Nigella (Nigella damascena) earns its common name of Love-in-a-Mist with a tangle of ferny, fennel-like foliage that forms a mist around the flowers. Once you see Nigella in bloom, you will always recognize it by its unique mist of airy bracts and foliage. Its botanical name is derived from Niger, the Latin word for black, which refers to the rich black seeds of the plant, as well as Damascus, a city near which the plant grows in the wild.
The foliage of N. damascena plant is ferny, the flowers are fluffy, and the seed pods are intriguing. Best known for the vivid blue blossom variety, Nigella also blooms in purples, pinks, and white. Love-in-a-mist plants bloom for several weeks, starting in late spring. If they resow, you can have blooms through fall.
Nigella is a wonderful cottage garden plant and a great filler. The airy foliage makes a nice complement to broader leaved plants. The flowers keep well when cut, and even the seed pods can be dried and used in arrangements. To dry the pods, cut while the pods are still green and somewhat fresh. Tie the stems into a bundle and hand upside down to dry. You can cut the seed pods in half to display the interesting seed chamber structure.
|Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella Damascena)|
|Botanical Name||Nigella Damascena|
|Plant Type||Annual flowering plant|
|Mature Size||8 to 20 inches tall, 3 to 6 inches wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil pH||6.6 to 7.5|
|Bloom Time||Late spring to fall Ni|
|Flower Color||Blue, purple, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||2 to 11|
|Native Area||Southern Europe, north Africa, southwest Asia|
How to Grow Love-in-a-Mist
Nigella does not like being transplanted, so does best if direct sown outdoors. Seeds can be sown from early spring throughout the summer and even in fall in climates with mild winters.
To sow, simply scatter the seed and rake it in. You don't really need to cover the seed with soil, but it does need to be pressed down slightly and kept moist. You'll have better success if you sow the seeds in a sunny location.
Nigella is a short-lived plant and probably won't make it through an entire growing season. For continuous bloom, repeat sow every four weeks. Once your plants have begun to scatter seed on their own, you won't need to continue sowing. Thankfully, N. damascena is virtually pest-free once established, though that's likely because the plants don't live long enough to be bothered by pests or disease.
Love-in-a-Mist will grow the most flowers in full sun, but the plant will do all right in partial shade.
Nigella is not overly particular about soil quality, but it will grow the best and bloom the most in nutrient-rich, fertile soil. When it grows in native areas, the plant prefers moist sandy soil, though it doesn't like to sit in wet soil and does best in a neutral soil pH. Love-in-a-mist can tolerate somewhat-dry conditions, as well as other types of soil, including loam, clay-loam, and gravelly material.
Water the flowers one to two times per week during dry periods. During other times of the year, check the moisture of the soil and water if necessary.
Sow in the early spring months when the soil temperature has reached 60 F. The plant thrives in temperatures between 65 F and 72 F.
Add a general purpose fertilizer to the soil when planting Nigella damascena, and then fertilize it once a month afterward.
Potting and Repotting
If growing Love-in-a-Mist in a pot, you can start it indoors four to six weeks before you're ready to put the plant outside. However, it doesn't transplant well because of its long taproot, so avoid repotting whenever possible.
Varieties to Grow
A number of N. damascena cultivars have been developed for gardens throughout temperate areas. Common cultivars include:
- 'Miss Jekyll' is perhaps the most popular series with flowers in shades of white, blue and rose.
- 'Miss Jekyll Alba': is a double white-flowered cultivar, it has bright green seed pods.
- 'Persian Jewels' is a mix of colors that grows 12 to 18 inches/5 to 7 centimeters.
- 'Blue Midget' is a dwarf variety that grows to only about 10 inches/25 centimeters. It's nice for edging.
- 'Cambridge Blue': A long-stemmed variety, with double blue flowers, it's nice for cutting.
Other cultivars worth looking into include 'Mulberry Rose,' 'Oxford Blue,' and 'Albion.'
Nigella damascena is mildly toxic to humans. If ingested, it could cause vomiting or diarrhea. The plant is not toxic to animals.
Cutting flowers for bouquets and deadheading will keep your plants flowering a bit longer, but you'll sacrifice the fascinating seed pods. Love-in-a-Mist easily self-sows, so you can thin the seedlings to prevent overcrowding.