Convolvulus Hawk-moth

Gardening for Wildlife Part 3: Top 8 Plants for Nocturnal Moths

Earlier this year I added several plants to my garden which would help to provide year round nectar for butterflies to enjoy. My Verbena bonariensis has certainly been laden with both butterflies and bees, and with my Sedum spectabile now turning pink as the tiny flowers open I am hoping that this will prove just as popular as we head into the autumn months.

The weather this summer has been amazing. With endless weeks of blazing sun we have been able to sit outside during the evenings and watch as the stars have begun to decorate the night sky. As the sun has dipped, we have also enjoyed watching the moths come out to play which has made me think about ways in which I can improve my garden for these nocturnal feeders.


Convolvulus Hawk-moth

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 which will aid their search for food in the darkness.

Here are my top 8 scented plants for night-flying moths.

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

Nicotiana sylvestris

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. I have this planted both in my 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 read my earlier blog about Nicotiana sylvestris here.

Phlox paniculata. This is a half-hardy perennial which is available in a range of colours but try to choose a light coloured variety to help nocturnal moths to find the flowers, I suggest 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.

Phlox paniculata David

Phlox paniculata ‘David’

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. I’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.

Jasminum officinale. 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.

Moths play an important role in our ecosystem, yet I feel that they are somewhat overlooked when we talk about creating a wildlife friendly garden. Like butterflies, moths pollinate flowers, but they are also an important source of food for other wildlife such as bats who feed on them and birds who eat their caterpillars.

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?

You can read my earlier blog about the best nectar plants for butterflies, which day-time flying moths will also enjoy, here.

I’d love to know what your favourite scented flowers are or what nocturnal moths you have seen this summer, so please do leave your comments in the box below.

A bientôt

Katherine x



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'Gardening for Wildlife Part 3: Top 8 Plants for Nocturnal Moths' have 5 comments

  1. September 24, 2016 @ 5:26 am Cathy

    I have always thought geraniums are pretty but minimal use to wildlife but have been surprised to see the day flying humming bird hawk moth feeding every day on my pink ivy leaved geranium flowers. Nice post!


    • September 26, 2016 @ 8:18 am Katherine

      That’s brilliant, I wouldn’t have thought that Geraniums would be particularly popular either!


  2. October 11, 2016 @ 6:09 am Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

    We get a lot of moths here too so maybe I need to think about adding some more plants for them. I wonder how well Chéverfeuille would do up here in Normandy as some winter flowers and scent sounds like a good idea although I doubt many moths would be on the wing then. I reckon I could add some of the others in to my veg patch though. #AllABoutFrance


    • October 11, 2016 @ 6:36 am Katherine

      Whilst there aren’t many moths which fly during the winter months, there are a few such as Mottled Umber and the rather aptly named Winter Moth! For me, having a plant such as the winter flowering honeysuckle, serves a duel purpose, it adds colour to the winter garden, whilst providing a source of food for those few butterflies and moths which are in flight. Lonicera × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is classed as fully hardy, but I guess I will just have to wait and see how well it survives the winter here!


  3. November 9, 2016 @ 12:26 pm Phoebe | Lou Messugo

    I must admit to never thinking about plants for moths. I know it’s silly but I don’t particularly like moths; things that flutter at night aren’t really my thing! But I love butterflies so it doesn’t really make much sense. I absolutely love the smell of tabac flowers too but they don’t seem to grow well where I am. In reply to Rosie about honeysuckle, we have a wonderful huge honeysuckle on the wall in our barn in Normandy (close to her farm, she knows what I’m on about…) which gets absolutely no attention for months and months and yet it thrives. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance…I’m sneaking in just before the next one tomorrow!!!


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