aux ânes.
We’ve seen Evening Primrose growing wild here in France, its pale yellow flowers adding a splash of colour to the countryside as dusk begins to fall. As its name suggests the flowers open in the evening, filling the air with their delicate fragrance. Evening primrose is a hardy biennial which flowers from June through to September. Plant in full sun and in well-drained soil. Height 1m – 1.5m.
Clusters of star-shaped , sweet-scented white flowers smother this deciduous climber from June through to early autumn. It prefers a sheltered position in full sun, and although it is hardy it may need some winter protection.
Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’. French name: Chévrefeuille.
A beautiful, highly scented honeysuckle which flowers from December through to March. This honeysuckle is either deciduous or semi-evergreen depending on your climate. The clusters of creamy-white, tubular flowers contrast beautifully against the bare branches during the coldest winter months. Plant in humus-rich, well-drained soil in a sunny position. It’s a shrubby honeysuckle but it can also be trained against a wall.
When creating a garden for moths, you’re not only looking after our wildlife, but also creating a space full of heavenly perfume for you to enjoy as you sit sipping wine outside on a summer’s evening, now that can’t be bad can it?
To find out which plants day-time flying moths will enjoy, please read our earlier blog about the best nectar plants for butterflies.
We’d love to know what your favourite scented flowers are or what nocturnal moths you have seen in your garden, so please do leave your comments in the box below.