Nigella (Nigella damascena) earns the common name "love-in-a-mist" because of the tangle of ferny, fennel-like foliage that forms a mist around the flowers. Once you see N. damascena in bloom, you will always recognize it by its unique swirl of airy bracts and delicate foliage.
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, love-in-a-mist also has cultivars that bloom in purples, pinks, and white. Plant these adaptable flowers in the spring or even in the fall. The plants grow to nearly 2 feet and bloom for several weeks, starting in the late spring. When they reseed on their own, you'll have blooms through fall.
Love-in-a-mist is toxic to humans.
|Common Name||Love-in-a-mist, nigella|
|Botanical Name||Nigella damascena|
|Mature Size||8–20 in. tall, 3–6 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Blue, purple, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||2-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Africa, Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people|
Love-in-a-mist is a wonderful cottage garden plant and a great filler. The airy foliage makes a nice complement to broader-leaved plants.
Nigella is a short-lived plant and probably won't make it through an entire growing season. For continuous blooms throughout the summer, make succession plantings every three weeks. Once your plants have begun to scatter seeds on their own, you won't need to continue sowing.
Love-in-a-mist will grow the most flowers in full sun, but it will do fine in partial shade.
N. damascena is not overly particular about soil quality, but it will grow and bloom best 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 with 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 soil.
Love-in-a-mist only needs water one to two times per week during dry periods. Water it slowly but deeply until the top couple of inches of the soil are well-saturated.
Temperature and Humidity
Sow in the early spring months when the soil temperature has reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant thrives in temperatures between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add a general-purpose fertilizer to the soil when planting Nigella damascena, and then fertilize it once a month afterward. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
Types of Love-in-a-Mist
Several N. damascena cultivars have been developed for gardens throughout temperate areas. Common cultivars include:
- 'Miss Jekyll', a popular series with flowers in shades of white, blue, and rose
- 'Miss Jekyll Alba', a double, white-flowered cultivar with bright green seed pods
- 'Persian Jewels', a mix of bloom colors that grows 12 to 18 inches tall
- 'Blue Midget', a dwarf variety that grows to only about 10 inches tall; nice for edging
- 'Cambridge Blue', a long-stemmed variety with double blue flowers and best for cutting
Other cultivars worth looking into include 'Mulberry Rose', 'Oxford Blue', and 'Albion'.
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. Harvest for bouquets when flower buds have fully colored or pods have begun to develop.
As an annual that does not like to be transplanted, love-in-a-mist is best grown from seed. The plant easily reseeds itself and if you are lucky, the seeds overwinter in the garden soil and burst to life in the spring.
How to Grow Love-in-a-Mist From Seed
The seeds are best direct-sown outdoors which avoids disturbing the roots during transplanting.
Seeds can be sown from early spring throughout the summer and even in fall in climates with mild winters where the plants might overwinter.
- When sowing seeds in early spring, do so when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Scatter the seeds in a sunny location. Rake them in. You don't need to cover the seeds with soil, but they do need to be pressed down slightly. Cover lightly with soil as light is required for germination.
- Keep the soil moist. You should see germination in two to three weeks.
- Thin seedlings so they're spaced 2 to 9 inches apart.
Potting and Repotting Love-in-a-Mist
You can grow love-in-a-mist in pots, as long as you use one that is large and deep enough to fit the mature plant. For a single plant, use a 1-gallon container with large drainage holes. Clay and terracotta containers are usually best as they are breathable.
Repotting is not recommended because of the plant's long taproot.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Luckily, N. damascena is virtually problem-free once established, probably because the plants don't live long enough to be bothered by pests or disease.
How to Get Love-in-a-Mist to Bloom
If this plant is struggling to bloom, make sure it has adequate water and fertilizer, and thin the plants to create more room between them. Consider sowing them in a brighter area next time. Take the time to deadhead the flowers to encourage more blooming.
How should I best display love-in-a-mist?
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 hang upside down to dry. You can cut the dried seed pods in half to display the interesting seed chamber structure.
What is the history of this plant's name?
The flower's botanical genus name is derived from Niger, the Latin word for black, which refers to the rich black seeds of the plant, and the species is named after Damascus, a city near which the plant grows in the wild.
Can love-in-a-mist grow indoors?
The plant does best in full sun and even in a bright room with large windows, the amount of light is much less than outdoors. Therefore, growing love-in-a-mist indoors is not recommended.