Scent of the night plant

The flower “Night-Scented Stock” actually smells like cloves, carnations, “Sweet William” (that’s also a flower, and related to carnations or “pinks”, because of the fringed edges that look like they’ve been trimmed with “pinking” sheers – which cut a zig-zag edge.) as well as lilacs and oriental lily, but a bit less refined. The cloves and other spices are in the formulation to simulate the actual scent of the flower. Perfume blends contain surprising combinations to yield seemly simple scent notes. Apparently the scent of fresh Lilac is attained with a combination of Rose, Lily of the Valley, almond notes and a hint of clove. Both can be overpowering indoors, and have a tendency to smell rank/rotten rather quickly. For more on the mysteries of perfume blending, see “notes” on

I’ve been thinking of trying Penhaligon’s Night Blooming Stock, though not sure about the baby powder. Maybe I will try a small decant first. I like their Lily & Spice, though prefer Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale (alas $$$$).


Night Scented Stock Care: How To Grow Evening Stock Plants

Night scented stock plants are a sensory delight in the landscape. Also known as evening stock plants, night scented stock is an old-fashioned annual that reaches its peak fragrance at twilight. The flowers have a blowy elegance in faded pastel hues and make excellent cut flowers. Best of all, evening stock plants are easy to grow and thrive in a wide range of soil situations provided they are in full sun.

What is Night Scented Stock?

Annual flowers add a different dimension and style than perennials. Perennials are aggressively consistent while annuals need to be sown every year to grace the garden with their visage and scent.

Night scented stock plant is one such gentle annual denizen. The flowers are a sweet wonder in faded tones that seem like they stepped out of another century. However, it is the aroma of these blooms that is the real attraction. You just have to stay outdoors into the evening hours to enjoy it. Matthiola longipetala is the botanical name for the plant. The common name is far more descriptive, as it refers to the flowers’ intensely sweet nighttime scent.

Plants grow 18 to 24 inches tall on sturdy stems with silvery green, lance-shaped leaves. Flowers may be single or double and in hues of rose, pale pink, lavender, magenta, maroon or white. The smell of the flowers has been described primarily as resembling vanilla with some rose and spice mixed in.

In United States Department of Agriculture zone 8 and above, the plant should be grown as a winter annual. The plant enjoys weather that ranges from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 27 C.).

Growing Night Scented Stock

Evening stock should be planted in early spring, February to May depending upon your zone. You may also start growing night scented stock indoors two months before the date of your last frost. Space transplants 6 inches apart and keep them moderately moist. One tip for growing night scented stock is to stagger the seeds so the bloom period will be extended.

Prepare a bed in a sunny location by tilling at least 8 inches down into soil and ensure that the area is well draining. If it isn’t, incorporate sand or some compost to enhance percolation. Either is fine, as night scented stock plants thrive in either highly fertile or nutrient depressed soil.

Night Scented Stock Care

This is an easy plant to maintain and performs beautifully without much intervention. Keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy.

The biggest pests for evening stock are aphids, which can be fought with bursts of water and horticultural soap or neem oil.

Remove the spent blooms to promote more flowers. If you wish to harvest seed for the next season, allow flowers to persist until they form seed pods. Let pods dry on the plant, then remove them and crack open to release the seeds.

There are many lovely varieties of night scented stock from which to choose. ‘Cinderella’ is a series of beautiful double petal blooms, while the 24-inch ‘Early Bird’ is a group of tall early blooming stock. Each of these requires the same simple night scented stock care but offer slightly different flowers and sizes.

Use them in containers, borders and even hanging baskets to perfume your landscape and decorate it with gentle color.

Flowers that Smell Better at Night

If you work at a typical 9-to-5 job, you may feel that you are cheated out of garden time. But with a night garden, you don’t ever have to feel this way again. There are a wide variety of flowers that dazzle in a night garden, and some of the best ones are the scented night-blooming flowers. I think one of the greatest pleasures in life is relaxing in a moonlit garden with a jasmine-scented summer breeze cooling me off. Many scented night-bloomers tend to be hidden from common knowledge, so I have provided a list of some of the best ones here.

Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)

Night Blooming Jasmine

Night-blooming jasmine, also known as night-scented jessamine and queen of the night, is more famous for its scent than its flowers. The small, tubular, star-shaped white or green flowers appear in clusters among evergreen foliage. Night-blooming jasmine is a tropical shrub that can reach up to 8 feet tall, and it is actually not a true jasmine at all. It thrives in a warm climate and does best in full sun; if you live above USDA zone 8, you will need to bring the shrub inside to overwinter. Night-blooming jasmine is widely used in India and Asia for perfume-making and religious ceremonies. Although this shrub is sweetly scented, it is toxic and produces berries that could be tempting to children. I would describe the scent as sweet and powerful; some say the scent can be overpowering, so if you are sensitive to fragrance, you may not want to plant this close to your window.

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata)

Flowering Tobacco

Flowering tobacco smells similar to jasmine and is more fragrant at night than during the day. The leaves are fuzzy and sticky like petunia leaves, while the trumpet-shaped flowers open to a five-petaled star and come in most shades except blue. The flowers attract hummingbirds and night pollinators like moths. Although flowering tobacco can reach up to 5 feet tall, the plants range in size depending on the variety; even dwarf varieties are available, but some varieties are more strongly scented than others. Plants flower more in full sun but will tolerate some shade, and they need regular watering.

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

Moonflower is in the same genus as morning glories, and they, too, are a vine with saucer-shaped flowers. Moonflower grows vigorously and produces large 5-to-6-inch fluted white flowers with an alluring perfume. The flowers bloom at dusk and last until morning, living only one night; however, the plant produces masses of flowers to make up for their short lives. I love planting moonflower near my windows so that I can open my windows and smell them in the evening. It is a tropical perennial in the south but is grown as an annual in colder regions. If starting from seed, be sure to nick the seed coat and soak before planting; also, the soil must be warm for the seeds to germinate. Plant the flowers in full sun to part shade, and be sure to provide supports for the plant to climb on. There are multiple plants called moonflower, so be sure you are buying Ipomoea alba; some other moonflowers are extremely poisonous.

Night-Blooming Water Lily, (Nymphaea species)

Night-Blooming Water Lily

You may be surprised to learn that there are water lilies that bloom at night – I know I was when I first found out. Imagine gazing upon your pond in the evening and seeing these beauties in full bloom! They are definitely attention-getters in the night garden, particularly the white ones. They open at dusk, releasing a light fragrance, and close at mid-morning. There are several varieties of night-blooming water lilies, and they are all tropical, requiring water temperatures of 70 degrees or more to live and thrive. Nymphaea “Dentata Superba” is a nice white variety to try for the night garden.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera species)

Evening Primrose

This plant is famous for treating multiple health conditions – is there anyone who hasn’t heard of evening primrose oil or capsules? However, evening primrose is equally useful in the scented night garden. Evening primrose is a hardy perennial with cup-shaped pink, white, yellow, or purple flowers that smell like honey or lemons. Be sure to choose a species that blooms at night for a night garden – Oenorthera caespitosa, or tufted evening primrose, bears white, fragrant, night-blooming flowers and only reaches 6 inches tall. This primrose would be perfect for rock gardens or the very front of a border. Evening primrose is native to the United States and is considered to be a weed by some.

Chad Kremp

Why Some Flowers Only Smell at Night

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and one measly petunia!” –Curly

Curly Howard didn’t think highly of petunias, but had the Three Stooges spent more time gardening, they would have known that petunias are most fragrant at nighttime. Now, scientists have figured out the reason why.

Just like animals, plants have circadian rhythms (internal “biological clocks”). Some plant behaviors occur during the day, while others occur during the evening. In the case of flowering, plants prefer to send out scented signals to attract pollinators during the times at which they are most active. For Petunia hybrida cv. Mitchell, which produces white flowers and was the subject of a new PNAS study, this occurs at night, most likely in order to attract moths.

The authors, who were based at the University of Washington, were interested in elucidating the genetic mechanism behind this phenomenon. Their research homed in on a particular regulatory protein, called LHY, whose expression varied throughout the day. Specifically, it was most highly expressed during the morning (when the flowers were unscented) and rarely expressed during the night (when the flowers were most scented).

The figure above depicts the timing of the release of two scented molecules by P. hybrida, methyl benzoate (which has a fruity odor) and benzyl benzoate (which has a balsamic odor). Because LHY expression was lowest during these times, the authors hypothesized that LHY was suppressing genes involved in the production of scent.

And that’s exactly what their genetic analysis found. Furthermore, they found that this particular LHY-based circadian mechanism was only present in flower tissue, not in leaves, suggesting that the circadian clock operates differently in different parts of the plant.

Finally, the researchers propose that understanding the genetic mechanism of the circadian rhythm will allow the engineering of plants that exhibit desirable behaviors at particular times of the day. A florist may prefer only flowers that are scented during the day, not during the evening. Similarly, crops could also be engineered to express certain traits throughout the day. Of course, as intriguing as these possibilities are, they require that the vast majority of people somehow overcome their irrational fear of GMOs.

Source: Myles P. Fenske, Kristen D. Hewett Hazelton, Andrew K. Hempton, Jae Sung Shim, Breanne M. Yamamoto, Jeffrey A. Riffell, and Takato Imaizumi. “Circadian clock gene LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL directly regulates the timing of floral scent emission in Petunia.” PNAS. Published online before print: 29-June-2015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1422875112

(AP photo)

Night Blooming Jasmine

Cestrum nocturnum

A summer night releases the romantic, sultry perfume of night blooming jasmine, a favorite fragrance shrub for home landscapes in South Florida.

The cascading clusters of tiny tubular flowers are cream colored – not particularly showy but they pack a wallop of scent when they open at dusk.

The fragrance is present but much lighter during the daytime hours.
Though not a true jasmine, this plant’s strong fragrance is legend among fragrant plant lovers.

However, don’t overdo it – with this or any other sweet smelling plants. Some people find the smell overwhelming. Just one of these fragrant shrubs in a landscape is enough.
This plant does best in a sunny spot, with an informal look that works well in tropical or cottage-garden styles of landscaping – or it can soften the look of a more manicured yard.

It flowers on and off all year – more in warmer months – with small white berries appearing after the bloom cycle.
Note: The leaves, flowers and berries all contain toxins…avoid planting where pets (dogs are especially vulnerable) or young children might munch.

Plant specs

This is a fast grower that prefers full to part sun, though it will grow in partial shade (but flowers less).

Tropical by nature, these night blooming plants do best in Zone 10.

Though they’re evergreen, during a harsh winter they may drop leaves.

You can grow it in a container in Zone 9B to bring indoors during cold snaps. Some people have luck growing this shrub in the ground in Zone 9B, saying it dies back in winter but usually comes back in spring.

Keep this jasmine shrub trimmed to 3 or 4 feet tall, or let it get a bit larger if you prefer.

Plant care

Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant. You can also add composted cow manure, which enriches the soil around the rootball, to the mix,

Trim lightly after a bloom cycle for shape. Do a hard pruning in fall (by mid-October) or spring (late March) to control the plant’s size.

A regular irrigation schedule – with time to let the plant dry out a bit between waterings – is ideal.

Fertilize 3 times a year – in spring, summer, and autumn – with a good quality granular fertilizer. You can also supplement feedings with periodic applications of bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer to promote heavier bloom.

Plant spacing

Place these shrubs 3 feet apart. Come away from the house 2-1/2 to 3 feet.

If you’re planting by a door, walk or patio, come out 3 feet or more to give the shrub room to fill out.

This plant can be grown in a large container, though it will eventually outgrow the pot.

Landscape uses for night blooming jasmine

  • accent in a mixed bed
  • single yard specimen
  • backdrop for smaller plants
  • between tall palms
  • fragrance plant by patio, pool, lanai, porch, deck or walkway

A.K.A. (also known as): Night Jessamine, Night Blooming Jessamine, Lady of the Night, Queen of the Night
COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Plumbago, beautyberry, dwarf oleander, ruella, Burgundy loropetalum, lantana, Panama rose, and sweet potato vine.

Other plants you might like: Dracaena Fragrans (“Corn Plant”), Butterfly Ginger

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