Oneonthera flava

Plant profile: Night Blooming Primrose

Night blooming primrose (latin: Oenothera flava) is a really fun plant to have in your garden, as the flowers open right before your eyes! Individual flowers open at different rates of speed, taking anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes (and then there’s the odd one that gets stuck and doesn’t open at all.) And all the action takes place at dusk.

 

In our house we’ve nicknamed our Oenothera “the entertainment plant” as we will sometimes go out to the garden after dinner just to sit and watch it bloom.

 

The blooms only last one night, usually shrivelling and fading to an orangey pink by noon the following day.

The leaves are shaped a lot like dandelion leaves. For that reason, I’m always worried about accidentally “weeding” it every spring, when it’s still small!

I did a stop-motion video of a few of our flowers blooming. Take a look:

 

I’ve read that this night blooming primrose is sometimes called Nine-O-Clock (because it blooms at dusk) or stemless primrose (because the flowers come right from the base of the plant, not off of a central stem). There are several varieties of night blooming primrose, some of which are taller than this one, and others that grow more like a creeper but have bigger flowers. I’ve had a couple of the other varieties but have never seen any of the others open this fast.

It’s a perennial plant in my area, and is listed as growing in zones 5 to 8. It likes full sun, but other than that, doesn’t seem too fussy.

 

 

I’ve also heard (don’t know if it’s true) that in Australia people place bets on which bloom in a patch will open, and how fast!

Have you ever grown this plant? What do you think about it? Please leave a note in the comments section below.

 

Update August 10, 2018: I’ve written a related post on how to save the seeds from Night Blooming Primrose

45 Comments

  1. Esther Allen on May 4, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    My mom had these in her garden and after dinner we would sit on the patio and watch the “moon flowers” open. I would love to find starters for my own garden…..

    • Jennifer on May 6, 2018 at 8:57 am

      “Moon flowers” is a great name for them! I’ve heard that it can be challenging to find plants. I believe that Lost Horizons nursery in Acton, Ontario sells them, but I don’t believe they offer mail order services.

  2. Esther Allen on May 6, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for the lead, I’m on a mission and hope to find a source. I also heard of a mail order business here in Michigan where I live. Hope to check it out this week.

    • Sophie on July 1, 2020 at 7:19 am

      I have these and live in MI. They return every year and multiply. Amazon has seeds for this.

      • Esther M Allen on July 1, 2020 at 8:11 am

        Sophie, What should I use for the search on Amazon? Just “moon flowers”? Thanks!

        • Sophie on July 1, 2020 at 3:05 pm

          Night blooming primrose (latin: Oenothera flava)
          Are you in MI by chance?

  3. Nate on May 27, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    I, too am searching for a source for getting this plant. My family had them growing up, but they vanished from lack of cultivation in the North Carolina sun. If anyone finds a source, please post! Alternately, i would pay anyone who has a stand of these to ship some my way!

    • Sophie on July 1, 2020 at 7:20 am

      Amazon has seeds

  4. Sandy W on June 21, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I have these growing around my pond they have started to multiply now after having two of them for a few years, A friend of mine had them and she gave me two plants.

    • Nancy Robertson on July 22, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      I would love some seeds if you could mail them.

  5. Paul Miller on July 1, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I received a packet of seeds from a friend. This variety is a bit taller (3 feet) but otherwise the same.

  6. Esther Allen on July 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    I thought I had a source for these plants but unfortunately it is no longer a viable option. So I’m back on the hunt…

  7. Kathy H on July 9, 2018 at 9:22 am

    We had them around our pond for years and I put a couple of them in pots to take with us when we moved this spring and haven’t put them in the ground yet. It’s been 3 months and they are doing really well in the pots.

  8. Nancy Robertson on July 22, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I had some years ago but- through a series of unfortunate events that started with potting them to get them out of the way of some construction- they have all been murdered. I would love some seeds to re-start.

  9. Terri C on July 26, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    Hello! I, too, had these growing up, and was successful in planting seeds last summer from my Mother’s yard, which produced lovely flowers this year. I’d be glad to mail some seeds to whomever would like some.

    • Val on August 12, 2020 at 2:52 am

      Hi. I see this was posted some time ago and don’t know if you’ll see this or if the offer is still available. I too grew up with these and would love some seeds, if offer is still available. Thank you…..Val

      • Terri CHASTAIN on August 12, 2020 at 8:25 am

        Hi Val!
        Please send your address to me at Terri.Hudson27@gmail.com and I will mail seeds to you.
        Regards,
        Terri

  10. Esther Allen on July 26, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Wow, Terri C.. I have been unable to locate a source for plants or seeds. My mom had them growing in her yard years ago. I would absolutely love to have a start for my own yard!’

    • Esther Allen on August 10, 2018 at 6:51 pm

      Terri C. any chance you could send me some of the seeds you have? Or is there anyone else have seeds available??

      • Terri Chastain on August 10, 2018 at 7:52 pm

        Absolutley! Just let me know where to send them : )

  11. Lill Medwechuk on August 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    I have this plant at the house I bought, could you please let me know how to save the seeds then I could give them to people

    • Jennifer on August 10, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Lill, thanks for the suggestion–I’ve just published a post with this info. There’s now a link to it at the bottom of this post (scroll up from the comments) or you can use the search function on the top toolbar to find it. Hope it’s helpful for you!

  12. Terri Chastain on August 10, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Hello!
    I just kept a ‘branch’ of the plant in a ziploc bag and let it dry out. Then the seeds fell out inside the bag – lots of them! It didn’t bloom the first year, but did the following summer.

    I hope this helps!

  13. Nancy Robertson on August 10, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    For many different plants I have put the spent bloom in an envelope. When it is dry the seeds fall out. Don’t forget to LABEL it; that seems to be my biggest problem.
    If you have seeds for Oenothera flava I would like some.

    • Jennifer on August 10, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      Nancy, please check your email for a message from me on July 23rd at 9:35 a.m.

  14. Terri Chastain on August 10, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Absolutley! Just let me know where to send them : )

  15. Esther Allen on August 10, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Terri, I would be thrilled if you could send me some seeds!!
    My address is 3394 English Hills Dr NW Walker, MI 49544
    Thank you so much I’m advance!!

  16. Terri Chastain on August 10, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    I’ll mail some tomorrow!

  17. Esther Allen on August 10, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you Terri!! That makes my heart happy!! I’ll certainly keep you posted!

  18. Terri Chastain on August 11, 2018 at 12:03 am

    It makes my heart happy to share the seeds that I’ve been blessed with!

  19. Esther Allen on August 26, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Terri, so sorry for the delay I’m getting back with you. I did receive the seeds from you and am very excited to get them in the ground. My schedule has forced me to delay the planting until after the Labor Day weekend. My plan is to plant just a few then and watch them carefully as the growing season in Michigan will be soon coming to an end…. I plan on keeping the rest of the seeds and will plant the rest in the spring. I know if I can get the safely established, they will grow like weeds!! I will keep you posted and thanks again!

  20. Patricia on September 20, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Are these perennials?

  21. Esther Allen on September 20, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Yes they are. When my mom had them growing in her flower beds they returned every year. The hard part was recognizing them on the spring. The leaves looked very much like dandelion leaves, so we had to be careful not to “weed them out” One established they spread rapidly each year!

    • Patricia on September 20, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      Thanks.

  22. Erin on April 19, 2019 at 10:24 am

    I would LOVE IT if someone could send me some seeds.

  23. Terri CHASTAIN on April 19, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Erin!
    I have lots of them and would be glad to send some your way.
    Please respond to: Terri.hudson27@gmail.com

  24. Judy on July 2, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    I’m in the Niagara region of Ontario. It took me years to find replacement night blooming primrose plants to replace ones that I accidentally killed by dead heading their wilted blossoms. I’m thrilled to have new ones in my garden.

    • Jennifer on July 6, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      I didn’t realize dead heading would kill them, Judy. Good to know! Thanks!

  25. Cindy on July 4, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Hi there,

    The posts here are a joy to read. I was searching online to find out which type of primroses I have at my home in Michigan, when I found this blog. These special flowers have a magical way of bringing people together, I believe.

    I have this same wonderful kind of yellow, long stem, fast-blooming primrose flower and was lucky to hold onto them. I originally inherited them at my last home of 20 years and loved to watch their evening blooms. They were my favorites and it is great to finally know their strain, thanks to this blog!

    Two years ago I moved and quickly afterward lost the batch I had transferred. Our first summer here consequently went on without my beloved flowers. The lady who bought my house immediately went to work on gutting the entire flower garden areas of the yard. (Broke my heart!) My sister had taken and rescued some batches though (thankfully!), while on a chance visit with me a few days after I had handed over keys to the old house.

    My sis kept them going and later brought me a rescue batch…Best little sister ever! I have moved them three times around the yard at my new house. No blooms came but the plants endured. Finally, with the last transplant mission, I found a perfect spot in my yard and the primroses are flourishing. Happy ending here, as the last two nights have been healthy blooms.

    My long stem yellow primroses are spreading fast and I am so happy to have them back. We call them the moon lilies at my house… We are really happy and fortunate to have back our family’s evening moon lily show. It was so nice to read stories here about how these enduring flowers have a special place with other homes and families, too.

    Happy Independence Day, everyone!

    • Jennifer on July 6, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Wow, you had to go through quite a lot to keep your primroses, Cathy. Yay for your sister! I wish people wouldn’t rip out gardens when they buy (especially when they don’t yet understand what they’re ripping out).

  26. Barb Jezewski on March 20, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    We had some night blooming primrose that opened as we watched them. However, our plants were about 3 feet tall. Unfortunately, we no longer have any left. Does anyone know where I can get any of the taller ones? I would appreciate any help.

  27. Terri CHASTAIN on March 21, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Barb!
    I’ve got seeds if you’re interested. We just planted some indoors hoping we can move them outside once the weather permits.
    Let me know and I’ll put some seeds in the mail to you.
    Take care,
    Terri

  28. Teresa Roukema on June 2, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    I am so in search of the seeds, the one that is not tall. Has the look of dandelion leaves, I think sometimes that is its downfall. Mistaken identity!

  29. Kimberly Schmidt on June 28, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    I would love to purchase seeds of these plants as well my family had them as I was growing up and from move to move to move they have all dies off….. willing to pay to have them shipped for sure if anyone would be willing to share,,

  30. Terri CHASTAIN on June 28, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Hello Kimberly,

    Please send me an email and I will mail you some seeds – no charge : )

    Terri
    Terri.chastain27@gmail.com

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