How to Grow Love-In-A-Mist (Nigella damascena)

Nigella - Double Flowered Blue
Nigella - Double Flowered Blue. Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Overview and Description::

Nigella earns its common name of Love-in-a-Mist with a tangle of ferny, fennel like foliage that forms a mist around the flowers. I'm not sure why anyone would call Nigella "Devil in the Bush".

Once you see Nigella in bloom, you will always recognize it by its unique mist of airy bracts and foliage. The foliage 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.

FYI - Nigella seeds, sometimes called Black Cumin, are from a related plant, Nigella sativa.

Latin Name:

Nigella damascena

Common Name:

Nigella, Love-in-a-Mist, Devil in the Bush, Persian Jewels

USDA Hardiness Zone:

Nigella is grown as an annual plant, so it has no hardiness zone. It self-sows freely, but not aggressively. You will never have enough.

Exposure:

You will get the most flowers in full sun, but it will do okay in partial shade.

Mature Size:

Height: 15 in. (30-40 cm) x Width: 3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

Bloom Period:

Nigella plants bloom for several weeks, starting in late spring. If they resow, you can have blooms through Fall.

Design Suggestions:

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 as cut flowers 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.

Suggested Varieties:

  • 'Miss Jekyll' - This is perhaps the most popular series with flowers in shades of white, blue and rose.

     

  • 'Persian Jewels' - This is a mix of colors that grows 12 - 18" (5 -7cm).

     

  • 'Blue Midget' - A dwarf variety that grows to only about 10" (25cm). Nice for edging.

     

  • 'Cambridge Blue' - A long-stemmed variety, with double blue flowers. Nice for cutting.

Growing Tips:

Soil: Choose a site that gets either full sun or at least morning sun. Nigella is not particular about soil quality, although a little compost wouldn't hurt because it doesn't like to sit in wet soil. Nigella does best in a neutral soil pH.

Planting: Nigella does not like being transplanted and does best if direct sown outdoors. Seed 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 seed can be winter sown, to get a head start on the season.

Maintenance:

Nigella is a short lived plant and probably won't make it through an entire growing season.

For a continuous bloom, repeat sow every 4 weeks. Once your plants have begun to scatter seed on their own, you won't need to continue sowing.

Cutting flowers for bouquets and deadheading will keep your plants flowering a bit longer, but you'll sacrifice the fascinating seed pods.

Pests & Problems:

Virtually pest free, once established. The plants don't live long enough to be bothered by pests or disease.